UK aid to India does little for human rights and democracy, watchdog finds

Programme spent £2.7bn between 2016 and 2021 but is fragmented and lacks a clear rationale, report says

Britain’s aid programme to India is fragmented, lacks a clear rationale and does little to counter the negative trends in human rights and democracy in the country, the government’s aid watchdog has found.

The findings are likely to be used by those who claim the UK government risks using its aid programme to deepen its relationship with India, including seeking free trade deals, rather than attempting to reduce poverty, which is the statutory purpose of UK aid.

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Japanese man granted retrial after 45 years on death row

Iwao Hakamada, 87, was convicted of four murders in 1968 but granted ‘temporary release’ in 2014 after new evidence emerged

A court in Japan has granted a retrial to a man – thought to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate – who was sentenced to hang for the murders of a family of four almost six decades ago.

The Tokyo high court ruled on Monday that Iwao Hakamada, 87, should be tried again for the crimes in a decision campaigners said was a “step towards justice”.

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Australia’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach to human rights in India has failed, advocates say

Human Rights Watch urges the Albanese government to speak directly to India’s PM, Narendra Modi, on human rights issues

The Australian government has refused to be drawn on human rights in India, prompting accusations it has shelved uncomfortable issues to boost trade and security ties.

Human Rights Watch said the “quiet diplomacy” approach favoured by the west had failed to have any visible impact on India and urged the Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to raise human rights during his visit to the country next week.

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Detained activist fears for missing zero-Covid protesters in China

Ding Jiaxi also tells lawyer he is worried about health after being held for more than three years

The detained human rights activist Ding Jiaxi has expressed concern for young protesters who have disappeared since participating in the “blank paper” protests against the zero-Covid policy in China last year.

At least 16 of them are still in police detention, according to names gathered by activists, while Ding himself has been detained for more than three years.

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Governor of China’s Xinjiang region cancels UK visit after backlash

Foreign Office says officials would have been prepared to meet with Erkin Tuniyaz to raise human rights concerns

The governor of China’s western region of Xinjiang will not be visiting Britain this week, according to the UK Foreign Office, after a backlash from MPs over alleged human rights abuses in the region.

British officials had said if Erkin Tuniyaz visited this week, they would have been prepared to meet with him to raise concern over the human rights situation in Xinjiang. But those plans faced backlash from politicians who highlighted human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in the region.

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Human Rights Commission ‘deeply concerned’ over state of New Zealand’s prisons

Vacant positions mean that some prisoners spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells while others face months-long delays to parole hearings

Confined to cells for 23 hours a day; unable to see family face-to-face; problems accessing lawyers – New Zealand’s prisoners are becoming “excessively disconnected and isolated” because prison staffing shortages have hit crisis point, says the Human Rights Commission, lawyers and those working with prisoners.

As of January, the department of Corrections is down by more than 850 frontline staff across its prisons – 498 of those are vacant positions, with another 354 unable to work due to sickness, injury, leave or “some other reason”, the department says.

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Share your views on Indonesia’s new laws criminalising sex outside marriage

We’d like to hear from people living in or who are planning to visit Indonesia what their views are on the country’s new controversial legislation outlawing extramarital sex

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, has approved legislation that outlaws sex outside marriage as one of several sweeping changes to the country’s criminal code.

The new code, which will apply to Indonesians and visiting foreigners alike and has prompted alarm from human rights campaigners, will also prohibit cohabitation between unmarried couples.

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Indonesia passes legislation banning sex outside marriage

Rights groups say amended criminal code underscores shift towards fundamentalism

Indonesia’s parliament has overhauled the country’s criminal code to outlaw sex outside marriage and curtail free speech, in a dramatic setback to freedoms in the world’s third-largest democracy.

Passed with support from all political parties, the draconian legislation has shocked not only rights activists but also the country’s booming tourism sector, which relies on a stream of visitors to its tropical islands.

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New Zealand woman takes Chinese media site to human rights tribunal over ban

Auckland woman says she was banned from popular Chinese-language media forum SkyKiwi for posting political content

A woman is taking New Zealand’s biggest Chinese-language media site to a human rights review tribunal after she claims she was banned from its online message board for posting political content.

May Moncur migrated from China 20 years ago and is a permanent resident of New Zealand. The Auckland employment advocate has used the New Zealand-based media company SkyKiwi for more than 15 years, regularly posting links about migrant exploitation or offering employment advice on its most popular message board, “FML”.

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Indonesia set to make sex outside marriage punishable by jail

MPs expected to pass new criminal code that will also make insulting the president a crime

Indonesia’s parliament is expected to pass a new criminal code this month that would criminalise sex outside marriage and outlaw insults against the president or state institutions, prompting alarm from human rights campaigners.

The deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, said in an interview with Reuters that the new criminal code was expected to be passed on 15 December. “We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values,” he said.

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Hong Kong withholds British lawyer’s visa, delaying Jimmy Lai trial

Hong Kong’s immigration department withheld Timothy Owen KC’s application for an extension of his work visa on Thursday

Hong Kong has temporarily blocked a top British human rights lawyer from representing jailed pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, in a trial stymied by delays and calls for an intervention from Beijing.

British King’s Counsel Timothy Owen was set to represent Lai, the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, who has been in jail on protest-related offences since his high-profile arrest in 2020.

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Doha fashion Fridays: migrant workers show off their style – a photo essay

Blue boilersuits symbolise their low-wage jobs, but an Instagram account celebrates the culture and individuality of Qatar’s workers in their leisure time

Every day Bisho Sahani would start his work shift at 5am, constructing roads for hours in Qatar’s ferocious summer heat. And every night when he returned to his labour camp, he would get out his phone and make TikTok videos for his 60,000 followers.

Most of his videos are songs and poems about love, romance and the trials of life, but among them are stories of the hardships he faced in Qatar. “I wanted to show that foreign land is the land of trouble … Nepal is always better for us,” says Sahani, who is now back in his home country.

Images from Bisho Sahani’s TikTok account, where he posts videos about his life in Qatar. Photos: Bisho Sahani

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Major funds exposed to companies allegedly engaged in Uyghur repression in China

Report finds stock indexes provided by MSCI include companies using forced labour or constructing surveillance state in Xinjiang

Many of the world’s largest asset managers and state pension funds are passively investing in companies that have allegedly engaged in the repression of Uyghur Muslims in China, according to a new report.

The report, by UK-based group Hong Kong Watch and the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University, found that three major stock indexes provided by MSCI include at least 13 companies that have allegedly used forced labour or been involved in the construction of the surveillance state in China’s Xinjiang region.

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Greek court acquits activists who hung banner at Acropolis in China protest

Landmark decision described as ‘huge victory for freedom of expression and right to peaceful protest in Europe’

Activists who were accused of attempting to “pollute, damage and distort” the Acropolis after they hung a banner from the Athenian monument in protest against China’s policies in Tibet have been acquitted by a Greek court.

In a landmark decision described as a victory for human rights defenders globally, a three-member tribunal threw out the charge on Thursday. A public prosecutor had only minutes earlier pressed for a guilty verdict.

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Hong Kong police seize secretary of aid fund for democracy protesters

Sze Ching-wee and other pro-democracy figures had just stood trial over setting up of now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund

The secretary of a disbanded Hong Kong humanitarian fund set up to help people involved in the 2019 anti-government protests has been arrested on national security charges, Hong Kong media has reported.

Sze Ching-wee, the secretary of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, was seized by national security police at Hong Kong airport on Saturday on the charge of “collusion with foreign or overseas forces to endanger national security”, the public broadcaster RTHK quoted police sources as saying. The charge carries a punishment of between three and 10 years in jail, or in “serious cases” over 10 years’ imprisonment. Police said the 38-year-old was released on bail.

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