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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Make China Account for Its Dismal Human Rights Record

August 26, 2010

Walter Lohman and Nicholas Hamisevicz
The Heritage Foundation
August 23, 2010

Abstract: China’s human rights record is dismal
and not improving. Successive editions of the
U.S. Department of State’s annual Country Reports
on Human Rights Practices have documented China’s
lack of progress in human rights, ranging from
continued abuses in Tibet to imprisonment and
harsh treatment of political prisoners to a
general crackdown on religious groups that are
not sanctioned by the government. The Obama
Administration should make defense of universal
liberties a central part of U.S. public and
private diplomacy with the People’s Republic of China.

The Obama Administration should make defense of
universal liberties a central part of U.S. public
and private diplomacy with the People’s Republic
of China (PRC). This requires an accurate,
objective evaluation of China’s record. Without
such an evaluation, the American public is left
with isolated cases, rhetoric, and political
theories that may not accurately indicate broader trends.

Conveniently, the U.S. has an off-the-shelf
analysis of China’s progress on human rights.
Every year for 34 years, the U.S. Department of
State has undertaken to prepare the “the most
comprehensive record available of the condition
of human rights around the world."[1] Its aim is
to produce an objective and thorough resource
"for shaping policy, conducting diplomacy, and
making assistance, training, and other resource allocations."[2]

This is a solemn assignment and one that the
State Department takes very seriously, from the
bureaucracy in Washington that issues the
instructions to the officers in the field who
provide the first draft to the political
appointees in Washington who approve the final
product. This is a labor-intensive, highly
consultative process fraught with hotly contested
issues. It may not be perfect, but the State
Department’s annual Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices is the most authoritative
accounting of human rights available. The
standardized drafting process and consistency in
format and phrasing also make it particularly good at measuring trends.

The trend line of the PRC’s respect for
internationally recognized human rights has
remained generally flat since the 1989 Tiananmen
Square massacre—not improving and occasionally
worsening. China’s upward economic trend,
although an indication of rising standards of
living and a degree of economic empowerment, says
nothing about its observance of internationally
recognized civil, political, religious, and worker rights.

The verdict is still out on whether prosperity
ultimately leads to political freedom. Nothing in
the interim results has yet confirmed such a
connection. The payoff on the much better bet of
economic freedom leading to political freedom has
been delayed by the stalling of Chinese economic
reforms short of true liberalization.[3]

Opening Summaries of China’s Human Rights Situation

Every year, the State Department’s human rights
report on China opens with a sentence summarizing
the human rights situation in China for that
year. Since 1989, none of the reports has
characterized China’s record as improving.[4] The
past nine reports (2001-2009) have stated that
the Chinese "Government’s human rights record
remained poor."[5] The most recent two, the 2008
and 2009 reports, indicate a worsening situation:
"[T]he Government’s human rights record remained
poor and worsened in some areas."

Only one report in the past 20 years, the 1997
report, notes "positive steps in human rights."
That report provides additional context:

     The Government continued to commit
widespread and well-documented human rights
abuses, in violation of internationally accepted
norms stemming from the authorities’ very limited
tolerance of public dissent, fear of unrest, and
the limited scope or inadequate implementation of
laws protecting basic freedoms.

Tiananmen Square Accounting. The 1989 report
states: "The Government, as a matter of course,
does not publicly announce the names of those
detained or arrested. In view of the large number
detained after the Beijing massacre, concerns
have arisen over the fate of those detainees
whose status has not been clarified."[6]

The 1990 human rights report states that the U.S.
government and international organizations
requested information on the status of the people
missing and detained after the crackdown on
protesters in Tiananmen Square. Starting in 1991,
the reports have noted that the Chinese
government has not provided an accounting of
those protesters. Since 1993, the reports have
included a sentence on the reporting of the
Tiananmen protesters. The 1993-1996 reports
record that the Chinese government has "not
provided a comprehensive, credible public
accounting of all those missing or detained in
connection with the suppression of the 1989
Tiananmen demonstrations." With some variation in
detail, the 1997-2009 reports continue to use nearly identical wording.

Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing. The
1996 report notes, "There were reports of
extrajudicial killings, including some carried in
the Chinese press.” The 1997 report reads, “There
is no reliable information about the number of
extrajudicial killings nationwide." The 1998-2002
reports state, "The official press reported a
number of instances of extrajudicial killings,
but no nationwide statistics are available."[7]

The 2003-2006 reports simply explain, "During the
year, politically motivated and other arbitrary
and unlawful killings occurred.” The 2007 report
states that “the government and its agents
reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful
killings." The 2003-2009 reports cite the
occurrence of "arbitrary or unlawful killings."
The 2008 and 2009 reports observe, "During the
year security forces reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings."

Treatment of Tibet. President Barack Obama made a
concerted effort to demonstrate goodwill to the
PRC by delaying as long as possible his first
meeting with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader
of the Tibetan Buddhists. China sees the Dalai
Lama as a threat to its control of Tibet.

President Obama sent Senior Advisor and Assistant
to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs
and Public Engagement Valerie Jarrett and other
officials to the exiled Dalai Lama’s home in
Dharamsala, India, to encourage the Tibetan
Buddhist leader not to come to Washington, D.C.,
before President Obama’s trip to China.[8] The
Dalai Lama kept his schedule and visited
Washington, but the President did not meet with
him. This was the first time since 1991 that this
has happened. The President has since made
amends, but the impression remains that under the
right circumstances, concerns about Tibet are tradable.

What, precisely, is the situation in Tibet? Since
1994, the State Department has found it necessary
to include a separate section on Tibet. The
summary sentences of the 1994–1996 Tibet sections
read, “Chinese government authorities continued
to commit widespread human rights abuses in
Tibet." The 1997-2001 Tibet summary sentences
state that "Chinese government authorities
continued to commit serious human rights abuses
in Tibet."[9] A list of abuses cited in several
of the reports includes torture, arbitrary arrest
and detention, house arrest, detention without
public trial, repression of religious freedom,
and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of
movement. A summary sentence in the 2002 Tibet
section states, "The Government’s human rights
record remained poor, although there were some
positive developments." The 2003 section
similarly reports: "The Government’s human rights
record in Tibetan areas of China remained poor,
although some positive developments continued."
Yet soon after, both reports note that Chinese
authorities "continued to commit serious human
rights abuses" and list issues of torture, arrest, and detention of Tibetans.

The summary sentence of the 2004 Tibet section
does not mention any positive developments, just
that "[t]he Government’s human rights record in
Tibetan areas of China remained poor.” The 2005–
2006 reports indicate a backsliding from positive
developments in 2002 and 2003: "The government’s
human rights record in Tibetan areas of China
remained poor, and the level of repression of
religious freedom remained high." In the 2007
report, the sentence changes slightly: "The
government’s human rights record in Tibetan areas
of China remained poor, and the level of
repression of religious freedom increased."

Following a trend in other areas, the summary
sentences in the 2008 and 2009 Tibet sections
cite regression in respect for human rights in
Tibet. The 2008 sentence states, “The
government’s human rights record in Tibetan areas
of China deteriorated severely during the year."
The 2009 sentence summarizes the situation by recording that:

     The government’s human rights record in
Tibetan areas of China remained poor, and the
severe repression of freedoms of speech,
religion, association, and movement that
increased dramatically following the March 2008
Lhasa riots and subsequent unrest that occurred
across the Tibetan Plateau continued during the year.

In addition to these summary sentences, the
2004-2009 Tibet sections include a phrase similar
to those in previous reports, which state that
Chinese authorities “continued to commit serious human rights abuses.”

The Tibet-specific section of the 1994 report
lists torture among the human rights abuses, but
the larger China reports from 1999–2009 expand on
the issue of torture in Tibet by criticizing the
Chinese government for the "security regime" or
"security apparatus" using torture, violence, and
"degrading treatment" toward prisoners,
detainees, and Tibetans trying to escape China.
The 2003-2009 reports state that the Chinese
government "continued to try to prevent many
Tibetans from leaving," and the 2007-2009 reports
add that the Chinese government "detained many
[Tibetans] who were apprehended in flight."

Starting in 1998, the State Department reports
discuss each year how Chinese authorities
"continued to jam" the Chinese, Uighur, and
Tibetan-language broadcast services of news
organizations such as the Voice of America (VOA),
Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).[10]

The Chinese government not only is blocking
outside Tibetan-language services, but also is
often portrayed as trying to destroy Tibetan
culture. The 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2006 reports
specifically mention Chinese government policies
intended to reduce the influence of Tibetan
culture and to increase the incentives for Han
Chinese to migrate to the Tibetan Autonomous
Region (TAR). The 1994 and 1996 reports state
that the Dalai Lama continued to "express concern
that development projects and other central
government policies encourage a massive influx of
Han Chinese into Tibet, which has the effect of
overwhelming Tibet’s traditional culture and
diluting Tibetan demographic dominance."[11] The
1998 report quotes a report from a European Union
ambassadorial delegation to Tibet, which stated
that "the delegation was in no doubt that the
authorities in the TAR exercise extremely tight
control over the principal elements of Tibetan
religion and culture." The 2006 report notes,
"The preservation and development of the unique
religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of
Tibetan areas -- continued to be of concern."

A major part of Tibetans’ heritage is the ability
to practice their Buddhist religion freely. The
reports acknowledge that the Chinese government
allows for "many traditional religious
practices," but that phrase is usually qualified
by a claim that the government "maintained tight
controls on religious practices and places of
worship in Tibetan areas."[12] Some of the
reports use different wording, but they still use
"tight controls" to describe the level of
interference in religious practices in Tibet.

In 2008, protests in Lhasa and other Tibetan
communities during the anniversary of the 1959
Tibetan uprising were marred by violence and
deaths when security forces clashed with the
protesters. The 2008 report states that "[p]ress
and NGO reports suggested that continued tight
government controls on religious practices and
places of worship in Tibetan areas was a major
factor contributing to the widespread protests
that began in March." The annual reports indicate
that the Chinese government limits religious
freedom and expression, leading to greater
frustration among the Tibetan people and
dangerously increasing the potential for misunderstandings and violence.

Judiciary and Legal and Political Prisoners.
Since 1990, the State Department has emphasized
that the result of government and Chinese
Communist Party (CCP) influence in court
decisions is a judiciary that is not independent.
The 1990 and 1991 reports note that China’s
judiciary "is subject to the policy guidance of
the CCP." The 1992 report similarly states that
the judiciary "is subject to the CCP’s policy
guidance."[13] The 1993 and 1994 reports use
similar wording: "subject to the Communist
Party’s policy guidance." The 1995 report notes
the Communist Party’s influence but also states
that "party and government leaders use a variety
of means to pressure the courts on verdicts and
sentences."[14] The 1996 report again
acknowledges CCP influence on policy and that
"Party and government leaders use a variety of
means to direct the courts on verdicts and sentences."

The 1997 report notes that "the judiciary is
subject to policy guidance from the Government
and the Chinese Communist Party." The 1998-2000
reports alter the sentence slightly to read that
"the judiciary is subject to policy guidance from
both the Government and the Communist Party."
Moreover, the government and CCP leaders "use a
variety of means to direct courts on verdicts and
sentences in politically sensitive cases." The
2001 report states that the judiciary "receives
policy guidance from both the Government and the
Communist Party" and that those leaders "use a
variety of means to direct the courts on verdicts and sentences."

The 2002-2009 reports continue this theme of a
lack of judicial independence and the impact of
government influence on court policy and
decisions. The 2002 and 2003 reports record that
"the judiciary received policy guidance from both
the Government and the Party, whose leaders used
a variety of means to direct courts on verdicts
and sentences, particularly in politically
sensitive cases." The 2004 report uses nearly
identical wording. The 2005-2009 reports
similarly note that the judiciary "received
policy guidance from both the government and the
CCP, whose leaders used a variety of means to
direct courts on verdicts and sentences,
particularly in politically sensitive cases."

The 2002 and 2003 reports acknowledge that
Chinese government officials "denied holding any
political prisoners, asserting that authorities
detained persons not for their political or
religious views but because they violated the
law; however, the authorities continued to
confine citizens for reasons related to politics
and religion." The 2004 and subsequent reports
repeat this sentence, except for noting that
officials "continued to deny holding any
political prisoners." A sentence acknowledging
that the Chinese government has denied the
presence of political prisoners has appeared in every report since 1990.

In the 2002 and 2003 reports, the State
Department notes, "Trials involving capital
offenses often took place under circumstances
where the lack of due process or a meaningful
appeal bordered on extrajudicial killing."[15]
The 2004-2007 reports drop the phrase "bordered
on extrajudicial killing" but still note, "Trials
involving capital offenses sometimes took place
under circumstances involving severe lack of due
process and with no meaningful appeal." The
2004-2007 reports elaborate: "Executions took
place on the day of conviction" or following a failed or denied appeal.[16]

In addition to the problems with due process in
capital offenses, starting in 1997, the human
rights reports note that "[a]rbitrary arrest and
detention remain problems." The 1998-2009 reports
add the word "serious": "Arbitrary arrest and
detention remain serious problems."[17]

The 1992 and 1993 reports blame the Chinese
government’s control of information as the main
obstacle to obtaining an accurate number of
arrests: "A well-documented estimate of the total
number of those subjected to new or continued
arbitrary arrest or detention is not possible due
to the Government’s tight control of
information."[18] Starting in the 1994 report,
the sentence changes to "Because the Government
tightly controls information, it is impossible to
estimate accurately the total number of people
subjected to new or continued arbitrary arrest or
detention."[19] Starting in 2002, the sentence
states, "Because the Government tightly
controlled information, it was impossible to
determine accurately the total number of persons
subjected to new or continued arbitrary arrests
or detention." The phrase "new or continued" was
dropped from the 2006-2009 reports.

Since 1990, the State Department has reported
instances of torture and abuse of detainees in
China. The 1990 report states, "Former detainees
have reported the use of cattle prods,
electrodes, prolonged periods of solitary
confinement, and incommunicado detention,
beatings, shackles, and other forms of
abuse."[20] The 1991-1995 reports use the same
wording but add "against detained women and men"
at the end of the sentence. The 1996 report adds
"thumb cuffs" to the list of abuses in the
sentence. The 1997-2000 reports omit the
reference to "thumb cuffs" and add in the rest of
the sentence that former detainees and the press
gave credible reports on the torture and abuses.

Like the 1990-2000 reports, the 2001 report
notes, "Former detainees and the press reported
credibly that officials used electric shocks,
prolonged periods of solitary confinement,
incommunicado detention, beatings, shackles, and
other forms of abuse." The 2002-2005 reports use
similar wording: "Former detainees reported
credibly that officials used electric shocks,
prolonged periods of solitary confinement,
incommunicado detention, beatings, shackles, and
other forms of abuse."[21] The 2006 report drops
"prolonged periods of solitary confinement and
incommunicado detention."[22] The 2007-2009
reports remove the references to former detainees
as sources and simply states, "During the year
there were reports that officials used electric
shocks, beatings, shackles, and other forms of abuse."

Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family,
Home, and Correspondence. Every report since 1989
has talked about Chinese citizens being closely
monitored by authorities. The 1989 report notes,
"Mail is often opened and read, telephones
monitored, and television cameras located at some
key intersections, in luxury hotels, and in some
buildings." The 1990-1993 reports have a similar
theme, stating that "some telephone conversations
are recorded, and mail is frequently opened and
censored." The 1994 report suggests that less
mail is opened than before, noting that "some mail is opened and censored."

The 1995 report describes Chinese government
monitoring. The 1996 and 1997 reports state that
authorities often "monitor telephone
conversations, fax transmissions, electronic
mail, and Internet communications of foreign
visitors, businessmen, diplomats, and
journalists, as well as Chinese dissidents,
activists, and others." The reports further say
that Chinese "[a]uthorities also open and censor
domestic and international mail." The 1998-2009
reports all note heavy surveillance.

Free Speech. Since the 1997 report, the State
Department has claimed that the Chinese
government punishes those who exercise the right
to free speech and has indicated no improvement.
The 1997 report says that the Chinese government
continued "to control tightly dissenting views
and punish those who voiced such views when it
felt that its authority was directly challenged
or that social stability was threatened."

The 1998 report states that "scores of political
activists were detained while the most prominent
were tried and sentenced harshly." The 1999
report states, "As scores of activists around the
country were arrested and leading dissidents
sentenced to lengthy prison terms -- almost all
dissident activity effectively was halted." The
2000 report states that "the Government continued
to threaten, arrest and imprison persons
expressing their freedom of speech and press."
The 2001-2003 reports omit mention of the press:
"[T]he Government continued to threaten, arrest
and imprison persons exercising free speech."

The 2004-2006 reports change "free speech" to
"free expression" and "persons" to "many
individuals": "The government continued to
threaten, arrest, and imprison many individuals
for exercising rights to free expression."[23]
The 2007-2009 reports move away from that
sentence and describe how the Chinese "government
also frequently monitored gatherings of
intellectuals, scholars, and dissidents where
political or sensitive issues were discussed."
The reports explain further that "[t]hose who
aired views that disagreed with the government’s
position on controversial topics or disseminated
such views to domestic and overseas audiences
risked punishment ranging from disciplinary
action at government work units to police interrogation and detention."[24]

Free Press. The 2007-2009 reports have noted
specifically that the "[i]nternational media were
not allowed to operate freely and faced heavy restrictions" inside China.

Often in a country where censorship is tight and
freedom of expression is limited, there is some
form of self-censorship by the people and the
media. Since 1997, the State Department reports
have commented on the self-censorship of
journalists in China. The 1997-2004 reports state
that China’s "public orders, guidelines, and
statutes greatly restrict the freedom of
broadcast journalists and newspapers to report
the news and lead to a high degree of
self-censorship."[25] The 2005-2007 reports
describe in greater detail the Chinese
government’s efforts to regulate free speech and
control the media. They then state that these
"measures greatly restricted the freedom of
journalists and Internet writers to report the
news and led to a high degree of
self-censorship." The 2008 and 2009 reports
further explain that self-censorship by "editors
and journalists"[was used] as the primary means
for the party to limit freedom of the press on a day-to-day basis."

Since 1993, the reports have discussed
self-censorship by intellectuals and scholars.
The 1993 report says that Chinese scholars have
been "deterred from exercising free speech and
have declined opportunities to publish or present
papers on subjects that they fear could be
construed as sensitive." The 1994-1996 reports
state that "many intellectuals and scholars,
fearing that books or papers on political topics
would be deemed too sensitive to be published,
feel compelled to exercise self-censorship." The
1997-2004 reports state that "intellectuals and
scholars, anticipating that books or papers on
political topics would be deemed too sensitive to
be published, exercise self-censorship."[26] The
2005-2009 reports reorder the sentence to read:
"Many intellectuals and scholars exercised
self-censorship, anticipating that books or
papers on political topics would be deemed too sensitive to be published."

Freedom of Assembly. The State Department reports
talk about the Chinese government’s efforts to
clamp down on peacefully assembled
demonstrations. The 1993 and 1994 reports state
that "demonstrations involving expression of
dissident political views are denied permits and
suppressed if held." The 1995-1998 reports
express a similar theme: "Authorities deny
permits and quickly move to suppress
demonstrations involving expression of dissenting political views."[27]

The 1999 report starts the trend of chronicling
the force used against demonstrations: "At times
police used force against demonstrators." The
2000-2006 reports expand the description: "At
times police used excessive force against
demonstrators. Demonstrations with political or
social themes were often broken up quickly and
violently." The 2007 report combines the two
sentences: "Demonstrations with political or
social themes were broken up quickly, sometimes
with excessive force." The 2008 and 2009 reports
elaborate somewhat but maintain the core of the
sentence: "Despite restrictions, there were many
demonstrations, but those with political or
social themes were broken up quickly, sometimes with excessive force."[28]

Freedom of Religion. The 1996 report states that
"the Government seeks to restrict all religious
practice to closely controlled and
government-sanctioned religious organizations and
registered places of worship." The 1997 report
shortens the sentence to "seeks to restrict
religious practice to government-controlled and
-sanctioned religious organizations and registered places of worship."

The 1998-2006 reports change slightly to indicate
that the Chinese government "seeks to restrict
religious practice to government-sanctioned
organizations and registered places of worship
and to control the growth and scope of the
activity of religious groups."[29] The 2007 and
2008 reports state more expansively that “[t]he
government sought to restrict legal religious
practice to government-sanctioned organizations
and registered places of worship and to control
the growth and scope of the activity of both
registered and unregistered religious groups,
including house churches." The 2009 report similarly reads:

     The government continued to strictly control
religious practice and repress religious activity
outside government-sanctioned organizations and
registered places of worship. The government
controlled the growth and scope of the activity
of both registered and unregistered religious groups, including house churches.

The Chinese government has approved five
religious groups that are blessed by the Chinese
Communist Party. China often labels other
religious, meditation, and exercise groups as
cults. The State Department human rights reports
have tracked Chinese suppression of these
"cults." The 1999 report states that Chinese
authorities "initiated a general crackdown on
groups considered to be ‘cults.’" The 2000 report
says that the Chinese government "continued a
general crackdown on other groups considered to
be ‘cults.’" The 2001 report similarly states,
"The Government also continued a general
crackdown on other groups it considered cults."
The 2002 report uses almost identical language:
"The Government continued a general crackdown on groups it labeled cults."

The 2003 report also notes that the Chinese
government "continued a general crackdown"
against cults but elaborated that "[a]uthorities
singled out groups they considered to be ‘cults’
for particularly severe treatment." Starting in
2003, the reports list some of the groups that
are alleged to be "cults": "These ‘cults’
included not only Falun Gong and various
traditional Chinese meditation and exercise
groups (known collectively as ‘qigong’ groups)
but also religious groups that authorities
accused of preaching beliefs outside the bounds
of officially approved doctrine." The 2004-2009
reports identify "authorities" instead of the
"government" as those who "continued a general
crackdown on groups considered to be ‘cults.’"
Those reports also contain lists of groups viewed
as cults by the PRC government: "not only Falun
Gong and various traditional Chinese meditation
and exercise groups (known collectively as
‘qigong’ groups) but also religious groups that
authorities accused of preaching beliefs outside
the bounds of officially approved doctrine."

Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced
Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless
Persons. The Chinese government does not like
large protests that illustrate its vulnerability
and therefore increases security on key
anniversaries or dates of significance to prevent
such public displays of contention. Since 1998,
the State Department human rights reports have
noted restrictions on the movement of people,
chiefly key dissidents and protesters. The 1998
report cites several dissidents, indicating "that
the authorities had restricted their freedom of
movement at politically sensitive periods." The
1999 report suggests that the restriction of
movement had worsened: "The Government places
some other restrictions on freedom of movement,
and it increased these restrictions during the
year, especially before politically sensitive
anniversaries and to forestall Falun Gong demonstrations."

The 2000 report changes the sentence to read "it
toughened these restrictions during the year,"
identifying a worsening policy in this area of
human rights. The 2001 report maintains the key
elements of previous years: “[T]he Government
retained the ability to restrict freedom of
movement through other mechanisms, and it
increased restrictions during the year,
especially before politically sensitive
anniversaries and to forestall FLG [Falun Gong]
demonstrations." The 2002 report reads much the
same: "Authorities heightened restrictions during
the year, especially before politically sensitive
anniversaries and to forestall Falun Gong
demonstrations." The 2003 and 2004 reports alter
the sentence slightly: "Authorities heightened
restrictions periodically during the year,
particularly before politically sensitive
anniversaries and to forestall demonstrations."
The 2005-2009 reports add "visits of foreign
dignitaries" to the Chinese government’s list of
reasons for restricting freedom of movement.

This progression suggests that China has not
improved its policies on the movement of people
since 1998. The reports indicate that
restrictions have not decreased, but that the
list of events that trigger and increase those restrictions has grown.

Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged
Violations of Human Rights. Having a
nongovernmental group (NGO) or independent
monitors comment on and make recommendations for
improving human rights is important to actually
making progress. It allows the concerns and
positions of both activists and the government to
be appropriately acknowledged. A nongovernmental
group or independent monitor can also make
unbiased recommendations for improving the human
rights situation inside a country.

China does not have genuinely independent bodies
to do this and has often worked against their
development. The 1990 and 1991 reports note,
"There are no organizations within China which
monitor or comment on human rights
conditions."[30] The 1992-1996 reports rephrase
the sentence to read, 'There are no independent
Chinese organizations that publicly monitor or
comment on human rights conditions in China." The
1997-1999 reports reword the sentence, but the
sentiment remains the same: "There are no
independent domestic NGO’s that publicly monitor
or comment on human rights conditions." The 2000
and 2001 reports present the same information as
previous reports: "The Government does not permit
independent domestic nongovernmental
organizations to monitor publicly human rights
conditions." The 2002-2005 reports contain essentially the same sentence.

The 2006-2008 reports suggested a worsening of
policy toward human rights groups:

     The government sought to maintain control
over civil society groups, halt the emergence of
independent NGOs, and prevent what it has called
the "westernization" of China. The government did
not permit independent domestic NGOs to monitor
openly or to comment on human rights conditions;
existing domestic NGOs were harassed.[31]

The 2009 report added a clause about the Chinese
government trying to "hinder the activities of
civil society and rights’ activist groups."[32]

Discrimination, Societal Abuse, and Trafficking
in Persons. The reports point to persistent
societal problems, including a high female
suicide rate and trafficking in children and other Chinese people.

Women. The 2009 human rights report plainly
states, "Authorities often did not enforce laws
protecting the rights of women." Successive
reports clearly demonstrate that China has had
difficulty improving the human rights of women.
Starting in the 1998 report, which says that
"[s]uicide of women is a serious problem in the
countryside," the reports have emphasized the
suicide rate of women in China. The 1999-2001
reports drop the limiting phrase "in the
countryside" and simply state, "A high female
suicide rate is a serious problem." The 2002-2009
reports similarly note, "A high female suicide
rate continued to be a serious problem."

The 1993 report observes that "the ready
availability of sonograms has facilitated
selective abortion of female fetuses,
contributing to a growing gap in the ratio of
reported male and female births." The 1993 report
contains a similar sentence on the requirement to
meet population goals: "Insistence that local
units meet population goals exacerbates the
problem, since traditional-minded parents often
wish to ensure they have one or more sons without
incurring official penalties."[33]

The 1994 and 1995 reports similarly mention the
use of technology to help with female
infanticide: "Regulations forbid sex-selective
abortion, but because of the traditional
preference for male children, particularly in
rural areas, some families have used ultrasound
to identify female fetuses."[34] The 1996 report
also notes the use of ultrasound in abortion by
stating that there were "credible reports of
female infanticide and the use of ultrasound
tests to terminate pregnancies of female fetuses,
but no reliable statistics were available to
demonstrate the extent of the problem."

The 1997 report again identifies the use of
ultrasound as a part of female infanticide, but
it also compares China’s 1994 male-to-female
birth ratio of 117 to 100 to the worldwide
statistical norm of 106 to 100 as reported by the
World Health Organization. The 1997 report notes:

     Part of the statistical gap may be
attributable to female infanticide, sex-selective
termination of pregnancies, and abandonment or
neglect of girls, but some foreign experts
believe that a larger factor may be
underreporting of female births by couples trying
to evade family planning laws to try to have a son.

The 1998-2000 reports make the same comparison of birth ratios:

     Part of the statistical gap may be
attributable to female infanticide, sex-selective
termination of pregnancies, abandonment or
neglect of girls. Underreporting of female births
by couples trying to evade family planning laws
to try to have a son is another significant factor.[35]

The 2001 report presents the same information in one sentence:

     A part of the statistical gap may be
attributable to female infanticide, but experts
say that sex-selective termination of
pregnancies, abandonment and neglect of baby
girls, and underreporting of female births by
couples trying to evade family planning laws to
try to have a son are more significant factors.

The same sentence on female infanticide appears
in the 2002-2006 reports: "Female infanticide,
sex-selective abortions, and the abandonment and
neglect of baby girls remained problems due to
the traditional preference for sons and the birth
limitation policy." The 2007-2009 reports add
"coercive" to describe the "birth limitation policy."

Children. The Chinese government has trouble
protecting children. Since 1994, the State
Department has emphasized the problem of the
kidnapping, buying, and selling of children in
China.[36] The 1994 report states, "Kidnaping and
buying and selling of children continued to be a
problem in some rural areas."[37] The 1995-1999
reports note, "Despite government efforts to
prevent the kidnaping and buying and selling of
children, the problem persists in some rural areas."[38]

The 2000 report seems to indicate that this
problem had grown beyond the rural areas:
"Despite Government efforts to prevent kidnapping
and the buying and selling of children,
trafficking in children also is a problem,
affecting all provinces." The 2001 and 2002
reports indicate that the problem was confined to
just the remote areas of China: "Kidnaping and
the buying and selling of children continued to
exist, especially in poorer rural areas." The
2003-2005 reports identify the same problem in
slightly different terms: "Kidnapping and the
buying and selling of children continued to
occur, particularly in poorer rural areas."

The 2006 report changes the sentence to imply
that the process of kidnapping, buying, and
selling children was related only to adoption:
"Kidnapping and the buying and selling of
children for adoption continued, particularly in
poor rural areas." The 2007-2009 reports suggest
that the problem had worsened: "Kidnapping and
buying and selling of children for adoption
increased over the past several years, particularly in poor rural areas."[39]

What the U.S. Should Do

The Obama Administration has gotten off to a poor
start in defending human rights in China. First,
during her first trip to Asia as Secretary of
State, Hillary Clinton told reporters that "we
know what they’re going to say" when the U.S.
raises human rights issues to Chinese government
officials. She went on to say that pressing human
rights in China "can’t interfere with the global
economic crisis, the global climate change
crisis, and the security crisis."[40] President
Obama broke with precedent by not meeting with
the Dalai Lama before his first trip to China.

More recently, in the May 2010 U.S.--China Human
Rights Dialogue, Obama Administration officials
brought up the Arizona immigration law with their
Chinese counterparts. Michael H. Posner,
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human
Rights, and Labor, briefed reporters, saying that
the U.S. side brought up the issue, presumably to
put them at ease, even though the Chinese
expressed no concerns about the law.[41]

There is a disconnect between the marginal role
that human rights currently plays in America’s
China policy and the State Department’s
exhaustive annual report that catalogues China’s
human rights abuses. The Administration can close
the gap by making China account for its dismal record.

Accountability means public transparency and
official benchmarks.[42] The benchmarks can be
drawn directly from the reports on China that the
State Department already expends great time,
effort, and angst compiling. Indeed, the
benchmarking process can also feed the
development of the report as it highlights
priority issues, changes in law, and so forth.
This way, the annual report becomes not only a
report on the situation in China, but also a
report card on U.S. policy effectiveness.

Conclusion

As the Obama Administration seeks to measure
tangible progress in its human rights dialogue
and as the American public evaluates its efforts,
one of their most important tools is readily
available: the State Department’s annual Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices. All the hope,
dialogues, and joint statements in the world will
not improve China’s human rights record. What is
needed is a process that measures results.

Every year, the U.S. Department of State produces
an official, comprehensive report on China’s
observance of internationally recognized human
rights. This report should be used as fully as a
policy tool as it is as a resource.

* Walter Lohman is Director of the Asian Studies
Center, and Nicholas Hamisevicz is a Research
Associate in the Asian Studies Center, at The Heritage Foundation.

Notes:

[1] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, preface to
2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,
March 11, 2010, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/index.htm (July 26, 2010).

[2] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, "Overview and
Acknowledgements," in 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

[3] China ranks 150th out of 179 countries
examined in Terry Miller and Kim R. Holmes, 2010
Index of Economic Freedom (Washington, D.C.: The
Heritage Foundation and Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 2010).

[4] For the 1989-1995 reports, see U.S.
Department of State, Annual Human Rights Report,
Vols. 14-20, 1989-1995. For the 1996–2009
reports, see U.S. Department of State, Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, "China
Country Report on Human Rights Practices for
1996," January 30, 1997, at
http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1996_hrp_report/china.html(March
25, 2010); “China Country Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1997,” January 30, 1998, at
http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1997_hrp_report/china.html(March
23, 2010); “China Country Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1998,” February 26, 1999, at
http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1998_hrp_report/china.html(February
12, 2010); “China,” in 1999 Country Reports on
Human Rights Practices, February 23, 2000, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/1999/284.htm(February
12, 2010); “China (Includes Hong Kong and
Macau),” in 2000 Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices, February 23, 2001, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eap/
684.htm (February 12, 2010; “China (Includes Hong
Kong and Macau),” in 2001 County Reports on Human
Rights Practices,March 4, 2002, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/eap/8289.htm(February
12, 2010); “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and
Macau),” in 2002 Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices,March 31, 2003, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18239.htm(February
12, 2010); “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and
Macau),” in 2003 Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices,February 25, 2004, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27768.htm(February
12, 2010); “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and
Macau),” in 2004 County Reports on Human Rights
Practices, February 28, 2005, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41640.htm
(February 12, 2010); “China (Includes Tibet, Hong
Kong, and Macau),” in 2005 County Reports on
Human Rights Practices,March 8, 2006, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61605.htm(February
12, 2010); “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and
Macau),” in 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices, March 6, 2007, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78771.htm(February
12, 2010); “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and
Macau),” in 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices, March 11, 2008, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100518.htm(February
12, 2010); “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and
Macau),” in 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices,February 25, 2009, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eap/119037.htm(February
12, 2010); and “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong,
and Macau),” in 2009 Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices,March 11, 2010, at
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eap/135989.htm(April
6, 2010). Subsequent references to specific State
Department human rights reports are not footnoted
unless a page number is available.

[5] The 2001 and 2002 reports add "throughout the
year" to the statement: "The Government’s human
rights record throughout the year remained poor.”
The 2005–2009 reports do not capitalize "government."

[6] U.S. Department of State, Annual Human Rights
Report, Vol. 14, 1989, p. 803.

[7] The 2000 report removes the phrase "of
instances": "The official press reported a number
of extrajudicial killings, but no nationwide
statistics are available.” The 2001 and 2002
reports remove the phrase "of instances" and
change "are" to "were": "The official press
reported a number of extrajudicial killings, but
no nationwide statistics were available."

[8] Lynn Sweet, "Valerie Jarrett Quietly Jets to
India to Meet with the Dalai Lama on Tibet,"
Chicago Sun-Times, September 14, 2009, at
http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2009/09/valerie_jarrett_quietly_jets_t.html
(July 15, 2010), and Alex Spillius, "Barack Obama
Cancels Meeting with Dalai Lama ‘to Keep China
Happy,’" Daily Telegraph (London), October 5,
2009, at
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/6262938/Barack-Obama-cancles-meeting-with-Dalai-Lama-to-keep-China-happy.html
(July 15, 2010).

[9] The 2000 report’s Tibet summary sentence
reads: "Chinese government authorities continued
to commit numerous serious human rights abuses in Tibet.”

[10] The Uighur-language broadcasts were added in the 2003 report.

[11] See also U.S. Department of State, Annual
Human Rights Report, Vol. 19, 1994, p. 573.

[12] This exact phrase appears in the 2004-2007 reports.

[13] U.S. Department of State, Annual Human
Rights Report, Vol. 17, 1992, p. 542.

[14] U.S. Department of State, Annual Human
Rights Report, Vol. 20, 1995, p. 578.

[15] The 2003 report replaces "often" with "sometimes."

[16] The 2006 and 2007 reports say that "Some
executions took place on the day of conviction."

[17] The 2002-2009 reports use the past tense of
the verb: "Arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems."

[18] The 1993 report adds the phrase "for
political reasons": "A well-documented estimate
of the total number of those subjected to new or
continued arbitrary arrest or detention for
political reasons is not possible due to the
Government’s tight control of information."

[19] The 1998-2001 reports change the sentence
slightly: "Because the Government tightly
controls information, it is impossible accurately
to determine the total number of people subjected
to new or continued arbitrary arrest or detention."

[20] U.S. Department of State, Annual Human
Rights Report, Vol. 15, 1990, p. 847.

[21] The 2005 report reverses the order of two words to "credibly reported."

[22] The 2006 report states "credibly reported."

[23] The 2004 report’s sentence is: "The
Government continued to threaten, arrest, and
imprison many individuals for exercising free speech."

[24] The 2007 report uses "disseminated such
views to an overseas audience" in its sentence.

[25] The 2002-2004 reports use the past tense:
"restricted" and "led." The 1997 report uses
"leads" instead of "lead" and "laws" instead of "statutes" in its sentence.

[26] The 2002-2004 reports say "exercised self-censorship."

[27] The 1995 and 1996 reports use the phrase
"expression of dissident political views." The
1997 and 1998 reports use the phrase "expression
of dissenting political views."

[28] The 2008 report includes "during the year"
so that the sentence reads, "Despite
restrictions, during the year there were many demonstrations...."

[29] The 2002-2006 reports use the past tense "sought."

[30] U.S. Department of State, Annual Human
Rights Report, Vol. 15, 1990, p. 860, and Vol. 16, 1991, p. 826.

[31] The 2006 report uses a slightly different
wording in the first sentence: "what they have
called the ‘westernization’ of China."

[32] The 2009 report’s exact wording for the last
part of the sentence is "in addition, domestic NGOs were harassed."

[33] U.S. Department of State, Annual Human
Rights Report, Vol. 18, 1993, p. 615.

[34] The 1994 report’s wording for the last part
of the sentence is "to identify and abort female fetuses."

[35] The 2000 report’s second sentence says, "The
underreporting of female births...."

[36] The 1994-2002 reports spell the word
"kidnaping." The 2003-2009 reports spell the word "kidnapping."

[37] U.S. Department of State, Annual Human
Rights Report, Vol. 19, 1994, p. 567.

[38] The 1999 report reads, "Despite government
efforts to prevent kidnapping and the buying and
selling of children, these problems persist in
rural areas." (Emphasis added to show differences in wording.)

[39] The 2009 report says, "Kidnapping and buying
and selling children for adoption increased over
the past several years, particularly in poor rural areas."

[40] Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Working Toward
Change in Perceptions of U.S. Engagement Around
the World," U.S. Department of State, February
20, 2009, at
http://ww.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/02/119430.htm (July 16, 2010).

[41] Michael H. Posner, "Briefing on the U.S. --
China Human Rights Dialogue," U.S. Department of
State, May 14, 2010, at
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2010/05/141899.htm (July 16, 2010).

[42] Brad Adams, "US-China Human Rights
Dialogue," letter to U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, May 7, 2010, at http://www.hrw.org/node/90312 (July 26, 2010).
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