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Home » Human Rights & Civil Rights » Urgent Action: Statement on the Detention of Peter Dahlin

Urgent Action: Statement on the Detention of Peter Dahlin

By Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (中国维权紧急援助组)


CHINA – Detention of human rights professional Peter Dahlin


Photo via: Michael Caster

Photo via: Michael Caster

Sometime after nine pm on 3 January 2016 a human rights professional, Mr Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, disappeared on his way to the Beijing Capital Airport. He was scheduled to fly to Thailand via Hong Kong shortly after midnight. Peter’s girlfriend, a Chinese national, has also disappeared.

Peter Dahlin is a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action), an organization based in China working to promote the development of the rule of law and human rights through training and the support of public interest litigation.

According to Chinese authorities, Peter was detained on 4 January 2016 on suspicion of endangering state security. These charges are baseless.

Since 2009, China Action has been helping to advance the rule of law in China. It has organized training programs for human rights defenders to receive instruction from expert rights lawyers, focusing on matters of land rights or administrative law. It supports ‘barefoot’ lawyers who provide pro-bono legal aid to grassroots victims of rights violations, from demolition and eviction to arbitrary detention. China Action also releases practical guides on the Chinese legal system.

China Action is dedicated to promoting human rights within the existing legal framework of the People’s Republic of China and has only ever advocated non-violent, informed reliance on Chinese law. In spite of this, Peter has been arbitrarily detained on spurious accusations.

Despite constant requests by the Swedish Embassy, the Chinese authorities have denied direct contact with Peter and have not provided any communications from Peter to the embassy. The authorities have not provided any information regarding the exact nature of the charges. The denial of consular communication is a direct violation of Chinese law and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Furthermore, that the authorities have continued to conceal Peter’s whereabouts could amount to an enforced disappearance, a violation of international law.

Additionally, Peter suffers from Addison’s Disease, a rare defect of the adrenal gland, which is potentially life threatening unless properly medicated daily. The Chinese authorities have denied medical care to human rights defenders in detention in the past. That Chinese authorities have merely issued a verbal assurance that Peter is receiving his medicine while continuing to deny direct consular communication is appalling.

Peter’s detention comes amid a six-month long assault on the country’s human rights lawyers. Since 9 July 2015, over 300 lawyers, human rights defenders, and their family members have been harassed, detained or subjected to travel bans.

Peter’s supporters initially sought to pursue this matter through quiet diplomatic pressure.

According to Michael Caster, speaking for the organization, “Peter’s ongoing detention for supporting legal aid in China makes a mockery of President Xi Jinping’s stated commitments to the rule of law. Peter must be granted direct contact with the Swedish Embassy and his family without delay. The Chinese authorities must immediately release Peter from detention and drop all charges against him.”


For more information contact:  Michael Caster,

Note to editors:

Previous reports erroneously referred to a Peter Beckenridge. For all advocacy and press references please note the name correction is Peter Dahlin.

While previous reports stated that Peter had been detained at the airport, his exact location at the time of his disappearance is unknown.


Issue Date: 12 January 2016





  1. This is a very good article, well written and it clearly shows the total lack of any respect for the “rule of the law”, that Xi Jinping so loves to throw out there. His govt is becoming increasingly oppressive and operating outside of any kind of law, except what they make up to suit their needs at the moment. Correct me if I am wrong, but I always thought that if a citizen from a foreign country was arrested in a country like China, they had to be given the right to have their countries embassy personnel visit their citizen. It seems just like in the building of the fake islands in the South China Sea, Xi Jinping is thumbing his nose at the international community. His arrogance is especially galling because he likes to go around saying China abides by the “rule of law.” But the world is not blind or stupid, es[ecially in this day/age of super quick global communications/interactions like traveling and studying abroad. I think it’s time for the international community to tell the current communist regime, Yes you are a big factor in the world’s economy, but you can not operate outside of the rules/laws set up for the welfare of the international community. China must follow standards set out by the rest of the world, standards that they are signatories of by the way.

  2. To the Chinese officials – free Peter Dahlin

  3. J. Michael Cole says:

    I wonder how many more examples of this kind of unlawful behaviour by the Chinese authorities we’ll need before we stop saying that we should “put things in their proper context,” avoid “seeing the forest through the prism of the tree,” or drawing platitudinal moral equivalences with our own (yes imperfect) systems. The continued refusal to recognize that China is sucking the air of freedom around the region — and now perhaps globally — is reminiscent of the international community’s moral timidity, to put it charitably, during the Rwandan genocide. How many “acts of genocide” did it take before we admitted that we had an actual genocide on our hands? How many “instances of authoritarianism” will it take before we realize that we’re dealing with an authoritarian giant in our midst, one that is not, however much we’d like it to, playing by the rules?

    All good wishes,


    J. Michael Cole (寇謐將) Senior Non-Resident Fellow, China Policy Institute – University of Nottingham, UK Associate researcher, French Centre for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) Editor in Chief, Twitter @JMichaelCole1 Latest book: 《黑色島嶼:一個外籍資深記者對台灣公民運動的調查性報導》Black Island: Two Years of Activism in Taiwan

    • You have such a valid and most important question Michael. China is already sucking the air of freedom globally, and they are doing it with their seemingly unlimited checkbook. The checkbook, that by the way was built up on the blood, sweat, tears and very lives of it’s own people. They have air that is unbreathable, killing an estimated 4,000 Chinese citizens every day due to pollution! The people they now don’t want to read, hear, see or do anything that the communist regime doesn’t want them to. China has only one rule book, it states clearly, only do what is good for the betterment of the communist party/regime, the rest of China and the world be damned. Enough is enough. They are a criminal regime spreading their poison around the world. Tell them simply, we don’t want your products, nor do we want to do business with you. The regime will fall to pieces because they won’t be able to keep the masses happy.
      In America, we have a saying, “Call a spade a spade.” In other words, tell it like it is. Free the rights advocates….what are you so afraid of Xi Jinping?

  4. […] and Swedish foreign ministries have confirmed Dahlin’s detention. At China Change, the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group issued a statement complaining that Chinese authorities have withheld information and blocked consular […]

  5. […] to a statement from China Action, the NGO focuses on land law and administrative law and trains non-lawyers to provide pro-bono […]

  6. […] rights organization that provides Chinese citizens with legal aid, engages in public advocacy, and supports pro-bono ‘barefoot’ lawyers. Dahlin was detained in early January in a secret location by the […]

  7. […] rights organization that provides Chinese citizens with legal aid, engages in public advocacy, and supports pro-bono ‘barefoot’ lawyers. Dahlin was detained in early January in a secret location […]

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