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MALAYSIA: Chinese women forced to strip naked, detained and abused in police stations in Malaysia

December 1, 2005

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal

1 December 2005
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UA-226-2005: MALAYSIA: Chinese women forced to strip naked, detained and abused in police stations in Malaysia

MALAYSIA: Arbitrary arrest; abuse of detainee; the rights of women; discrimination
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from a reliable source regarding Chinese women forced to strip naked, slapped and detained in police stations in Malaysia. Home Minister Azmi Khalid has affirmed that it is police abuse and promised that the government will take the necessary action.

In one incident, a one-minute mobile phone video clip, taken secretly and shown to the public as well as in parliament, showed a woman being forced to strip naked and then do squats in front of a policewoman. The footage appeared to be taken in the locker room of a police station. It is also believed that the incident happened last month as Ramadan prayer could be heard.

In another case, Ms. Zhen, a 35-year-old Chinese homemaker, on 3 November, was arrested and suspected of having a false passport. She was asked for money, and forced to strip naked in the police station. She was slapped and detained in a lock-up with 18 others in which there was no bed or drinking water. Only after several days was she released after the Immigration Department verified her passport.

We request your strong intervention to pressure the Malaysian government, in particular the Inspector General of Police, Mohd Bakki Omar to ensure that an impartial investigation is conducted into these cases. Appropriate action must be taken against those responsible within the police force and adequate compensation provided to the victims. The Home Minister Azmi Khalid must meet his promises and take proper measures to prevent the police from abusing their powers towards Chinese women any further. 

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Name of victims:
Two Chinese women in Malaysia, one unidentified and the other Ms. Zhen 
Alleged perpetrators: Police personnel attached to the Sungai Buloh police station and the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters                                                                                           
Date and place of incident: October 2005 inside the locker room of a police station and 3 to 7 November 2005 in the Sungai Buloh police station and the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters 

Case details:

A one-minute mobile phone video clip showed a woman (not identified), possibly in her 20s, doing ear squats 10 times in front of a policewoman in what looked like a locker room of a police station. The video clip shot was shown to several MP as well as reporters by DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa KOK in the Parliament lobby on the morning of 25 November 2005.

The unidentified woman detained was shown later putting on her underwear and a black top. The grainy clip began with the police officer ordering the naked woman to do squats, indicating with her hands that the detainee was to hold her ears while doing them. It is believed that the incident happened last month as Ramadan prayer could be heard.

It is not known who recorded the footage, which appeared to be taken without the knowledge of the two women through a window. It was first published by vernacular China Press on its front page on November 25.

Ms. Kok said she believed that the woman in the video clip was not one of the Chinese women nationals who had lodged reports recently against the Petaling Jaya police for being falsely detained, stripped and abused.

Home Minister Azmi Khalid told a press conference in Parliament after viewing the clip that: “This should not have happened. If police personnel are really involved, then this is police abuse…the government will take the necessary action.” On a related matter, Azmi said “Profiling Chinese women especially those below 35 as being involving in vice should not have happened.”

In a further incident, on 3 November 2005, Ms. Zhen was traveling in a car with four friends, one of whom was Chinese and the other three Malaysians, to a party when they were stopped at a police roadblock in Sungai Buloh. They showed the police their passports but the police personnel said that they suspected the passports were fake.

Ms. Zhen told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on November 11, that: “Although I don’t understand Malay, but from their gestures, I knew they asked for RM500. Otherwise we will be arrested.” Knowing she had a genuine passport and had nothing to fear, Ms. Zhen refused to pay. Then Ms. Zhen and her female Chinese friend were immediately handcuffed and taken to the Sungai Buloh police station. There she saw a few more women from mainland China detained for allegedly holding fake passports too. Ms. Zhen called her husband, a Malaysian contractor, to bring their marriage certificate but when her husband arrived, the police just ignored him.

At about 6am, the detainees were taken to the Petaing Jaya district police headquaters where their bags were searched. “A policeman and a policewoman at the corner asked me to give them RM50 for yum cha (drink tea).  They took five RM10 notes from my bag. I was so frightened at that time as they were very fierce so I agreed. Two other Chinese women also gave them RM50. And my friend just had 3RM, and they took this as well. They distributed the money in front of us to another two or three officers.”

Then Ms. Zhen was taken to a room where a policewoman ordered her to strip naked. ”I felt so ashamed so I turned my back when removing my undergarments. When I did this, the policewoman slapped me and grabbed my breasts.” Then Ms. Zhen was held in a lock-up with 18 others, in which there were no beds. “It was dirty and full of ants. We were not given water to drink. So all of us had to drink tap water and suffered diarrhea.”

Not until 7 November was Ms. Zhen finally released after the Immigration Department verified her passport.

“I never been handcuffed before. There is no humanity in Malaysia?” Ms. Zhen said, breaking into tears. “I never believed reports in newspaper in China of how Chinese nationals have been abused in Malaysia until I experienced it myself.”

Ms. Zhen  has lodged reports over the incident with thee Bukit Aman federal police headquaters and Anti-Corruption Agency and she decided to come forward,” I don’t want any other Chinese national to suffer. I want justice to be done.”

Also present at the press conference were DAP Seputeh MP Teresa KOK and DAP Seputeh’s deputy chairperson Rickie Kow Ah Kuan. Ms. Kok said she has written a letter to IGP Mohd Bakri Omar urging him to investigate this case promptly.
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SUGGESTED ACTION:
 
Please send letters to the Malaysian government, in particular to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and raise your concern in such cases. An impartial and independent investigation must be conducted.
Sample letter:

Dear ____________,

MALAYSIA: Chinese women forced to strip naked, detained and abused in police stations in Malaysia 

Name of victims:
Two Chinese women in Malaysia, one unidentified and the other Ms. Zhen A
Alleged perpetrators: Police personnel attached to the Sungai Buloh police station and the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters                                                                                 
Date and place of incident: October 2005 inside the locker room of a police station and 3 to 7 November 2005 in the Sungai Buloh police station and the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters 

I am writing to voice my dismay about information I have received detailing two Chinese women being forced to strip naked, slapped and detained in police stations in Malaysia. 

According to the information I have received, in one incident, a one-minute mobile phone video clip, taken secretly and shown to the public as well as in parliament, showed a woman being forced to strip naked and then do squats in front of a policewoman. The footage appeared to be taken in the locker room of a police station. It is also believed that the incident happened last month as Ramadan prayer could be heard.

In another case, Ms. Zhen, a 35-year-old Chinese homemaker, on 3 November, was arrested and suspected of having a false passport. She was asked for money, and forced to strip naked in the police station. She was slapped and detained in a lock-up with 18 others in which there was no bed or drinking water. Only after several days was she released after the Immigration Department verified her passport.

In response to these incidents, I am aware that the Home Minister Azmi Khalid has affirmed that it is police abuse and promised that the government will take the necessary action. I write to you now therefore requesting your assistance in ensuring that this promise is kept and that future cases of abuse such as this are to be avoided in Malaysia. To begin this process I ask that the Inspector General of Police, Mohd Bakki Omar ensure that an impartial investigation is conducted into these cases. Appropriate action must be taken against those responsible within the police force and adequate compensation provided to the victims. 

I trust that you will take action in this case.

Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

1. . Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail
Attorney General's Chambers of Malaysia
Level 1-8 Block C3, Parcel C,
Federal Government Administrative Center,
62512 Putrajaya
Malaysia
Tel No: +603-88855004, +603 - 8885 5000
Fax No: +603 - 8888 9362
Email:  ag@agc.gov.my 

2. Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Omar
Inspector General of Police
Ketua Polis Negara, Ibupejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia
Bukit Aman, 50502 Kuala Lumpur
MALAYSIA
Tel: +603 2273 1326
Fax: +603 2272 2710 / 2273 1326

3. Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman
Chairperson
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
29th Floor, Menara Tun Razak
Jalan Raja Laut, 50350 Kuala Lumpur
MALAYSIA
Tel: +603 2612 5600
Fax: +603 2612 5620
E-mail: humanrights@suhakam.org.my

4. Dato' Seri Abdullah Hj. Ahmad Badawi
Prime Minister
Block D1, Parcal D, Pusat Pentadbiran Putrajaya
62502 Putrajaya, Selangor
MALAYSIA
Fax: + 60 3 8886 8014
E-mail: abdullah@kdn.gov.my

5. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Elimination of violence against women
c/o Ms Lucinda Ohanlon
Room 3-042
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
Email: lohanlon@ohchr.org

6. Ms Leila Zerrougui
Chairperson
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
c/o Miguel de la Lama
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTENTION: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention)
Email: mdelalama@ohchr.org

Thank you
 
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-226-2005
Issues :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.