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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Report: 11-Point Index of Human Rights Violations in China - Part Two

August 25, 2008

Echoing this point, in its most current report, Amnesty International notes that “[e]xcept for some officially orchestrated tours for journalists and diplomats, reporters were effectively banned from the [Tibet] region preventing the outside world from monitoring the actions of the authorities.” Indeed, “to date, the authorities have failed to disclose full details of all those killed, injured or detained by the security forces in connection with [recent] protests [in Tibet].”
 
Offering another example of press restrictions, Amnesty International refers to attempted coverage of the earthquake in Sichuan province, explaining that “media control tightened as local families began public protests calling for accountability of local officials, especially with regard to the collapse of schools which were allegedly poorly constructed. Several journalists were prevented from reporting in the region, and some were detained for trying to cover the protests.”
 
Chinese writers for foreign news websites are also being targeted by the government. Reporters Without Borders found that “at least three contributors to U.S.-based news site Boxun are currently in prison,” as these writers have been arrested for “Subversion of State Power” and “circulating alarmist news.” 
 
Current regulations, reinforced in April by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, ban the Chinese media from using foreign news agency video footage without government permission. Under these circumstances, disinformation by the Chinese media before and during the Games is inevitable.
Neither the Beijing Organising Committee nor the IOC will be in a position to guarantee that the dozens of thousands of journalists covering the event will be able to move and report freely when the Summer Olympic Games open in Beijing on August 8, 2008, a sentiment echoed by Human Rights Watch as follows:
During a period when reporting freedoms for foreign journalists in China should be at an all-time high, correspondents face severe difficulties in accessing “forbidden zones”—geographical areas and topics which the Chinese government considers “sensitive” and thus off-limits to foreign media. An important consequence of the continuing barriers is that there are key events and trends in China that cannot be covered in detail or at all, to the detriment of Chinese citizens and all who are concerned in the often-dislocating social and economic changes underway in the country.
 
Indeed, it is now clear that the International Olympic Committee itself failed to monitor and press China to abide by its pledge and permit unfettered access to the internet for the thousands of journalists who will be arriving to cover the Olympics – even though the IOC had repeatedly promised that the foreign news media could “report freely” during the Games.
 
            (b)        Call to Action
 
China must live up to its promises of complete media freedom. At all times, but especially in the run-up to and during the Olympic Games, China must allow journalists to report on current events in the country, including on what are considered “sensitive” human rights issues. 
 
Journalists must be afforded the freedom to move around the country and report, with no region or topic being off-limits. They should not be threatened with detention and/or prosecution, and should not be intimidated or marginalized.
 
Any medial personnel, including domestic media personnel, currently being detained arbitrarily must be immediately released.
 
 
(a)        Overview
 
As set forth earlier, human rights defenders are often placed under house arrest. Zeng Jinyan, a prominent human rights activist, has been under house arrest since May 2007 according to Human Rights Watch. Yang Chunlin, a land activist, was sentenced earlier this year to five years in prison for a petition entitled “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics.” Zhao Donghai, sentenced for participating in pro-democracy actions at Tiananmen Square, testified before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights and Development that some of his fellow dissidents remain imprisoned for their participation in the 1989 uprising. According to Zhao, “there is no way to know the specific number, because of the so-called national secret, but we believe the number is not small.”
 
Lawyers are also a target of the Chinese government. According to Human Rights Watch, attacks on lawyers are often “linked to their involvement in civil rights or human rights cases, and a few seem abetted by law enforcement personnel or local officials.” Further, Amnesty International found Gao Zhisheng, a defence lawyer and activist, imprisoned in 2006 for “inciting subversion.” Gao was questioned for “criticizing China’s hosting of the Olympics.” According to Amnesty International, on March 6, 2008, Teng Biao, a lawyer and activist, was seen “being bundled into a black vehicle by a group of unknown individuals.” He was released a few days later by the Beijing Public Security Bureau and was questioned over an article he had co-written entitled “The Real China and the Olympics.” 
 
Further, according to Amnesty International, Zheng Enchong, a property rights lawyer in Shanghai, was “publicly beaten by a group of around six police officers outside the Shanghai Municipal Higher People’s Court” after he tried to register to observe a trial. “He has since been kept under tight surveillance and blocked and often beaten when he tried to leave his home.” On February 20, 2008, “he was reportedly beaten by an unidentified individual while being questioned in detention.”  
 
Heading towards the Olympics, repression remains the status quo. On July 1st, the Washington Post reported that “A group of Chinese human rights lawyers were detained and later put under house arrest by government security officials to prevent them from attending a dinner hosted Sunday by two members of the U.S. Congress.” Indeed, it is worth noting that a Foreign Ministry representative “criticized the congressmen for not respecting China’s laws and regulations but refused to discuss what law prevented foreign officials from meeting with Chinese citizens.”
 
Finally, there is an “invisible” repression as China’s record in this regard has caused many intellectuals and scholars to exercise self-censorship, “anticipating that books or papers on political topics would be deemed too sensitive to be published,” according to the U.S. State Department. 
 
(b)        Call to action
 
China needs to replace its domestic climate of fear, censorship and repression of human rights defenders, academics, and lawyers with a culture of openness, liberty and debate. China should immediately cease harassing, detaining and prosecuting individuals whose only crime is expressing their point-of-view – or defending those who express their point-of-view – and it must free such individuals that it continues to hold in its prisons or under “house arrest.”
 
Specifically, with respect to lawyers, China needs to permit their effective advocacy in the context of “controversial” cases. Lawyers must be able to defend the interests of their clients, especially those belonging to oppressed minority groups. Lawyers must be able to access their clients and enjoy the freedom to represent, and associate, and speak with whomever they wish.
 
 
(a)        Overview
 
Numerous NGOs, witnesses and documentary evidence show Chinese detention facilities to be replete with torture – both mental and physical – for thousands of detainees.  
 
In a recent report, Amnesty International came to the appalling conclusion that “the authorities have used Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics as a pretext for extending the use of punitive administrative detention, notably “Re-education through Labour” (RTL) and “Enforced Drug Rehabilitation” (EDR).” As one example, the report states that:
 
In January 2008, Beijing police launched a new campaign to “eradicate illegal activities in the Tiananmen Square and along the Chang’an Avenue in the run up to the Olympic Games.” It was aimed at “uprooting illegal activities that tarnish the city’s image and affect the social order.” The key targets were beggars, unlicensed, peddlers, flyer distributors and illegal taxi drivers… [T]he police had already explicitly extended RTL to cover such crimes.
 
Electric shocks, beatings, shackles, and other forms of abuse have been credibly confirmed, and the use of “reeducation through labour” facilities remains commonplace.  Amnesty International comments that “The police enjoy unchecked authority to impose such punishments without charge, trial or judicial review.” According to the U.S. State Department, “Beating deaths occurred in administrative detention and reeducation-through-labor facilities.” 
 
General conditions in labour camps are distressing. As my colleague David Kilgour has reported, Falun Gong practitioners whom he interviewed have told “of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food and many sleeping in the same room. They made export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations for multinational companies… The labour camps, operating across China since the 1950s, are outside the legal system and allow Party members to send anyone to them for up to four years with neither hearing nor appeal.”
 
As one example of detainee abuse, Amnesty International explains that Shanxi-based migrant worker Hao Jin’an was convicted of murdering a coal miner in 1998 and confessed to the crime “after being stripped naked and beaten by the police. This caused him to lose consciousness several times, and one beating was so harsh that it dislocated one of his kidneys, which had to be removed.” Hao Jin’an was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted; he continued to serve an extra year in prison even after the Chinese authorities discovered his innocence. On January 25, 2008, “Hao Jin’an was released after spending almost ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit.”
 
(b)        Call to action
 
China should cease its practices of “Re-education through Labour” (RTL) and “Enforced Drug Rehabilitation” (EDR). Detainees, including those placed under “house arrest,” must be afforded their human rights and freedoms, including the right to security of the person – including the right not to be arrested or arbitrarily detained, the right not to be subjected to coercive interrogation, or to physical or mental abuse during any detention.
 
China must also open up its treatment of detainees to scrutiny by allowing independent observers to witness and report on detainee treatment. 
 
Whenever a case of abuse is alleged, China must take action to investigate the matter and, should the allegation be confirmed, sanction appropriately the perpetrators of abuse.
 
(a)        Overview
China is the world leader in carrying out the death penalty. Shamefully, its record is not only abysmal with respect to the number of prisoners it kills, but also the process surrounding their sentencing and detention. Amnesty International wrote in 2008 that “The death penalty and the conditions on death row in China are an affront to human dignity. No one sentenced to death receives a fair trial in accordance with international human rights standards.”
Indeed, Amnesty International has noted that “Around 68 crimes can be punishable by death in China, including non-violent offences like tax fraud, embezzling, taking bribes and some drug crimes.” While it is known that China leads the world in terms of annual executions, the exact number is a mystery as the government classifies executions as a “state secret.” The number is widely believed to be as high as 8,000 executions annually, often carried out on the date of conviction, or a few weeks after, and often by a bullet to the head.   
Recent attempts to improve the administration of the death penalty in China, including the restoration of the Supreme People’s Court, which reviews convictions and suspends death sentences, has shown progress. It is clear, however, that reform of the Chinese judicial system is needed.  The U.S. State Department observed that “the lack of due process was particularly egregious in death penalty cases.”  Amnesty International noted a “lack of prompt access to lawyers, lack of presumption of innocence, political interference in the judiciary and failure to exclude evidence extracted through torture.”
Clearly, to realize the Olympic goal of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” China must end the abominable practice of the death penalty, which has been decried repeatedly by the United Nations and in international treaties, and has been dubbed “inhuman” by the European Parliament. 
(b)        Call to action
Because of the human rights abuses in the process associated with the death penalty in China, not to mention those inherent in the carrying out of the act itself, the death penalty should be abolished.
Pending full abolition, Amnesty International has listed various concrete measures that China should be taking:
·        publishing full national statistics on death sentences and executions;
·        reducing the number of crimes punishable by death by removing non-violent crimes, such as economic and drug-related offences, from the scope of the death penalty; and
·        introducing a moratorium on executions in line with UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 adopted on 18 December 2007.
China should also ensure that due process is guaranteed to its prisoners sentenced to death, affording them a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves against their accusations and to challenge their sentences.
            (a)        Overview
China has a reprehensible record of supporting – and often orchestrating – human rights abuses beyond its borders, the whole in addition to those abuses discussed above that it has committed within its borders.
While the rest of the international community has reacted to the on-going genocide in Darfur with horror and has enacted arms embargoes against Sudan, China has seen fit to continue its arms trade with Sudan, knowing full well that countless murders result from such sales. This arms trade has now turned China into Sudan’s principal trading partner. My colleague David Kilgour has reported that “China continues to assist Bashir in his ongoing genocide, including, financing and supplying arms in exchange for taking most of Sudan’s oil production at cut rate prices.”
Chillingly, Amnesty International has reported that “Darfur is overflowing with arms,” and concluded that “The proliferation of arms is a major cause of the human rights violations in Darfur.” Instead of joining the international community in refusing to feed Sudan’s market for weapons of murder, China has instead chosen to turn a blind eye to the victims of genocide in Darfur.
In Zimbabwe, studies suggest that China played an integral role in President Robert Mugabe’s campaign of terror and intimidation to “win” his country’s run-off elections. Entitled “Zimbabwe’s Enabler: How Chinese Arms Keep Mugabe in Power,” a Heritage Foundation study referred to the presence of Chinese military personnel in the country on April 16, 2008, accompanied by senior Zimbabwean army officers, and an attempt on the same day by a Chinese arms ship to “offload a large cargo of small arms and ammunition for the Zimbabwe military at the South African port of Durban.” On May 6, 2008, the Information Minister of Zimbabwe declared that the shipment had been received, though China later denied such reports.
China has also supported the human rights-violating regime in adjacent Burma. Indeed, once again, China has not only failed to use its influence to protect the human rights of Burmese citizens, but it has acted against their interests. In the wake of the United Nations Security Council “[s]trongly deploring the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar,” Amnesty International identified China as one of the country’s “principal suppliers of arms.” A disturbing pattern, from Sudan to Zimbabwe to Burma, can be gleaned: that China is more than willing to offer its support, through the arms trade, to rights-violating regimes around the world as part of a cynical quid pro quo that leads directly to the suffering of innocent victims.
In contrast with its complicity in the Sudanese genocide and the repressive regimes in Zimbabwe and Burma, China has taken a fully direct role in organizing human rights violations in the case of Nepal. Indeed, China has used its neighbouring country to open up another front in its repression of supporters of Tibet. For example, Human Rights Watch reported that, “at the behest of China,” Nepal violated the human rights of Tibetans involved in peaceful demonstrations. The abuses it reported included unnecessary and excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest, sexual assault of women during arrest, arbitrary detention, beatings during detention, and harassment of foreign journalists and human rights defenders. The full report from Human Rights Watch also pointed to the involvement of China in movement restrictions implemented by Nepal, the reported presence of Chinese police officers on Nepalese soil, and “direct attempts by Chinese officials to intervene in the Nepali justice system.”
            (b)        Call to action
China should cease and desist from its mischievous role in the international community in the carrying out and/or support of human rights abuses abroad. In particular, China must:
·        refuse to trade arms and weapons to states, such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma, that will use those arms as weapons of murder and intimidation against innocent civilians;
·        end its support for repressive regimes around the world by taking diplomatic and economic action against these countries;
·        end its support for repressive regimes around the world by refusing to use its international clout – including its veto at the United Nations Security Council – as a tool for such regimes to flout international law; and
·        respect the principle of freedom of expression and not interfere with Tibetan protesters’ rights in foreign countries such as Nepal.
Conclusion
In summary, China’s violations of human rights – both domestically and internationally – and the culture of impunity that attends it – must end. As the host for the Olympic Games, China must appreciate that “the whole world is watching” – and will hold it to account.
In particular, as set forth in the 11 “Call to action” sections in this Report, China should:
1) immediately release the political prisoners it holds and quash their convictions, particularly with respect to prisoners, like Huseyin Celil, who have a Canadian connection.
2) end its State sanctioned discrimination abuse of the rights of the Falun Gong and permit them to practice their spiritual religion and exercise movement in peace. Practitioners should no longer be arbitrarily detained and any individuals still imprisoned should be released. China should cease and desist from its criminalisation of the Falun Gong religion and legalize its open practice.
 
3) respect the religious freedom of its citizens and permit them the ability to practice their religion – including engaging in open worship and moving inside and outside the country as necessary – without threat of persecution. China should cease its oppression of practitioners of “non-registered” religions. Those detained and imprisoned for exercising their freedom of belief should be released.
 
4) end its repression of protesters and political dissidents and allow them to exercise their right to free speech and expression, as well as their freedoms of association and of movement. Indeed, such an approach is in China’s own self-interest, and would portray China in a far better light, in the eyes of the international community, than its current policy, which is orchestrated in an attempt to show China as being a country of order and stability.
 
5) needs to be held to account for its “response” to protests in Tibet. However, present restrictions on press freedom and government refusals to provide data on its actions have made such accountability impossible.
 
China must, therefore, respond to all inquiries relating to its activities in Tibet in the wake of the March 2008 protests; confirm the status of all those killed and/or detained; grant the international press access to the 116 people officially acknowledged to still be in government custody, and assure these prisoners a fair trial; and release individuals still held for their involvement in peaceful protest.
 
More broadly, China must open up access to Tibet for foreigners, and especially for foreign journalists. The government must also end its campaign of vilification against the Dalai Lama, allow pro-Tibet voices – from both domestic and foreign sources – to be heard in China, and respect the Tibetan people and their culture in future developments.
 
6) lift its restrictions on the Internet and end the firewall between the media and its access to Internet-based information.
 
China should free those imprisoned for no other reason than seeking to exercise their freedom of expression, and allow “controversial” communications to enter into public debate in its country, whether through the internet or traditional media.
 
Moreover, by refusing its Chinese citizens the opportunity to take part in a marketplace of ideas, China is not only violating the human rights of speakers, but of listeners as well. 
 
7) allow journalists to report on current events in the country, including on what are considered “sensitive” human rights issues. Journalists must be afforded the freedom to move around the country and report, with no region or topic being off-limits. They should not be threatened with detention and/or prosecution, and should not be intimidated or marginalized.
 
8) immediately cease harassing, detaining and prosecuting human rights defenders, academics, and lawyers whose only crime is expressing their point-of-view – or defending those who express their point-of-view – and it must free such individuals that it continues to hold in its prisons or under “house arrest.”
 
9) cease its practices of “Re-education through Labour” (RTL) and “Enforced Drug Rehabilitation” (EDR). Detainees, including those placed under “house arrest,” must be afforded their human rights and freedoms, including the right to security of the person – including the right not to be arrested or arbitrarily detained, the right not to be subjected to coercive interrogation, or to physical or mental abuse during any detention.
10) abolish the death penalty. Pending full abolition, Amnesty International has listed various concrete measures that China should be taking:
·        publishing full national statistics on death sentences and   executions;
·        reducing the number of crimes punishable by death by removing non-      violent crimes, such as economic and drug-related offences, from the scope of the death penalty; and
·        introducing a moratorium on executions in line with UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 adopted on 18 December 2007.
China should also ensure that due process is guaranteed to its prisoners sentenced to death, affording them a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves against their accusations and to challenge their sentences.
11) cease and desist from its mischievous role in the international community in the carrying out and/or support of human rights abuses abroad. In particular, China must:
·        refuse to trade arms and weapons to states, such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma, that will use those arms as weapons of murder and intimidation against innocent civilians;
·        end its support for repressive regimes around the world by taking diplomatic and economic action against these countries;
·        end its support for repressive regimes around the world by refusing to use its international clout – including its veto at the United Nations Security Council – as a tool for such regimes to flout international law; and
·        respect the principle of freedom of expression and not interfere with Tibetan protesters’ rights in foreign countries such as Nepal.
For the international community:
China’s Olympic leader Liu Qi pledged that "China will live up to its words and will turn its words into deeds.” However, its deeds have made a mockery of its words and the international community must now hold China to account as recommended above.
In particular:
1)      World leaders attending the Games must call upon the Chinese government to respect the Olympic Charter and its undertakings to abide by it. They should insist that Chinese leaders release political prisoners – in particular those named in this Report; release Chinese journalists who took the Chinese government’s promise of “media freedom” seriously and were imprisoned for it; release the remaining Tiananmen-era prisoners; and release those jailed for peaceful Olympics criticism.  
2)      The International Olympic Committee should speak out against abuses that violate the spirit of the Olympic Charter. Foreign journalists should be able to tell the world what is happening in China.                                                                   As well, The IOC should follow the recommendations of Human Rights Watch to immediately:
a.       release details about all discussions or negotiations in which its officials agreed to tolerate the Chinese government's censorship;  
b.      make public the still-confidential Host City Contract for the Beijing Games, which should contain provisions and information about contractual international media freedom guarantees;  
c.       insist that the Chinese government provide unfettered internet access and monitor that access during the Games; and  
d.      create a permanent human rights monitoring mechanism that could monitor future host city compliance with press freedom commitments.
3)      Corporate sponsors, as Human Rights Watch pointed out, whose expenditures in excess of US$866 million mean they are literally paying for the Games, must also find a way to communicate concerns. If not, they risk subsidizing human rights abuses.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
The arrest, detention, torture, and sentencing of Professor Zhang – for nothing other than being a member of a peaceful, spiritual movement known as the Falun Gong – is a case study of the persistent and pervasive assault on human rights in China today in general – and a case study of the attempt to suppress the fundamental freedoms of the Falun Gong in particular.
 
As one who acted as international legal counsel for Professor Kunlun Zhang, I can attest to the following major human rights violations:
 
·        Violation of the right to freedom of conscience and belief, as in the prohibition and suppression of Professor Zhang’s right to believe in, profess, and practice the Falun Gong values of “truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance;”
 
·        Violation of the rights to freedom of assembly and association, as in the prohibition of any participation by Professor Zhang in any exercise or meditation gathering of the Falun Gong;
 
·        Violation of the rights to freedom of expression and information, as in the banning and burning of Falun Gong books and materials;
 
·        Violation of the protection against arbitrary arrest and detention, as in the arrest and detention of Professor Zhang for exercising rights guaranteed under Chinese law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which China is a signatory;
 
·        Violation of the right to protection against torture and other cruel and degrading punishment or treatment, as in the electroshock torture endured by Professor Zhang during his detention;
 
·        Violation of the right to a fair trial, as in the conviction and sentence of Professor Zhang in the absence of any hearing, respect for the presumption of innocence, or representation by counsel;
 
·        Violation of the right to communicate with, or be visited by, Consular officials of the Canadian Government;
 
·        Violation of the basic right to life, liberty, and security of the person, as in the denial to Professor Zhang of basic rights to integrity of the person, human dignity, and due process; and,
 
·        Violation of the right to be left alone – which has been characterized as the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized people.
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