Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Sun Shucai, an 87-year-old Chinese activist and journalist who fled to Thailand in November 2006 and has been detained by the Thai authorities in Bangkok since December 2010. The press freedom organization welcomes an opinion piece that Dutch journalist Jos van Noord wrote last week for the Amsterdam-based daily De Telegraaf, voicing outrage about Sun’s detention and urging readers to say what they think. In 2002, the Thai government awarded Van Noord the title of “Friend of Thailand” because of the many positive articles he has written about the country. “We are increasingly concerned about Sun’s health,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The conditions in which he is being held are still very poor and efforts to have him released seem to be making no progress. We urge the Thai authorities, who have no interest in prolonging his detention, to be lenient with him. His only crime was to seek refuge when his fight for human rights exposed him to reprisals in China.” Sun was arrested on 8 December 2010, when the Thai police raided the Bangkok building where he and many immigrants lived. Sun should not have been among those arrested because he had a UN Refugee Agency document stating that it was considering his request for protection and resettlement. The next day, a judge fined him and ordered him held in a Bangkok immigration detention centre pending possible deportation to China. Sun’s political activism goes back to the 1950s. He first got into serious trouble with the Chinese authorities in 1956, when he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for criticising the Maoist revolution. He continued to write articles critical of the Communist Party, some of which were published in Beijing Spring, a Chinese dissident magazine based in New York. To encourage readers to respond, Reporters Without Borders is posting a translation of Van Noord’s article and invites them to go to the original on the De Telegraaf site: http://www.telegraaf.nl/reiskrant/10117049/__Gewetensvakantie__.html Checkpoint Conscience holiday By Jos van Noord In many holiday destinations, human rights are a subject reserved for political exchanges and nothing else. Citizens who hold certain views and people who are just themselves – gypsies, gays, Christians, Jews, artist or aborigenals– are treated like garbage in these countries, or worse. Do you take this into consideration when choosing your holiday destination? Email me! Jos van Noord Many African countries consider human rights only a luxury issue for westerners, who themselves in the past were not bothered too much about it. Most distant governments swear without blinking that everything is fine in their own country. But if we take China, for example, we see that it is ruled by an arbitrary dictatorship, pure and simple. And what to think of Eastern Europe? Of people like Lukashenko? In the fairly macho Netherland Antilles, gays and lesbians are not welcome. Like the Copts in Egypt! For my part, I have decided to stay away from Thailand, regardless of its popularity, for as long as its authorities continue to detain the Chinese journalist Sun Shucai for no reason. I was named a Friend of Thailand by the government in Bangkok but perhaps it is time to politely return this title. My colleague Shucai, who like myself calls a spade a spade and defends dissidents, could no longer safely stay in China. He fled to Thailand, but he has been held a prisoner for the past six months under inhuman conditions in a prison camp known in Bangkok as the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Centre. This is an outrage, the man is 87! Indivuduals have no rights in Thailand, letters to ministers remain unanswered. Sun Shucai, accused of overstaying his visa, should not be have been imprisoned at all since he has the documented status of a UN refugee and his visa for the United States is currently being processed. Thailand does not give a hoot about refugee conventions, mainly because they are not in its interest, and because Thais in general, do not have much compassion with refugees. While holiday makers spend their time on the beach without a care in the world, as if they were refugees from the the grey skies back home, this very old dissident languishes in cell 1 DC under the number 43122, with hundreds of others who are not considered model tourists. What should be done? Where does your conscience take a holiday? Or do you prefer to leave it at home? Send me an email to [email protected] All of the comments that readers post underneath Van Noord’s article will also be made available by Reporters Without Borders soon.