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29 Dec 2022

A look back at 2022, a look ahead at 2023

As we enter the New Year, we reflect on all the research we published in 2022 and present a sneak peek into our upcoming research, reports and investigations planned for 2023.

But first... we also want to take the holiday season to remind everyone that SD does accept donations (both one-off and monthly gifts). Your support will help SD produce more impactful reports and investigations that raise China's human rights issues in governments across the globe.

SD’s research is focused on identifying changes in the operational environments for human rights defenders and civil society on the ground. Often, it is grassroots activists that see these practical changes before they become well-known. We are also increasingly tracking China’s changing behaviour overseas, in particular when it is an outgrowth of domestic repression. 

It seems we are not alone in our interest in these developments. Throughout 2022, our modest audience has continued to grow, and you've read our 90+ articles or downloaded our 24 different publications nearly 500,000 times this year while more and more of you have signed up for our newsletter.




Home As Prison (Report, Sept 6, English and Chinese) – A comprehensive report, and the first of its kind, that looks into China’s ballooning use of house arrest since Xi Jinping came to power, and drawing on official State data. The report also analyses changes to the legal framework allowing for the use of Residential Surveillance (RS), and changes in what being placed into RS actually means for victims.



Drugged and Detained (Report, Aug 16, English; Oct 10, Chinese) – This indepth study looks at the practice of forcibly committing human rights defenders into psychiatric hospitals, both police-run facilities and public mental health hospitals that collude with the State. Victims are locked up not on the basis of a psychiatric assessment but simply as another form of arbitrary and extra-legal detention. The report uses a wealth of personal interviews and data.



A guide on using Magnitsky sanctions (Manual - Farsi/Iranian edition, Jun 30, Farsi) – The guide helps Iranian civil society, human rights activists, and ordinary citizens understand and use Magnitsky laws. It also provides them with accurate methods of gathering information and evidence of human rights violations by the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran required to enlist these violators for human rights sanctions. Developed with Justice4Iran.



Hide and Seek (Manual, Feb 28, English) and Returned Without Rights (Report, Feb 28, English) – A comprehensive manual covering all aspects relating to extraditions to China, aimed at legal practitioners, alongside a report on the status of extraditions to China, aimed at a general readership. Developed together with and for legal practitioners around Europe, North America, and Oceania, with extensive input from key China law-related scholars.



Involuntary Returns (Report, Jan 18, English) – The first comprehensive report on China’s Fox Hunt/Sky Net operations, run by China’s Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog CCDI and Chinese police, aimed at forcing targets to return to China. Source material shows over 10,000 successful returns from over 120 countries. Many are repatriated through “involuntary” return operations, ranging from threats to - or detention of - family back in China, sending covert agents abroad to harass targets in host countries, and kidnappings.




Patrol and Persuade (Dec 5, English) – A follow-up investigation to 110 Overseas exposed a further set of clandestine Chinese police overseas "service stations", bringing the total to over 100 across more than 50 countries. The investigation dug deeper into how these are established and their purpose, drawing on public source material from Chinese police, local regulations, and State/Party media information.



110 Overseas (Sept 12, English; Nov 28, Portuguese) – The investigation that exposed China's massive campaign to "persuade" those accused of fraud and related crimes to return to China. Beijing claimed to have returned some 230,000 people over between April 2021 and July 2022, as well as the establishment of a network of clandestine overseas Chinese police "service stations" across five continents, run by select local police forces in China.



China's Missing Verdicts (Jun 21, English) – An analysis into the quickly changing situation for China Judgments Online (CJO), a database on verdicts and judicial decisions, where verdicts and decisions have been quickly disappearing, in particular for any case documentation relating to what may be considered sensitive types of cases, and how SD's own data can help understand what is missing.



China's criminal justice system in the Age of Covid (Jun 8, English) – An investigation that uses data from the Supreme Procuratorate and Supreme Court's annual work reports to analyze changes in arrests, prosecutions, trials, use of extra-legal detention such as RSDL, and similar developments, comparing 2018/2019 with 2020/2021, to understand the impact of Covid on China's criminal justice system.



In Cyprus, a microcosm of China's transnational repression crystalizes (Apr 29, English) – Drawing on SD's extensive work and reporting on both extraditions to China, and its use of involuntary return methods, to circumvent or undermine formal extradition proceedings, this investigation reveals how the multitude of different tactics works, using on a particular case in Cyprus.



China's Pincer move against regulated detentions (Apr 27, English) – Analysing the growing use of both the RSDL (Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location) system, primarily by the MPS/police, and the similar system, Liuzhi, run by the Party's own watchdog, the CCDI (Central Commission for Discipline Inspection), and how such systems for secret detentions and disappearance are growing at the expense of regulated, formal detentions and arrests.



China announces expansion of Sky Net and long-arm policing (Mar 28, English) – New data presented on China's use of theFox Hunt and Sky Net, as presented at the March 2022 National People's Congress, including the announcement China would expand these programs, and language indicating that it will tie such operations closer to the Belt and Road Initiative.




CCP crushing Hong Kong civil society (Jan 24, English and Chinese) – An overview of the destructive path of the National Security Law imposed by Beijing and its effects on civil society in the once vibrant hub. It analyses key moments forcing the closure of labor unions, media and affiliated associations, NGOs, and church-run organizations.




Pursued for Life (Jan 13, English and Chinese) – An analysis of the changing language from key leadership in Hong Kong on how it targets dissenters-in-exile, its threats to use INTERPOL, and attempts to use mutual legal assistance treaties to pursue targets in exile





Evidence submissions to governments, parliamentary commissions or entities, UN organs, briefing papers, etc., are not included in the above list.

Upcoming research and publications for 2023

Trapped in a cage – A major report, and the first of its kind, set for release in the first quarter of 2023 in English and Chinese, will look into the quickly growing use of exit bans placed on people, drawing from official State data, as well as detailed analysis of the significant legal changes that is now allowing more and more bodies to place such exit bans, including a non-judicial organ. It will also highlight the legal versus illegal use of such exit bans and the consequences they can have on its victims.

Families in Fear – Based on changes identified since 2018, this forthcoming report is based on extensive interviews with civil society actors and HRDs. It looks at the changing nature of the persecution of rights defenders in China, where police and the State are no longer content to persecute their targets but increasingly punish family and friends.

Broken Promises – An overview of agreements, treaties, and other promises made by China, bi- and multilaterally, that Beijing subsequently violated. The initial focus will be on consular-type agreements. 

When Endemic Repression meets Pandemic – This is an anthology-type report that looks at a variety of different Zero-Covid measures imposed by the State and how police have used such measures to target HRDs, or otherwise engage in human rights violations using these different measures as a tool, such as arbitrarily changes to people’s health code colors to prohibit them from stopping forced demolitions, filing lawsuits, etc.

Access to lawyers at trial – Research is ongoing as to changes to how many people have access to a lawyer at their trial, in particular after a much-touted pilot launched in 2017, but after which the government has shown great hesitancy in providing any data on how many people taken to trial actually have a lawyer present.

Detentions – Research is underway into how many people are detained by police annually, a needed variable to understand data on actual arrests, arrest requests denied, prosecutions, prosecutions dropped, trials, and convictions.

New disinformation campaign operations – A study on a new type of disinformation campaign, targeting SD after the release of its 110 Overseas and Patrol and Persuade investigations, which saw thousands of fake social media accounts engaged in trying to drown out our releases, and instead present pre-made statements supportive of China’s government's position, ranging from Twitter and YouTube to Reddit, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Other subjects under investigation include:

  • Harassment and intimidation tactics employed against exiled Hong Kongers,
  • China's state TV's overseas arm CGTN's media operations
  • Police cooperation between China and other countries, using a larger set of variables to measure how exposed different countries are to judicial cooperation with China, and
  • More research to be launched as issues appear or are identified.

For shorter stories, we recommend you check out our analysis of a landmark decision on extradition by the European Court of Human Rights, how such a case is putting Portugal on a collision course with the Strasburg court, how Chinese television has been found guilty of further violations in the UK based on complaints brought by SD, or the Swedish government’s review of its handling of the Gui Minhai case – only a few of the 92 stories and news published by SD this year.

2023 looks certain to be as busy as 2022 as far as research and reporting are concerned.

Your modest support, in the form of a donation, can go a long way in helping SD produce more impactful reports and investigations. We are a tiny organization, but we hit far above our weight. We can do even more with your help.