When President Clinton steps into Tiananmen Square tomorrow, he will be the first U.S. head of state to visit China since the 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. His visit will provide a huge propaganda boost to the new post-Deng leadership team of Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji and Li Peng, the last step in China's ten-year climb back from pariah status. More importantly, perhaps, with this visit both governments are signaling their determination not to allow human rights violations to interfere with closer political and economic relations.
We are not opposed to high-level engagement, discussion or dialogue with China, indeed, we believe such exchanges are necessary and useful. But presidential summits are not ordinary visits, and the Administration has thus far failed to effectively use the enormous leverage this summit provides to press for significant -- not merely token or cosmetic -- human rights improvements. We believe the White House should have laid out specific human rights preconditions before setting the date for the President's visit. Instead, the Administration formally agreed to the summit and then scrambled to send one delegation after another to Beijing to try to get something in return. As a result, the Administration has been downplaying expectations about results from the summit.
Not only has the Administration failed thus far to secure meaningful improvements, but it appears to be intent on compounding that failure by moving to lift the sanctions that remain in place from 1989. We certainly understand that a combination of carrots and sticks can sometimes be useful in international diplomacy. But under the current human rights conditions in China, we would strongly oppose any move by the Administration to restore the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) or Trade Development Administration (TDA) programs suspended in 1989. In addition, we would remind the Administration of the worker rights requirements for OPIC. We would also oppose any easing of existing restrictions on arms transfers to China including sales of dual use technology, such as Sikorsky helicopters.
Since the May 1994 decision to delink MFN from human rights, the Administration has yet to develop an effective bilateral or multilateral strategy for promoting meaningful improvements of human rights in China and Tibet. The cornerstone of its policy over the last year and a half -- trading away criticism in the United Nations Human Rights Commission and going forward with summits in exchange for Chinese government promises to sign human rights treaties and releases of well-known dissidents -- was a poor bargain. It did produce the release into exile of Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan and the release, probably under heavy surveillance, of a Catholic bishop, but the overall pattern of human rights violations remains fundamentally unchanged.
In the weeks leading up to the summit, a systematic roundup of dissidents has been underway to prevent any disruption of the President's visit. Some are being sent away on "vacation"; many others, such as the outspoken activist Xu Wenli, are under strict surveillance. On Wednesday (June 24), the police detained Li Xiaolong, an activist in southern Guangxi province who had been in hiding from the police; his wife had no idea of where he was being held.
The State Department hopes that one outcome of the President's visit will be a formal resumption of the "dialogue" on human rights that Beijing suspended in 1994 following Assistant Secretary John Shattuck's meeting in Beijing with Wei Jingsheng. That "dialogue" was more of a monologue, with the U.S. requesting information on prisoners that China never produced in full. The idea of what constitutes a "dialogue" may well have changed, but judging from the meager results of different human rights "dialogues" now underway between China and the European Union (EU), Japan, Australia, Canada and other governments, we are extremely skeptical that the process by itself will lead to concrete changes. Pressure is also needed.
The limited steps taken by Beijing in recent years have come about largely because of pressure, including the prospect of a resolution on China at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and the earlier debate over annual MFN renewal. Among these limited steps have been the release of prominent dissidents, visits by United Nations working groups and rapporteurs -- including the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, who visited China and Tibet in 1994 and last year's trip by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention -- talks with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Beijing's promises to sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
I would add that until Beijing both signs and ratifies these two important treaties -- welcome steps if they happen -- they have no binding force. On October 26, 1997, just prior to the Clinton-Jiang summit in Washington, China signed the ICESCR but to date has not ratified it. It has yet to sign the ICCPR. In private discussions with European diplomats and others, Chinese authorities have indicated they intend to attach reservations taking exception to particular provisions in both treaties. These include article 19 of the ICCPR on the right of freedom of expression and article 8 of the ICESCR on the right to form trade unions. It is precisely these rights that are now directly under assault in China. It now appears that Beijing plans to delay signing the ICCPR until this fall, when the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights plans to visit China -- thus getting credit twice.
We are concerned that without the threat of action at the UN Human Rights Commission and without the leverage that a presidential summit could have provided, Beijing will have little incentive to follow through on its promises or to undertake more significant, far-reaching reforms.
The pomp and ceremony connected with the President's trip to China will likely obscure the extent of ongoing abuses. The symbolism of President Clinton's official arrival ceremony taking place in Tiananmen Square will send a message to the Chinese people and to the American people that will override anything the President might say about human rights and the rule of law when he gives speeches to a university audience in Beijing or Nanjing. The White House should have resisted pressure from Chinese officials to start his visit in the Square.
If the leverage provided by the impending summit has been partly wasted, it has not been totally lost, and the President can still make important human rights points during his visit to Beijing. Especially if the President does indeed begin his official visit in Tiananmen Square, he should find time to visit with the family members of one of the victims of the 1989 massacre. Many of them are still suffering from political harassment, discrimination or persecution. One man named Li Hai is serving a nine-year sentence for the "crime" of collecting information on the victims of the 1989 crackdown. The list of more than 150 Beijing citizens who are still detained since 1989 -- which Li Hai helped to compile -- is attached to my testimony.
The President should also secure from China's leaders during his visit a pledge to remove within a specific time frame the names on an official re-entry blacklist. The list contains the names of more than fifty Chinese citizens now living in the U.S. who cannot return to China. (See names attached, from a document issued secretly by the Ministry of Public Security in May 1994. We expect that other names have been added since then). They have all been subject to government decrees banning them from returning to their own country due to their pro-democracy activities in China or while living abroad. Almost fifty percent of those listed were placed on "most wanted" notices after June 4, 1989; none of them is known to have committed any act which could be construed as criminal under international law. Allowing them to return to China unconditionally would be a significant gesture by the Chinese authorities.
Other steps the Administration should urge China to take in the context of the President's visit:
Human Rights Watch has posted on its web site this basic list of recommendations, along with other documentation on human rights and information related to the summit.
Overview: Human rights conditions in China
There has been no substantial improvement in China's human rights record in the past year. Isolated prisoner releases, such as the release of Wang Dan in April and Wei Jingsheng in November 1997, have little impact on the overall state of repression in China. In the six months since Wei's release, others have been detained and arrested. The overall pattern of the government's treatment of political dissidents has not changed.
Just last month, Xu Wenli, a Democracy Wall activist who spent twelve years in prison, was picked up by the police and held for three days. The police have kept him under surveillance since his release on parole in 1993. He tried to form a human rights organization and even applied for official approval, but the authorities responded by increasing the surveillance. On April 3, he was detained and held for twenty-four hours; his house was searched and his computer and fax machine were confiscated. The authorities urged him to leave the country, but he refused. On May 4, police stopped his car on the way to the airport as he was taking his wife to a flight to the U.S., on the grounds that he was not wearing a seatbelt, and he was not allowed to see her off. Then, on May 9, 1998 he was reported to have boarded a train in Beijing for Wuhan but never arrived. In response to appeals from his family over the last few days, the police have insisted that they know nothing about his current whereabouts. He surfaced on May 13 after being held by police for three days to prevent him from visiting other pro-democracy activists.
A few other recent examples:
Are these signs of greater "tolerance" towards dissent, as the State Department claimed in its most recent annual country report on human rights?
On the issue of access to prisoners by international humanitarian organizations, there has been no breakthrough. Following a series of meetings between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Chinese authorities, Christian Brumme, regional deputy head of the ICRC, said in February 1998 that he did not expect the Chinese government to agree to the openness required by the ICRC; their non-negotiable requirements include access to all detainees of a similar category, access to all places of detention, completely confidential visits with detainees and so on. Justice Minister Xiao Yang (now head of the supreme court) said last year, after a set of talks, that the ICRC's conditions were too rigorous to be acceptable.
In April, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention delivered its report to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, describing its visit to China in October 1997 in some detail and making recommendations. Although we believe the Group failed to adequately address some key issues, such as the lack of independence of the Chinese judicial system, it did make some useful findings. For example, it cited the failure of the Chinese Criminal Law to clearly and precisely define offenses "endangering state security," which can be used to imprison political and religious dissidents as was the case with the "counterrvolutionary" offenses they replaced. The Working Group was told that as of December 1997, there were 230,000 persons being held in reeducation through labor centers throughout China, both ordinary prisoners and political and religious dissidents. According to Chinese government statistics, this is an increase of more than 50 percent over the number of detainees in labor camps just four years earlier (in mid-1993, the government reported less than 150,000 inmates.) Conditions in the labor camps are often harsh. These administrative punishments clearly violate numerous provisions of international law.
The report of the Working Group does not mention a peaceful protest that took place in Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, Tibet that occurred in the presence of the delegation. A prisoner openly declared his support for the Dalai Lama in a protest planned by several inmates. They were reported to have been intensively interrogated later, severely beaten, and put into solitary confinement after the U.N. delegation left the premises, yet the delegation received assurances from Chinese authorities that no prisoners would be harmed.
Greater cooperation by China with the U.N.'s human rights mechanisms and perhaps, over time, to greater transparency in China's legal and detention system is clearly desirable, but nothing in the Administration's human rights policy offers China any incentive to make progress in that regard.
There has been some incremental progress in the area of legal reforms. For example, the implementing regulations issued in December 1997 for amendments to Criminal Procedure Law adopted in 1996 allow defendants access to lawyers while they are still in police custody (though meetings with attorneys can be monitored), but there is still a long way to go. There is often a wide gap between laws and amendments on the books and their actual implementation and enforcement. As the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights points out in its new study, "Lawyers in China: Obstacles to Independence and the Defense of Rights" (March 1998), "There are a number of structural and institutional impediments to the development of a strong legal system and an independent and authoritative court system in particular." Among them, according to the Committee, are lack of transparency, poor quality legislation, lack of clear jurisdictional authority for making and interpreting the law, the influence of the Chinese Communist Party and local governments on judicial appointments, and corruption.
As I noted earlier, we would oppose the lifting of remaining Tiananmen sanctions, such as controls on military transfers or starting up an OPIC program in China; the latter should be ruled out, in any case, by the pervasive violations of worker rights in China. OPIC assistance, under the U.S. Trade Act of 1974, as amended, can only be given to countries that are taking steps to adopt and implement internationally recognized worker rights, including the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and that prohibit forced labor. As the State Department points out in the 1997 country reports, "Independent trade unions are illegal (in China)...Credible reports indicate that the Government has attempted to stamp out illegal union activity."
During the past year, there have been a series of major protests by workers and other disaffected urban residents in various Chinese cities, mainly sparked by the layoffs at state-owned enterprises. An estimated 25 percent of the urban industrial labor force (about 30 million people) were actually or effectively unemployed. The most serious large scale worker protest erupted early in 1997 in several cities in Sichuan, and other protests also took place in Nanchong in March. In July, in Mianyang, Sichuan, more than 4,000 workers demonstrated outside the city government office demanding jobs. When officials refused to meet with them, the protests became more heated, and the People's Armed Police broke up the gathering. Several dozen demonstrators were injured and there were a number of arrests. In another incident, in May 1997, when laid-off workers from the Zhongyuan Oilfield in Henan province organized an unofficial union and sent delegates to Beijing to plead their case, the delegates disappeared and were feared to be arrested. There has been no further word on their fate.
We are deeply concerned about official controls over religious belief and practice in China and Tibet. The Chinese government has been conducting an intensive campaign to convince foreign governments that there are no meaningful constraints on religious practice, despite evidence of continuing persecution. Last October, the Information Office of the State Council published a "White Paper on Freedom of Religious Belief in China," asserting that the right to freedom of religion is respected and protected.
Earlier this year, a senior delegation of Chinese religious officials visited the U.S., and in February, three prominent U.S. clerics went to China and Tibet to open an unprecedented dialogue with Chinese officials on religious freedom. The delegation's visit was negotiated during the summit meeting between President Clinton and President Jiang last October. We believe the delegation deserves credit for its principled approach. In its report, it criticized the Chinese government's requirement that all religious sites register with the official Religious Affairs Bureau, and strongly condemned the use of administrative punishments imposed on some religious believers. But the delegation failed to produce any breakthrough, and made the mistake of taking a showcase tour of a prison in Lhasa, Tibet. This provided the authorities with a major propaganda coup. The head of the prison told Archbishop Theodore McCarrick that well-documented reports of torture and ill-treatment of imprisoned monks and nuns were just "stories." The group was shown a prison factory in which "scores of inmates were weaving blankets, with some humming popular songs," according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.
For the past few years, we have documented the Chinese government's increasing control over religious organizations, which has paralleled an increasing interest in religion by Chinese citizens. (For details, see the Human Rights Watch reports China: State Control of Religion issued in October 1997, and an update published in March 1998). The government singles out Christianity and Islam as two avenues for subversion by "hostile foreign forces," and views religion as "a critical element of the nationalist movements in Tibet and Xinjiang." It is also concerned about the growth of religious activity exacerbating social instability at a time when the government's economic reforms are creating greater dislocation.
Although harsh prison sentences and violence against religious activists are still reported, state control increasingly takes the form of the registration process, through which the government monitors membership in religious organizations, locations of meetings, training, selection of clergy, publication of religious materials, and funding for religious activities. Failure to register can result in the imposition of fines, seizure of property, razing of "illegal" religious structures, forcible dispersal of religious gatherings, and occasionally, short term detention.
I would like to briefly refer to two recent examples of restrictions on religious freedom: two Roman Catholic bishops, Duan Yiming and Xu Zhixuan, were invited by the Pope to attend a synod of Asian bishops at the Vatican that concludes today. There were refused permission to leave China because the Vatican does not have diplomatic ties with Beijing; in addition, Bishop Duan accepted the Vatican's invitation without first consulting with the Chinese government's Religious Affairs Bureau.
Members of this Subcommittee may have read recent news stories about the release of Bishop Zeng Jingmu, a seventy-eight-year old Catholic cleric, who was freed earlier this month, six months before the expiration of his three year sentence to reeducation through labor. His release was confirmed by the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and according to the Washington Post (May 10, 1998) was "seen as another gesture to President Clinton to improve the atmosphere between China and the U.S. before Clinton's visit...." His case was apparently at the top of a list of about thirty clerics and lay believers handed over to authorities in Beijing by the U.S. religious delegation in February. As noted above, there are now unconfirmed reports that he has been placed under heavy surveillance.
Finally, I would like to comment on the human rights conditions in Tibet, which remain grim. Tibetan political and religious activists face "disappearance," or incommunicado detention, long prison sentences, and unacceptable treatment in custody. The European Union (EU) sent a delegation to Tibet from May 1-10, 1998 and just delivered its report. The group included the ambassadors to China of Great Britain, Luxembourg and Austria. They concluded that "the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) authorities exercise extremely tight control over the principal elements of Tibetan religion and culture...(Their) first priority is to combat the political expression of Tibetan nationalism and the emergence of an independence movement." The troika delegation was denied access to the Panchen Lama. They visited Drapchi prison but were not allowed to see particular prisoners they asked to interview.
China's leaders, fully aware of the link between religion and politics in Tibet and fearful of a strengthened independence movement, have intensified the crackdown on any and all expressions of so- called "splittism," in the TAR and in the Tibetan areas in the bordering provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan, and Qinghai. Freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion are under sharp and constant attack, and official rhetoric against the Dalai Lama is increasingly virulent. "Patriotic reeducation teams," sent by the government to eradicate any signs of pro-independence sentiment or support for the Dalai Lama, are revisiting monasteries and nunneries and expelling and imprisoning monks and nuns who refuse to accept the official Chinese version of Tibet's history, culture, and religious practice. In Tibet, the Strike Hard campaign, which began throughout China on April 28, 1996 as an anti-crime effort, targets suspected "splittists," those who would separate Tibet from the motherland. They can face "disappearance," torture, or extraordinarily long prison sentences for non-violent political and religious activity.
Assessment of the full impact of the crackdown is difficult. Security regulations which make it a crime to report the names of prisoners, the number or severity of dissident demonstrations, or the extent of resistance to Chinese rule. (On August 8, 1997, for example, two Tibetans, Shol Dawa and Topgyal received sentences of nine and six years respectively for compiling lists and disseminating information about prisoners.) Any contact with foreigners is risky for Tibetans, and Chinese authorities try to limit that contact through travel restrictions on tourists and strict controls on entry of foreign journalists to the TAR.
Control of religious practice is at the heart of attempts to neutralize support for the Dalai Lama and for independence or genuine autonomy for Tibet. Because of the Dalai Lama's role as both spiritual and political leader, that support is centered in Tibet's monasteries and nunneries. A reeducation campaign targeting those institutions began in May 1996. The process of reeducation is as follows. A work team takes up residence at a particular monastery, with armed troops sometimes accompanying the team. Monks and nuns are instructed in the official version of Tibet's history, in religious policy, knowledge of the law, and the problem of "splittism." They are required to speak out individually about what they learned. At the end of the course, they are required to take written and oral exams; questions and correct answers are supplied in advance. Examinees must denounce the Dalai Lama, acknowledge that Tibet has always been a part of China, renounce calls for independence, and agree that the boy recognized by Chinese authorities, rather than by the Dalai Lama, is the true reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. Failure -- and a bad attitude constitutes failure -- means arrest or expulsion, forced return to one's native village, usually the countryside where earning a living is almost impossible, and a ban on future participation in monastic life.
By official count, 700 monasteries and nunneries and 35,000 monks and nuns, representing 76 percent of the total, have been "rectified." In Nagchu Prefecture alone, fifty-eight work teams were sent to key monasteries and nunneries in the area. It is estimated that close to 3,000 monks and nuns were expelled in 1996 and 1997. In some cases, monasteries and nunneries have been completely shuttered, and in some instances demolished. As of June 1998, the campaign was continuing.
On November 11, 1997, the patriotic education campaign was extended to the lay population on a trial basis, and a week later, the vice-chair of the TAR Office of Education in Lamaseries announced that in an effort to "eliminate the Dalai's influence and win people's hearts," patriotic education would be extended to "agricultural communities, towns, cities, governments organs and schools." If the aim of the campaign in religious institutions has been to marginalize monks and nuns who disagree with Chinese policy, in the secular sphere, it facilitates identification of allegedly loyal cadres who harbor nationalist sentiments
The Panchen Lama issue remains unresolved. After the Dalai Lama announced on May 15, 1996, that Gendun Choekyi Nyima, then six years old, was the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Chinese authorities, using their own interpretation of Tibetan history, immediately denounced the selection and the Dalai Lama's right to make it. They quickly installed their own choice and moved him to Beijing, where they could make sure he received a "proper" education. Gendun Choekyi Nyima and his family disappeared. In addition, Chinese authorities arrested Chadrel Rinpoche, the abbot who had led the official search team to find the reincarnation, and sentenced him to a six-year prison term. He is believed to be serving his sentence in isolation in a secret compound in Sichuan province. On November 7, 1997, the Tibet Party Committee secretary characterized Chadrel Rimpoche as one who "[was] trusted by and received special treatment by the Party and government for many years, rebelled against the Party and country at the crucial moment, and stabbed the Party in the back," As for Gendun Choekyi Nyima, three years after his identification and subsequent disappearance, his whereabouts are still unclear. Chinese officials variously have said he is in Tibet, Gansu province, and Beijing, but have not allowed access to him.
A few examples of Tibetan prisoners illustrate the continuing repression:
Ex-prisoners and detainees continue to report severe torture. Methods such as prolonged exposure to temperature extremes ensure that subjects bear no obvious signs of their treatment.
We were encouraged by reports that the Administration intends to use the President's visit to press for an overall improvement in the situation in Tibet. We hope the Administration will, for example, urge the Chinese government to allow access by credible, independent human rights or humanitarian organizations to the Panchen Lama. The U.S. religious delegation that visited Tibet requested access to him, but the request was denied.
Secondly, the U.S. should urge that all monks and nuns expelled from their monasteries and nunneries be reinstated and that the government's current reeducation campaign be ended.
Thirdly, the Administration should urge the immediate, unconditional release of all Tibetan prisoners held solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs and opinions. There are at least 650 such prisoners, and the actual number is almost certainly higher. Getting unhindered, regular access to Tibet by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture would also be another useful and constructive step the White House should press for during the President's visit.US-China Summit (June 1998) and Human Rights - Campaigns Page