The Commission on Human Rights should adopt a resolution condemning China for violations of rights to free expression, association and assembly, religion and belief; for repression of minorities in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia; and for continuing rights abuses related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The resolution should urge reforms to China’s judicial system to ensure fair trials consistent with international standards. The Commission should also urge China to cooperate fully with U.N. monitoring mechanisms.
Although a March 2004 amendment to the Chinese constitution provides that “the state respects and preserves human rights,” the constitution is not justiciable. Subsequent to its enactment, Human Rights Watch has documented a continuing pattern of human rights abuses.
Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region. In Xinjiang, the government has engaged in a sweeping crackdown on Uighur religious expression, cultural traditions, and social institutions. Officials label all calls for autonomy or independence as “separatism” and refuse to differentiate them from international terrorism, or to separate peaceful from violent dissent. Chinese authorities in Xinjiang are responsible for systematic torture and the largest number of executions for those accused of state security crimes in China. The government requires religious leaders to pass loyalty tests as well as mandates approval for all religious activities, strictly controls publication of Uighur secular and religious texts, and bans Uighurs under age 18 from religious instruction and mosques.
Freedom of Religion. Regulations implemented March 1, 2005 consolidate controls on freedom of religious belief and expression. Ostensibly designed to protect believers, the regulations strengthen requirements for any group hoping to register as a legal religious institution. Once approved, institutions must submit to increased scrutiny and must open their membership rolls to civil authorities. Requirements are vaguely worded, allowing authorities extraordinary leeway to shut institutions, levy fines, dismiss personnel, and censor texts.
Judicial Proceedings and Reeducation through Labor. China’s flawed court system continues to compromise the rights of defendants through limits on lawyers’ access to detainees and to evidence, the use of coerced confessions, and political interference with judicial decisions. In violation of international law, local police chiefs or Reeducation through Labor Management Committees may impose lengthy administrative sentences.
HIV/AIDS Epidemic. Discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, harassment and detention of AIDS activists, and lack of government accountability create obstacles to China’s response to the AIDS epidemic. No national law effectively prohibits discrimination on the basis of HIV status, and many local regulations discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. During the early 1990s in Henan, hundreds of thousands of villagers were infected with HIV through unsafe state-run for-profit blood collection centers. No official has ever been held accountable; several have been promoted.
Restrictions on Free Expression. Chinese authorities continue to tighten media control. In late 2004, security forces warned intellectuals that they could risk criminal charges for Internet critiques of issues such as rural unrest, press freedom, and corruption. Zhao Yan, a researcher for the New York Times, awaits trial on charges of divulging state secrets, and authorities continue to close websites and jail website managers
Tibet. The Chinese government’s effort to eliminate support for Tibetan independence severely limits Tibetans’ core human rights. Regulations limit the number of monks and nuns and impose secular control over the administration, activities, finances, and personnel of all monasteries. Personal testimonies tell of arbitrary detention, torture and ill treatment, and of judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. In 2005, Tenzin Delek, a well known and respected lama, had his original suspended death sentence commuted to life in prison. In a trial and appeal procedure that lacked any pretense of due process, he was found guilty of causing explosions and “inciting the separation of the state.” Several of his followers, whose health had markedly deteriorated, were released from prison before serving their full sentences.
Freedom of Association and the Right to Strike. Without the right to form independent trade unions and bargain collectively, workers have few avenues for redress on such critical issues as health and safety violations, wages and pensions, and working hours and work rules. In February 2005, the worst mining disaster in Chinese history drew attention to lax enforcement of mine safety regulations.
Forced evictions. Developers working with local officials have used China’s rapid economic development and the coming Beijing 2008 Olympics to justify forced and sometimes violent evictions with little or no advance notice. Hired thugs or bulldozer crews have hounded residents out of their homes in the middle of the night. When evicted residents sue developers, courts often refuse to hear cases. Instead, protest organizers and lawyers, such as Zheng Enchong, have been imprisoned.
The Commission on Human Rights should:
- Call on Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those held for the peaceful exercise of rights to freedom of religion, expression, association, and assembly, and amend Chinese laws and regulations, including the Criminal Procedure Law, to make them consistent with international standards;
- Urge China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed in October 1998;
- Urge China to implement the recommendations contained in the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (E/CN.4/2005/6/Add.4) including reform of reeducation through labor;
- Urge China to facilitate, without further delay and on terms fully consistent with their respective mandates, visits by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, and the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing;
- Insist that Chinese courts refuse to accept information obtained through torture as evidence;
- Urge China to ratify the International Labor Organization Convention No. 87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and Convention No. 98 Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining. Urge also that China rescind its reservation to article 8(1)(a) of the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which ensures the right to form and join trade unions of one’s choice;
- Urge China to ratify and implement the International Labor Organization Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines;
- Urge China to promulgate a national law barring discrimination on the basis of health status, and to revise local regulations to remove discriminatory provisions.