Human Rights Watch World Report 1999: China and Tibet Beijing Spring Turns to Winter
Statement on Human Rights in China: Recent human rights developments
Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington Director, Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, January 20, 1999

Since July 1998, some 100 members of the Chinese Democracy Party have been detained; some have been released, others are awaiting trial. Three of the leading CDP members -- Xu Wenli, Qin Yongmin, and Wang Youcai -- were charged with subversion and "endangering state security."

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They were convicted and received harsh sentences after sham trials that did not meet international fair trial standards, and that took place outside the scrutiny of foreign journalists and diplomats (including a U.S. embassy official) who were denied access to the courtrooms. Human Rights Watch asked to send a trial observer, but never received a reply. The attempts to organize a peaceful opposition party were fully protected by the right to freedom of association, as spelled out in the ICCPR. The trials violated Article 14 of the ICCPR guaranteeing a "fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal."

In addition, the laws under which Xu Wenli was sentenced to thirteen years in prison, Wang Youcai to eleven years, and Qin Yongmin to twelve years, are so broadly worded as to make their use inherently arbitrary. Under Article 9 of the ICCPR, no one should be subject to arbitrary detention. Xu Wenli was recently transferred to Yanqing prison.

But Mr. Chairman, it would be a mistake to view this crackdown in isolation from other recent actions that have tightly drawn the official limits on the rights of freedom of speech, free association, free assembly, and religion. For example:

-- In November 1998, two foreign reporters were deported, a writer for a German news magazine Der Spiegel and a Japanese journalist working for a major newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. They were accused of possessing secret documents or state secrets, charges they both denied. The Der Spiegel reporter had written a biography of Wei Jingsheng, and had been detained in 1997 when he visited Wei's family. Last summer, a producer with CBS, the American television network, was detained, notebooks and tapes were confiscated from her Beijing apartment, and she was deported back to the U.S. In August, the Communist Party's Central Committee announced restrictions on reporting corruption cases involving senior officials.

-- A poet and writer, Ma Zhe, was sentenced to seven years for subversion at the end of December 1998. He had been detained in November for planning to publish an independent literary journal and for calling for political reform.

-- On October 25, 1998--just weeks after signing the ICCPR--China's State Council promulgated new Regulations on the Registration and Management of Social Groups, putting in place tighter controls on the organization of "non-profit social organizations." This seems to be part of a broader effort to restrict the development of civil society.

-- The harassment and detention of religious activists operating outside the officially sponsored Christian, Catholic and Buddhist organizations continues. For example, in late November 1998, police rounded up some 140 participants in a meeting of independent Protestant "house churches" in Wugang and Nanyang in Henan province, beating and detaining some of them. The official China Christian Council denied the incident took place, saying only five foreign Christians were detained, but a prison official confirmed that 70 worshipers were imprisoned. It was reported that the detained were released only after paying large fines.

-- Last month, the authorities warned Chinese film directors, computer software developers, writers and artists, and the media and publishing industry that if they endangered "social order" or tried to "overthrow state power" they could be imprisoned for life.

-- Repression in Tibet remains intense. An EU "troika" visit to Tibet by ambassadors took place in May 1998, but was marred by reports of at least ten deaths, vicious beatings, and prolonged solitary confinement for prisoners who tried to hold a protest at Tibet's main prison. Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, also visited Lhasa, Tibet briefly in September. But the Chinese government produced none of the information she requested on Tibetan prisoners, and denied her access to the Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the nine-year-old boy recognized by the Dalai Lama in 1995. The campaign to discredit the Dalai Lama continues. A former monk who displayed his photo in a monastery was reportedly severely beaten by police in November in a prison in Aba county, an area that is considered part of Tibet but is administered by officials in Sichuan. There were also a number of arrests.

--China has even established its own human rights web page on the Internet, while at the same time it recently put on trial a Shanghai businessman, Lin Hai, for providing E-mail addresses to a pro-democracy Internet magazine based in the U.S. called VIP Reference. The verdict and sentence have not yet been announced. Mr. Lin was arrested in March 1998.

The State Department's annual country reports on human rights practices worldwide are due to be released next month. We hope it portrays an accurate picture of human rights trends and developments over the past year, and that the Committee will carefully analyze its findings and compare them with the Administration's policy on China. We strongly supported legislation adopted in the House last year increasing funding for the posting of additional diplomats in the U.S. embassy in Beijing and the U.S. consulates in China in order to expand human rights monitoring.

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