Category Archives: human rights

“New China Plan a Step Backward For Universal Rights Protection”

Beijing has issued a new human rights plan, and Human Rights Watch has given it a much-deserved evisceration:

The preamble to that “principle” reiterates the Chinese government’s existing public position that it “respects the principle of universality of human rights.” However, the “principle of practicality” places limits on the government’s enforcement of those rights by stating that it “also upholds [those rights] proceeding from China’s national conditions and new realities to advance the development of its human rights cause on a practical basis.” The absence of any criteria for “national conditions,” “new realities” or a “practical basis” for universal rights enforcement effectively renders this “principle” little more than an opt-out clause.

What will the Chinese government be opting out of? An obvious choice is the peaceful expression of opposition to an often abusive status quo, which it interprets as a threat to its monopoly on power, or it could be the use of forced disappearance and torture in response to unrest among ethnic minority populations in both Tibet and Xinjiang. Maybe they have in mind the often relentless persecution of outspoken defenders of human rights, such as the disabled activist Ni Yulan, sentenced in April 2012 to a two-and-a-half year prison term on spurious charges of “making trouble” and “fraud.” Perhaps the Chinese government is thinking of the continued use of “black jails,” unlawful detention facilities which ensnare thousands of petitioners from the rural countryside each year in Beijing alone.

The new NHRAP, which is supposed to run through 2015, mirrors its predecessor’s ambiguous statements of intent unsupported by any concrete measures for enforcement. Although the plan’s civil and political rights section calls for “preventing unnecessary detention” through judicial review of the legal necessity of such incarceration, it provides no mechanisms or guidelines to ensure that Chinese government officials and security agencies adhere to possible recommendations for detainee release.

Some of the most distressing aspects of the new NHRAP are in what it omits. The document makes no mention of reforming China’s household registration, or hukou, system which denies social welfare benefits to China’s 250 million migrant workers and prevents their children from accessing schools. The sole mention of the word “migrant” is a goal listed in the “cultural rights section” that “migrant workers will be brought into the public cultural service system,” with no substantive details. The plan also makes no mention of the abuse of China’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. Despite the Chinese government’s growing international footprint through investment, resource extraction and infrastructure projects across the developing world, the plan provides no human rights standards for such activities abroad.

One aspect of the new plan continues a long tradition: the official distortion of the reality of China’s human rights situation. The plan states that the government will “guarantee citizens right to vote and be elected” despite the fact that the Chinese Communist Party maintains a 62-year monopoly on power by preventing the development of a pluralistic political system that would allow citizens to vote for their political leaders and parties of choice. The plan states that the government will “continuously support trade unions” without mentioning that the Chinese government prohibits independent trade unions and limits all labor organizing to the state-affiliated All-China Federation of Trade Unions. The plan’s assertion that the government will take measures “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of news agencies, journalists and other persons concerned” is laughable given the Chinese government’s pervasive censorship system and the restrictions — backed by punitive financial and legal reprisals — placed upon journalists reporting on the many “sensitive” issues the government deems off-limits for news coverage.

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“Legalizing the Tools of Repression”

Nicholas Bequelin on the Criminal Procedure Law rewrite:

The more progressive-minded factions of the Communist Party and the government consider legal reforms to be integral to China’s modernization. They see enlightened self-interest in giving a greater role to the rule of law, and reforming the criminal code to offer due-process rights that resemble international norms is a key part of this effort.

The other camp is made up of the powerful security apparatus and the more conservative and hard-line elements in the party and the government. This faction has become increasingly powerful since it was assigned the leading role for the security of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

To this group, the law is purely instrumental — a tool of state power — and should not be altered to empower the citizenry and curtail the authority of the party. The hard-liners believe it is critical to allow security services to deal expediently with threats to the broadest possible interpretation of national security and public order, even if that means frequent miscarriages of justice.

Article 73 would allow the police to secretly detain citizens for up to six months on suspicion of “endangering state security” or “terrorism” — two vague charges that have long been manipulated by the government to crack down on dissidents, human-rights lawyers, civil-society activists and Tibetan and Uighur separatists.

Even more chilling, these secret detentions would be carried out in venues controlled by the police outside of regular detention facilities, greatly increasing the likelihood of ill-treatment. Gao Zhisheng, for example, was tortured while in such detention.

Why is China’s leadership considering giving more powers to the security services, when it means bringing into disrepute what otherwise could have be an important legal reform?

One reason is that on any given day, 200 to 300 protests take place across China. The scale of the protests varies from less than a dozen people to tens of thousands. The protests are fueled by a host of labor, environmental and livelihood issues, compounded by corruption and abuses of power, primarily among local officials. Unable to take their grievances to the courts, a growing number of people are taking them to the streets. Often, only the police stand between “the masses” and the party.

Second, the leadership is increasingly concerned that it is losing the battle against the spread of “global values” among the citizenry — code in China for human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression. Hard-liners believe they need the power to take dissidents and critics “off the grid,” both to silence them and to make an example of them to others. Legalizing “disappearances” provides just the tool.

The rise of the national security faction is one of the most foreboding trends in China. Whether Article 73 is adopted or not will signal a great deal about whether China is making progress toward the rule of law or solidifying the supremacy of the security state.


Filed under courts, enforced disappearance, human rights, law

“Is Prosperity Strengthening Beijing’s Iron Grip?”

The New York Times on how success is making the Chinese government stronger in some ways, leading to worse human rights conditions:

This is the historic price and promise of industrialization: It is no fun, but it is better than subsistence living back on the farm. And, modernization theorists like Seymour Martin Lipset have argued, as people get richer thanks to dismal jobs like those at Foxconn, they are able to demand more rights.

That is a powerful argument, and it has been true not only in the Western developed world, which industrialized first, but also in 20th-century stars like Japan and South Korea. But Daron Acemoglu, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warns that we should not assume that the happy connection between prosperity and democracy will automatically hold true for China. That is because China is industrializing in the age of Apple — in an era of globalization and the technology revolution.

The result, Mr. Acemoglu argues, is that China is able to deliver strong economic growth without transforming its domestic political and social institutions.

But globalization and the technology revolution mean that China’s authoritarian rulers have been able to deliver strong economic growth without surrendering political and social control: “Instead of having to develop an entire industry, an emerging market economy can house just some of the tasks such as assembly and operation. This not only enabled China to grow very rapidly by relying on world technology and leveraging its cheap and abundant labor force, but has also mollified demands for structural, social and institutional changes that previous societies undergoing catch-up growth had experienced,” he writes.

Mr. Acemoglu sees a powerful, and worrying, paradox at work. It is the triumph of the open society in the West, with its focus on individual rights, independence and iconoclasm that created the technology revolution. But the impact of those discoveries on the world’s mightiest dictatorship may be to prolong its reign.

They didn’t share many of the details of his argument, but parts of that seem undeniable. As prosperity grows in China, the government dedicates more and more resources to repressing the people, and simultaneously uses increasingly sophisticated techniques. Are we sure this stage of development has only one possible outcome?

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Filed under development, economy, human rights

“Where is Gao Zhisheng?”

C.A. Yueng from Under the Jacaranda Tree writes about Mr. Gao, still missing:

Ms Geng has been separated from her husband for nearly 22 months. When Gao Zhisheng briefly reappeared in early 2010, Ms Geng and her children had already fled to the USA to escape persecution. As she was about to give up hopes of ever seeing her husband alive, Xinhua News English services released information on 16 December 2011 to suggest that Gao Zhisheng had been sent back to jail to serve his full sentences for violating his parole conditions. However, apart from a letter sent from Shaya prison to Gao Zhisheng’s older brother Gao Zhiyi, neither Ms Geng nor her family has ever received any formal verdict or court ruling with regard to Gao Zhisheng’s sentencing.

They also have links to an interview with his wife and more analysis.

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Filed under enforced disappearance, human rights, law

“21 Hours in Beijing”

For a dose of horror check out Seeing Red in China, where contributor Ya Xue has translated the account of Chinese American activist Ge Xun’s detainment in China. Here’s the introduction- please do read the whole thing:

I came to the United States to study physics in 1986 and stayed and became an American citizen. I believe in universal values such as freedom and basic human rights. I admire the best of humans wherever I see it, and I do what I do openly with nothing to hide.

My mother died at 83 on January 24, 2012, in Beijing. I flew back on the 28th for her funeral. By the 31st my siblings and I had taken care of everything and made arrangements to put my parents’ remain together.

For the rest of my stay I planned to meet a few people, among them, Ding Zilin (丁子霖), or the “Tian’anmen Mother” (天安门母亲) as she has been known. She is a retired professor, and her son, a high school student, died during the June 4th crackdown in 1989. For more than two decades, she has been working hard, against harsh and persistent obstruction by the government, to preserve the memory of the event, recover more truth, and help families of other victims. Without her own son by her side, I wished to bring her perhaps a little bit of comfort and love. I called and made an appointment to visit her at 3pm the next day.

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Filed under activism, enforced disappearance, human rights, Tiananmen, violence

“The Forbidden Citizen”

A Sophie Richardson has an article in Foreign Policy about why 2012 will be a rough year for Chinese dissidents. After making her case, she concludes:

So it’s time to change the game plan.

The United States and other countries should tell the Chinese government that it cannot dictate who its leaders meet. U.S. President Barack Obama should welcome into the White House activists like Yu Jie or Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer prior to the visit in February of China’s likely next president, Xi Jinping, underscoring the importance of free speech and responsible civil dissent. Such gestures make America’s rhetorical commitments to human rights manifest.

Governments have to consistently find — and use — their voice on rights. Officials from at least two EU member states were passing through Hangzhou when the poet Zhu Yufu’s sentence was announced. Neither said a word publicly, missing a perfect opportunity to manifest these countries’ stated bedrock commitment to human rights. Perhaps most important, governments need to make the defense of the freedom of expression in China an inescapable topic of all public and private discussions with Chinese officials. Doing so will help offer a degree of protection for individuals and demonstrate a seriousness of purpose that is difficult for Beijing to ignore.

In many countries, political transitions entail policy innovation, vigorous debate, and competition for popular support in elections. This will manifestly not be the case in China this year, and some people there will suffer terribly for merely pointing out this reality. Western governments should not be shy in noting the same. Failure to recognize the efforts of those who struggle daily to hold the Chinese government to the letter of the law and to exercise their rights only increases Beijing’s sense of entitlement and impunity. It’s already been a long year for dissidents in China — and it’s only been a month. Let’s not make it worse for them.

I don’t know how much of an impact the United States and EU are willing (or able) to make, but any effort would be better than what they’re putting in now. No, China is not willing to destroy its economic ties with major nations over a Dalai Lama or Rebiya Kadeer visit or a Liu Xiaobo mention, and it’s time to stop using that as an excuse for silence.

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“Will China Dragon Bite in 2012?”

Phelim Kine has a new piece in The Diplomat looking at how this year might play out for Chinese dissidents:

Strike hard and take prisoners. That’s the Chinese government’s message on how it will respond to perceived dissent in this Dragon year of 2012.

Just ask the writers Chen Xi, Chen Wei, and Li Tie. Chen Wei received a nine year prison term on December 23 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for online government criticism. Three days later, a Guiyang court handed down a 10-year sentence on the same charge to Chen Xi, for similar online criticism of China’s one-party rule. Then, on January 18 of this year, a Wuhan court sentenced Li Tie to a 10 year prison term for “subversion of state power” for writings that included reference to the officially taboo topic of the June 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

But while repression is nothing new in China, the government’s intolerance toward perceived dissent has grown since the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Its victims include imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion” over his role in drafting Charter ’08, an online petition advocating peaceful political change in China. His wife, Liu Xia, who hasn’t been charged with any crime, is believed to be under house arrest to prevent her from campaigning on her husband’s behalf. In February 2011, she said in a brief online exchange that she and her family were like “hostages” and that she felt “miserable.”

The government’s overriding obsession with maintaining its monopoly on power make it likely that these abuses will continue under the leadership of Xi Jinping. Foreign governments could help reverse this trend and give support to Chinese who want a more accountable government by more vigorously engaging the government on such violations.

In the longer term, governments truly committed to improving their approach to human rights abuses in China can’t rely on rhetoric alone. Instead, foreign governments, particularly the United States, the E.U. and the U.K., need to make progress on individual human rights cases a real benchmark for engagement with China and make clear that lack of progress will impact bilateral relations. Failure to do so will only ensure that in 2012 and beyond, yet more Chinese citizens will fall victim to their government’s dissent-stifling tactics of fear and intimidation.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, activism, enforced disappearance, human rights, Liu Xiaobo

“2011: The Uyghur Human Rights Year in Review”

Uyghur Human Rights Project manager Henryk Szadziewski has a piece up on HuffingtonPost summarizing how last year passed in Xinjiang. It wasn’t good:

Calls for independent and international investigations into Chinese claims of Uyghur terrorism receive very short shrift from Beijing. It therefore follows that whenever a serious incident occurs in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), which Chinese officials blame on a coordinated Uyghur terror threat, skeptics are never far away. That China uses the Uyghurs’ Islamic faith to engineer accusations of terrorism in order to justify unremitting crackdowns only compounds the doubt.

The incident became another example of the lack of clarity in Chinese government accounts of Uyghur terrorism, as well as an illustration of the binary nature in interpreting such disturbing events. What seems to be agreed upon is that another violent and bloody chapter in the region’s history has been played out and that we are nowhere nearer to resolving Uyghur issues. This conclusion could also be applied to two violent attacks that happened in the dusty summer streets of Khotan and Kashgar.

A growing number of countries surrounding China found it acceptable to forcibly repatriate Uyghur refugees in 2011. Prior to 2011, Uyghurs were refouled from a variety of states in China’s vicinity, such as Cambodia, Laos, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Burma and Nepal. In 2011, it was the turn of four other countries. On May 30, Ershidin Israel was forcibly repatriated from Kazakhstan despite an offer of settlement from Sweden. Israel had fled from China on foot in September 2009 after informing Radio Free Asia reporters about the beating to death of Uyghur Shohret Tursun. Tursun was beaten to death in September 2009 while in detention for his alleged involvement in the July 2009 unrest in Urumchi. Chinese authorities accused Israel of involvement in terrorism and demanded his return.

In all these cases nothing has been heard of the refugees since their return to China. In a September 2 Human Rights Watch press release, Refugee Program director Bill Frelick said, “Uighurs disappear into a black hole after being deported to China.” He added that “China appears to be conducting a concerted campaign to identify and press for the return of Uighurs from countries throughout Asia…China should stop pressuring other governments to violate the international prohibition against forced return.”

With such a long reach across the Asian continent and dominance over society in the Uyghur region, 2012 brings little to dismiss the fear that Uyghurs will find any respite from Chinese government attention, even across international borders. The pressure that China has exerted on surrounding governments to forcibly repatriate fleeing Uyghurs seems ever more irresistible given current political and economic realities. The possible evolution of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization into an economic grouping should keep Central Asian states firmly focused on the assistance China requires to keep activist Uyghurs silent.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, exile, human rights, Xinjiang

“The China Syndrome: The Sequel”

Evan Osnos has a writeup about the Christian Bale incident that happened yesterday, in which the Hollywood star tried to visit Chen Guangcheng and was roughed up by goons:

On Thursday, CNN reported that Bale contacted the station and asked if a crew would accompany him to none other than Linyi, the human-rights hotspot, to visit the home of blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who has been illegally held under house arrest since being released from prison in 2010. As with many of the journalists, lawyers, and activists who have sought to do the same, Bale and the CNN crew got only as far as a cordon of local thugs, who pushed the actor and journalists around and chased them away. “Why can I not visit this free man?” Bale asks repeatedly, in the tape of the encounter, while guards in central-casting brute suits of thick green winter coats bat at the cameras and order him to “Go away.”

It all adds up to the most intriguing collision of media, celebrity, and Chinese politics since Steven Spielberg pulled out of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics over his objections to Chinese policy in Darfur. When news broke of Bale’s trip to Chen’s village, some on the Chinese Web saw a publicity stunt—“If you’re studying marketing, learn from this,” a commentator wrote on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter—but the far broader reaction was positive. People praised Bale for taking an interest in a case that deserves it, and Murong Xuecun, a prominent author and liberal commentator, wrote: “Because of Christian Bale, I’ll support Zhang Yimou and go see the movie tonight.”

I suspect we’ve not heard the last of this story. In China, cases like these can proceed in unpredictable directions, and the days ahead are likely to include: 1) an obligatory editorial in the state press advising Hollywood actors to keep out of China’s “internal affairs”; 2) a nationalist backlash; 3) high-profile red-carpet questions posed to director Zhang Yimou about what he thinks of Chen’s case and his actor’s activism.

This story, by all accounts, has proved more surprising than the movie’s. Stay tuned.

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Filed under enforced disappearance, human rights, intimidation

“Our silence on human rights in China undermines our own”

Last week Chinese pressure succeeded in keeping the Dalai Lama from attending a celebration in South Africa- it seems the ANC chose to delay or reject his visa application. The reaction from South Africans seems to be one of unanimous outrage, and this anonymous piece in the Mail & Guardian is the best I’ve seen:

In a lecture at the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy on September 28, Motlanthe praised China’s achievements. He was anxious to flatter his hosts, contrasting their expanding society with the contractive convulsions of the West. Referring to social crises in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, he talked about the “disharmony and sharpened contradictions between property relations and forces of production” and “endemic social upheavals” as a “manifestation of this chronic economic crisis”.

Listening to this, you might think that China has progressed beyond class conflict and that the Communist Party of China (CPC) has at last realised the mandate of heaven originally given to China’s emperors. You might think China faced no such upheavals. That is not the truth.

Motlanthe’s CPC hosts would not have told him this, but according to my hosts (who, as you will see, must remain nameless) class conflict is sharpening in China. They report that there are hundreds of thousands of spontaneous but separate local revolts in cities and villages every year, including in its economic sweatshops. The CPC is doing all it can to prevent these uprising from merging into a “lotus revolution”.

In the big cities that now interact with “the West”, the appearance of peace is well preserved. Viewed from the window of a presidential motorcade, you might think these cities are free and modernising. But what I have learnt — and seen — is that the days when the CPC exercised its power by visible brute force are over (for the time being). Today, repression is more sophisticated but no less brutal. Methods of control are being perfected.

For the people of China there is a line that cannot be crossed. All seem aware of it, though how isn’t clear, possibly just by word of mouth. Stories circulate about what happens to those who press too hard for freedoms the state claims already exist (which they do, in China’s decapitated Constitution) but which the people know do not.

Beneath the surface functionality — and not far beneath — things are much more sinister. Hu Jintao’s government is intent on tight control of all aspects of the transition to state-directed capitalism and a modern society. They fear that activists could open the floodgates of popular discontent and the desire for modern democracy.

China has a phalanx of lawyers, but there is no rule of law. The law is evolved by edict. Still, lawyers appear to be a particular target for persecution. It is unlawful to stand up for your rights and it is also unlawful to try to defend lawfully those upon whom the state stamps. Lawyers who do get stamped on too.

Various means are used to place lawyers under siege. There are gradations of threat and intimidation. Some lawyers who represent people in “sensitive” cases simply lose their licenses to practise or no longer receive work from the government (which, in a one-party state, is almost the only employer).

Formal arrests, trials and imprisonment draw undue international attention, so sometimes troublesome people simply disappear. One young lawyer I met was lifted off the streets and taken to a hotel for three days, given 24-hour police supervision and lectures on obedience and then put back on the streets — hopefully chastised. Which he was not.

Another spent two months earlier this year similarly imprisoned. On the day I had arranged to see him, he got a call from public security warning him off. Another, who has just been released after four years in prison for representing women who were resisting forced abortions, now lives in his village under 24-hour observation by a small group of thugs. Anyone who attempts to visit him is sent away with a beating.

So the question (again) is: should a government such as ours, which leads the world in the recognition and protection of human rights, stay silent when we know there are grave and systematic violations in the countries we do business with? If we don’t advance the values of our Constitution and stand up for human rights in our talks with other members of the global village, how long will it be before they begin to erode our rights? Indeed, is this not exactly what happened with the Dalai Lama?

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Filed under activism, Communist Party, Dalai Lama, human rights

“Increased Disregard of Law”

There’s a new CECC report out on human rights in China. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but they come down on the situation pretty harshly:

Human rights in the world’s most populous nation have worsened in 2011 amid a “troubling trend” in which officials themselves brush off the law when it suits them to silence dissent, a U.S. congressionally-mandated panel on China said in an annual report released Wednesday.

China’s human rights and rule of law record “has not improved“ and “appears to be worsening in some areas,” said the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC), which monitors human rights and the development of rule of law in the country.

The Chinese government commonly cited the “law” as a basis for cracking down on peaceful protests, religious freedom, autonomy of ethnic groups, independently organized workers, and to clamp down on civil society organizations, it said.

The report said the Chinese government “threaten[ed] the viability of the language and culture of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongols, and other groups … [through the] imposition of Mandarin Chinese language in schools at the expense of other languages, the compulsory resettlement of large numbers of nomads, tight curbs over religious practice, and economic development projects that threatened livelihoods and sacred sites.”

The CECC said Chinese officials maintained “heavy” censorship of the Internet, media, and publishing, in addition to limiting the coverage of public disasters and emergencies.

The report also noted some “hopeful” developments in China, most notably at the grassroots level, including an increased willingness on the part of citizens to publicly call for justice.

It pointed to the use of the Internet by netizens and journalists in outmaneuvering censors to raise questions about the handling of a high-speed rail crash and an incident in which church members defied an official ban on holding outdoor worship services in the capital.

But the CECC said that China also set “negative precedents for other countries and [in] reshaping international human rights standards to allow for China’s abuses.”

I don’t know what other conclusion you realistically could come to these days. Some people try to balance it out by saying it’s all just heightened security before the leadership change, but I’d be really surprised if there’s any plan to ever walk back some of these policy changes.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, Communist Party, human rights

“A Couple of Conversations on Rights with Chinese Youth”

Tim Quijano at China Beat has a quick piece about talking to Chinese university students about human rights:

The following relates a story that reports on the difficulty of negotiating the fine line of what is and is not acceptable in contemporary Chinese society.

At the end of class one day, a student (student A)[1] came up to me.

“Tim, do you know who Han Han is?”[2]

This was student A’s way of bringing up the topic of human rights with me. We touched on popular topics deemed sensitive by the Communist Party, such as the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and last year’s fire in Shanghai. The human costs of these incidents are widely understood as being greatly exacerbated by mismanagement on the part of the Communist Party. Both student A and a friend, student B, expressed their irritation with the “Great Firewall,” or the firewall the Chinese government has erected to separate Chinese internet users from sensitive topics and international social media websites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. After expressing their annoyance with the firewall’s restrictions, the students assured me that they had capable software to “climb over,” or hack through the Great Firewall.

Student A told me that s/he had come to ask me advice. S/he wanted to use a school project to question human rights issues. “Be careful,” I said. “I’ll talk to you about these issues, but there are a lot of things that I would not suggest saying in public.”

S/he reacted in angst, and began telling me a story.

Early in the freshman orientation, the dean of the International College gave an introduction of the International College to an assembly of all of the college’s students, many of whom had not seen foreigners in person before–as an economic backwater, Guangxi Province does not witness many of the signs of a modern Chinese city. During the speech, the dean directed the student body, “if any of you students have a disagreement with a foreign teacher about a political issue, you students should return to your Chinese teacher to discuss the issue. Do not continue to discuss the political issue with your foreign teacher,” effectively instructing the students to keep their teachers at arm’s-length.

He relates a few more bits after that. I’ll just say that the curiosity of Chinese students towards human rights and other ‘foreign’ political ideas, despite official claims that Chinese are uninterested in and unsuitable for such things, rings true.

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“HRIC Blocked from EU-China Human Rights Dialogue Seminar”

The title says it all- Human Rights in China has been excluded from the seminar due to Chinese objections, according to their press release. This isn’t particularly surprising, and the main reason I’m posting it here is because of the amazing Ai Weiwei quote they include. On being characterized as ‘anti-China’ for their work on human rights in China, they quote him saying:

They say it’s anti-China to catch the rapist; it’s anti-China to ask about the quality of building construction when your child is crushed to death; it’s anti-China to expose that there’s poison in our food; it is also anti-China to petition about the beatings, killings, and bullying of common people; just raising questions about the sale of children, or of HIV-infected blood, the illegal coal kilns, the fake news, the judiciary breaking the law, embezzlement and corruption, unconstitutional violation of rights, or the “green-damming” of the Internet, is anti-China. If you aren’t anti-China, are you even human?

from Ai Weiwei, “All That’s Left Is the ‘Grass-mud Horse,’”


Damn, well said.

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“Liu Shihui Reveals Details of 108-Day Detention”

Via Siweiluozi, an account from one of the human rights lawyers disappeared during the Spring Crackdown:

I was interrogated day and night for five days straight without sleep. Only after I finally collapsed on the bed and a doctor checked my blood pressure did they finally allow me to sleep. At that point I could barely take off my pants, as my injured left leg had swollen to double its original size.

The five days without sleep, the incessant air-con, the abusive threats — all of these tortures are nothing compared to having my wife and home taken from me.

I realize that I face some danger from revealing the truth [about my ordeal] and that being kept under tight control. But if one is forced even to be suffer the insult of having one’s newlywed wife stolen from him, it can only lead to more like Yang Jia! I don’t want to become a Yang Jia, so I’m speaking out. If the security police get upset about this, I’d ask them to think it over — what would you be thinking if it happened to you?

After 10 p.m. on 11 June, the security police suddenly announced I’d be on a flight early the next morning. They also gave me back my computer. Up to that point I repeatedly emphasized to them that any personal or professional data unrelated to the case must be returned to me, and the security police officer in charge agreed. But after I got to Inner Mongolia and turned on my computer, I found that it was empty and my HP hard disk had been switched out.

There were 50-60 GB of personal and professional data, the product of more than 10 years of my legal career and personal life. Others might not see this as being worth much, but it’s priceless to me, at least! Now it’s all gone, leaving not even a trace!

When I discovered my data was missing, I tried calling the number that I’d been given by the security police, but the phone was always switched off. I also tried calling a number they had left with my father, but the phone refused to pick up so I sent text messages. I never imagined I’d receive eight different junk messages in response, each of them costing me one yuan for a total of eight yuan.

Think about it: who in China has the ability to transfer personal text messages to those junk-message sites without any consequences? The answer is clear.

Some Twitter followers say that I’m revealing everything. On the contrary — I’ve only begun to scratch the surface! I’ll stop here for now.

This is where it comes back to these tactics being a sign of weakness, not strength. Has Beijing made itself any more secure by harassing this guy? No, they’ve made him furious and given yet another public example of how they treat their citizens. They do this not because they can, but because they think they have to- and in doing so, make their own position less secure in the long run.

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Filed under enforced disappearance, human rights, Jasmine Revolution, law, torture

“Chinese Human Rights Plan Must Address Past Failings to Succeed”

Last week China released its report on the success of the first Chinese human rights action plan, furiously patting itself on the back. Apparently China has made huge advances in its protection of human rights, which would surprise… just about everybody.

Somehow I missed the reaction piece from Human Rights Watch, which judges the report and finds it lacking:

In theory, a national human rights action plan—a recommendation for all states stemming from the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights—can provide an opportunity for a government to honestly identify and seek resolution of urgent human rights problems. The Chinese government deserves some credit for making an attempt at such a plan. Its first plan was notable for the government’s explicit rhetorical shift from a traditional prioritization of “rights of subsistence and development” over civil and political rights by specifically acknowledging that “all kinds of human rights are interdependent and inseparable.”

In its details, the plan was less impressive. Rather than outlining innovative approaches to tackle well-documented human rights problems, it did little more than reiterate existing commitments under international and domestic law as well as the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. Rather than reflecting broad government support, the plan lacked the input and participation of the security agencies—which are responsible for the overwhelming majority of China’s human rights abuses. In addition, the Plan also lacked any substantive benchmarks or the kind of detail that would allow for meaningful assessment of progress.

The Chinese government’s demonstrable disdain for human rights over the plan’s two year duration speaks volumes about its intentions. In 2009-1010, the government systematically continued to violate many of the most basic rights the plan addressed. It took unambiguous steps to restrict rights to expression, association and assembly. It sentenced high-profile dissidents to lengthy prison terms on spurious state secrets or “subversion” charges, expanded restrictions on media and internet freedom as well as tightened controls on lawyers, human rights defenders, and nongovernmental organizations. It broadened controls on Uighurs and Tibetans, and engaged in increasing numbers of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, including in secret, unlawful detention facilities known as “black jails.”

Wang Chen’s assessment of the plan makes no mention of such abuses. Instead, his assessment is larded with irrelevant statistics (“By the end of 2010, China had formulated 236 laws … 690 administrative regulations and more than 8,600 local rules and regulations”), meaningless ambiguities (“Over the past two years, China has perfected laws and regulations to protect the rights and interests of ethnic minorities”), and bald-faced lies (“extorting confession by torture and illegal detention by law enforcement personnel has been strictly forbidden”). This does not bode well for the next plan, slated to run from 2012-2015.

Like when they claimed that Germany has a bigger internet control problem than China, it’s always funny to see these statements collide with the real world. The report was released to state press and eunuch reporters, and it’s probably lucky for him that HRW’s Phelim Kine wasn’t there in person to rip it up like that.

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