CHINA AND TIBET
Human Rights Developments
If anything, the Chinese authorities showed themselves even less willing in 1991 than in 1990 to ease up on the relentless repression that they have pursued since the military crackdown in Beijing and other cities on June 4, 1989. The year brought no large-scale releases of pro-democracy activists, unlike 1990, when a total of 881 such releases were announced by the authorities. Instead, as if to symbolize the regime's unrepentant stance in the face of international censure, the year began with the biggest wave of dissident trials in China since the summer of 1989. Dozens of leading Tiananmen activists _ some of them dubbed "black hands" of the movement _ were brought before the Beijing Intermediate Court and sentenced, after wholly unfair trials, to prison terms ranging from two to thirteen years.
Meanwhile, thousands of other pro-democracy activists (the precise number remains unknown) remain behind bars, many having been brought to trial and sentenced secretly, while many others were sent by the police, without any trial at all, for up to three years of administrative detention (so-called "reeducation through labor"). Others continue to languish, long over the lawful time-limits for pretrial detention, in police lockups and local detention centers, their cases as yet unresolved.
The identities of most of those detained after June 4, 1989 were either never publicly reported by the authorities, or were reported without follow-up, so there is no indication of their fate. In effect, China has a major "disappearance" problem. In addition, further well-documented instances of gross brutality toward detainees, extending from beatings to outright torture, were recorded throughout the year, contributing to a picture of generalized and often random state violence toward those in custody.
Also indicative of the authorities' undiminished hard-line stance in 1991 was their harsh treatment of all those who dared to continue pro-democracy activities, of necessity in secrecy, well after Beijing's "quelling of the counter-revolutionary rebellion" of June 1989. A clear though unstated official policy of sentencing such people harshly emerged in the course of the year.
Even for the several dozen pro-democracy activists who were released from prison in 1991, persecution and harassment did not come to an end. Most were left without jobs or income; many found themselves in broken health as a result of their harsh conditions of incarceration, while others were simply stripped of their urban residence permits and deported to the countryside. Discriminated against and often placed under near-constant surveillance, there seemed little opportunity for them to begin rebuilding their lives.
Religious activities were further curtailed in 1991, with a fresh round of repression against Catholic priests who refused to renounce their allegiance to the Vatican and against leaders and participants of unofficial Protestant "house congregations." For example, an internal government directive on religious policy, issued in February, ordered a severe crackdown on all unauthorized religious groups, whether Christian, Buddhist or Muslim, and instructed security forces "to attack the use of religion for unlawful and criminal purposes and to firmly resist the infiltration of foreign religious inimical forces."17
Government attempts to silence dissident or nationalist voices among China's main ethnic minorities also intensified. The list of Buddhist monks, nuns and others imprisoned for espousing the independence of Tibet continued to grow, amid mounting evidence of the widespread use by security forces in the region of brutal and often extreme forms of torture against such detainees.
The authorities in May declared an "anti-separatist" war on another ethnic front, by launching a regionwide crackdown against Mongol academics, students and government cadres in Inner Mongolia who had sought legal registration of their newly founded ethnic study groups.
Finally, freedom of expression was further reined in during 1991, with tightened censorship controls and escalating attacks on independent-minded academics and students. Such measures proceeded in tandem with a mounting official propaganda blitz against so-called "peaceful evolution" _ the code word for an alleged long-term plot by Western nations to undermine Chinese socialism from within by "smuggling" into China concepts of democracy, pluralism and freedom. In the course of this campaign, internal government documents designated the United States an "enemy" nation. Correspondingly, punitive action _ including expulsion from the country _ was taken against Western journalists, writers and others deemed to be the bearers of the "peaceful evolution" virus.
Trials of the "black hands"
The trials of several dozen leaders of the April-June 1989 pro-democracy movement took place during January and February 1991, under cover of China's "cooperation" in the U.S.-led military action in the Persian Gulf, when international scrutiny was effectively diverted from events in Beijing. Aside from the spurious _ and entirely political _ nature of the "counterrevolutionary" charges laid against the principal accused, the trials themselves were invalid even under Chinese law, since the defendants had all been held long in excess of the maximum five and a half months of pretrial detention allowed by the 1980 Criminal Procedure Law.
The trials showed all the hallmarks of China's criminal justice: there was no presumption of innocence; the defendants were denied all access to defense counsel until only days before their trials; lawyers were specifically barred from entering "not guilty" pleas on behalf of their clients (although in a number of highly honorable exceptions defense lawyers still presented spirited cases arguing innocence); requests to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and summon for questioning absent providers of testimonials for the prosecution were flatly denied; and official media reports, appearing well in advance of the trials, showed that guilt had been entirely predetermined by the political authorities and that the court hearings represented no more than the so-called "verdict first, trial second" scenario that has been increasingly condemned by the legal establishment itself in recent years.
Student leader Liu Gang, one of four alleged prominent "black hands" behind the 1989 protests, declared at his trial that all statements made by him in pretrial custody should be discounted, since they had been extracted by interrogators who had repeatedly threatened him with death should he fail to comply.
Moreover, these ostensibly "open" trials were shrouded in secrecy, to the extent that in at least one reported case, that of veteran human rights campaigner Ren Wanding, even the accused's wife was not informed of the trial in advance and so could not attend. (Ren received a seven-year prison sentence for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement.") All foreign observers were barred from attending, in accordance with obscure internal judicial regulations that also specifically encourage Chinese law-enforcement officers knowingly to violate provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. All requests from Asia Watch, Amnesty International and other concerned groups to attend the trials and monitor observance of due process were ignored; the members of one monitoring group from Britain that had sought access to the trials were unceremoniously expelled from the country.
Far from exhibiting the "lenience" noted by some foreign commentators and claimed by the Chinese authorities themselves, the trials and sentences of early 1991 showed only the extent to which criminal justice in China is administered at the fickle whim of the Communist Party. Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming, both prominent intellectuals who were hitherto relatively unknown in the West, were unfairly singled out by the authorities as being the "chief instigators" of the 1989 protests and handed thirteen-year prison terms for counterrevolution and sedition. On the other hand, top student leader Wang Dan, well known in the West as one of the prime originators and leading strategists of the pro-democracy movement, received a "mere" four years' imprisonment. None of these peaceful advocates of democracy should ever have been arrested or brought to trial in the first place.
Moreover, the series of trials in Beijing in early 1991 were only the most visible aspect of a ruthless judicial apparatus that had been working nationwide without respite since the crackdown following the June 1989 massacre. Hundreds of reported trials of pro-democracy activists, and many others that were held in secret or simply went unrecorded by the official media, had already taken place in the provinces, and more were to follow. In particular, workers and minor functionaries, rather than students or intellectuals, continued to bear the brunt of this less visible aspect of the crackdown. Held in the worst prison conditions and stigmatized as mere "common criminals," they formed the great majority of those detained since June 1989 and have on average been handed significantly heavier sentences. A case in point is that of Yu Zhenbin, a twenty-eight-year-old cadre from the Qinghai Provincial Archives Bureau, who was sentenced to twelve years in prison in January 1991 for allegedly organizing a "counterrevolutionary clique" during the June 1989 disturbances. A central charge against Yu was that he had written and distributed leaflets calling for a revision of the Chinese Constitution, the establishment of a new central government, and an end to one-party rule.
A second wave of trials began in late November, immediately following the visit to Beijing of U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. Among those tried were student leader Zhai Weimin who despite being on China's list of the "21 Most Wanted" after the 1989 Tiananmen protests managed to hide for almost a year. He was detained in May 1990, after the underground pro-democracy group he led, the Democratic Front for the Salvation of China held a secret press conference. He went on trial November 28. Eight days later, Li Minqi, the student detained on June 3, 1990 for making a speech at Beijing University on the first anniversary of the June 4 crackdown, went on trial in the Beijing Intermediate Court.
As in the previous year, there was no recorded instance in 1991 of any sentence passed on a pro-democracy activist having been quashed or even reduced after appeal to the higher courts. In addition, a further judicially sanctioned execution of a pro-democracy demonstrator _ a worker named Han Weijun, who was convicted of burning a car shortly after June 4, 1989 _ was carried out in March 1991, bringing the total number of such publicly announced executions to fifty.
Scope of ongoing detentions
The Asia Watch list of known pro-democracy detainees believed still held since the June 1989 crackdown has grown to well over one thousand.18 The increase is accounted for both by earlier arrests that have only recently come to our attention and by a series of new arrests in 1991. On March 26, Tao Siju, the new minister of public security, gave the lie to earlier assurances given by Chinese leaders to visiting foreign dignitaries that the arrests and trials of Tiananmen dissidents were "basically over," when he openly declared to the National People's Congress (China's parliament) that the nationwide hunt for those placed on "wanted lists" after June 4, 1989 would continue. "Some of the wanted persons have been arrested, and some others are still at large," said Minister Tao, "We will continue the operation."19 The figure of over one thousand post-Tiananmen arrests and detentions refers only to those detainees whom Asia Watch has been able to identify by name, either from official Chinese press accounts or private sources.20 However, reports in the provincial Chinese press in the summer of 1989 cited, often without individual names, numerous aggregate figures for pro-democracy detainees which sometimes went as high as several thousand for a single province. Since the authorities have never accounted for these thousands of anonymous detainees, there are firm grounds to believe that a large proportion of them remain, more than two years later, behind bars. Clear supporting evidence for this view emerged only in late 1991, when Asia Watch began to learn the identities and circumstances of several hundred previously unknown individuals, mainly workers, who are currently incarcerated in Hunan Province alone on account of their involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.21 If extrapolated to a national level, in view of the authorities' own admission that the 1989 "turmoil" affected every province and region of China, the total of those still imprisoned since the June 1989 crackdown is likely to rise substantially.
Recent arrests and trials
Despite the repressive atmosphere in China since June 1989, pro-democracy activists have continued to find ways to organize themselves and to express their defiance of the nationwide crackdown on the freedoms of expression and association. However, the authorities have dealt even more severely with such persons, when they can find them, than with those detained in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 crackdown. At least four groups engaged in peaceful underground resistance activities are known to have been smashed, and their leaders arrested, in 1991.
In one case, the two "principal ringleaders" of the dissident group _ former graduate students at Qinghua University named Chen Yanbin and Zhang Yafei _ were tried in Beijing on March 5, 1991 and given prison sentences of fifteen and eleven years. The verdict conveyed the flavor of the ongoing official assault on free speech in China today:
In February and March 1990, the defendants Chen Yanbin and Zhang Yafei, working in collusion, drafted the reactionary journal Tieliu (Iron Current), which attacked and slandered the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party as being 'an authoritarian tyranny,' the Chinese state as a 'forty-year-old authoritarian empire,' and socialism as 'a great disaster and retrogression of mankind in the twentieth century, and China's pitfall and calamity.' It incited the masses to overthrow the political power of the people's democratic dictatorship and the socialist system, and to wage a 'struggle to the death' against the Chinese Communist Party. Later, the defendants went to Shuangfeng County, Hunan Province, where they mimeographed over four hundred copies of the reactionary journal Tieliu. Chen Yanbin brought them to Beijing and, together with Zhang Donghui and others (prosecuted separately), distributed them in residential areas, on university campuses and in buses.
The verdict added that the three accused (together with four others who were prosecuted separately) had formed a "counterrevolutionary" organization named the Chinese Revolutionary Democratic Front, and had "drawn up a reactionary political program with the abolition of the Four Cardinal Principles as its central content." As the charges demonstrate, the two graduate students and their five colleagues were accused of no more than independently publishing a political journal and trying to organize a peaceful, though necessarily clandestine, pro-democracy organization. No allegations of engaging in violent activity were brought against the group. The verdict of the court, however, was never in doubt.
The second pro-democracy group known to have been broken up by the authorities in 1991 was the Study Group on Human Rights Issues in China, a small organization set up by intellectuals in Shanghai in late 1990 or early 1991. It was reportedly led by Gu Bin, a twenty-six-year-old student at the Shanghai Chemical Industry Special School, and Yang Zhou, a fifty-year-old intellectual who participated in the 1979-1981 Democracy Wall movement and served three years in prison in connection with the Wei Jingsheng case from that era. In July 1990, Yang Zhou sent a letter by registered mail to Party General-Secretary Jiang Zemin, calling for the release of all political prisoners, the creation of a multiparty system, the right to register new political parties, respect for freedom of speech, and an end to the practice of labeling dissidents as counterrevolutionaries. Soon after its formation, the Study Group on Human Rights Issues in China mimeographed Yang's letter as a flyer and privately circulated it among colleagues and acquaintances. The group reportedly had plans to publish a regular newsletter carrying articles on human rights issues which had appeared in the Hong Kong press, but it is not known whether this project ever got off the ground.
The group _ the first human rights organization known to have been formed since June 5, 1989, when a group named the Committee to Protect Human Rights in China briefly emerged in Beijing to protest the military crackdown _ was smashed in its infancy. On April 5 and 18, 1991, Gu Bin and Yang Zhou were secretly arrested. Both are still being held incommunicado in Shanghai. Up to eight other members of the group were also detained in mid-April, but are thought to have later been released.
In a third case, Liu Xianbin, a young student at the prestigious People's University in Beijing, was secretly arrested by the authorities sometime during April 1991. Like Chen Yanbin and Zhang Yafei and the members of the Shanghai human rights group, Liu's "crime" was apparently that he had tried to publish a dissident magazine on his college campus. So far, no further information about Liu's case has become available, and it is not known whether other students were arrested in connection with his dissident publishing venture.
A fourth case concerned a large pro-democracy organization in the northeastern city of Tianjin called the "89 Alliance." Eight Tianjin-based members of the one hundred-strong group, and possibly others from elsewhere in China, were arrested on March 25, 1991, after one of them was caught by the police trying to send a fax from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. The organization was set up in September 1989 by a group of Nankai University students in the hope of keeping alive the spirit of the crushed pro-democracy movement. Most of the detainees were reportedly released, but the leader of the group, a law graduate and teacher at Tianjin University named Li Baoming, was later sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment.22
Finally, a veteran dissident worker, Fu Shenqi, was arrested in his hometown of Shanghai in late May 1991, allegedly for possessing a mimeograph machine and publishing an underground pro-democracy journal. Formerly a worker in a Shanghai generator factory and a member of the Communist Youth League, Fu had served a four-year prison term in the early 1980s for his leading role in the Shanghai "democracy wall" movement of 1978-1981. In 1979, he founded a publication called Voice of Democracy, and one year later helped set up the dissident National Association of the People's Press and served as chief editor of its regular bulletin, Responsibility. There has been no word on Fu's fate since his latest arrest.23
Significantly, none of the above-mentioned arrests of people involved in underground pro-democracy activities was ever publicly announced or reported in the Chinese media. Clearly, the authorities wished neither the Chinese public to know about these examples of renewed pro-democracy activity, nor the outside world to find out about the secret arrests of those involved and the suppression of their dissident groups.
Prison Conditions and Widespread Use of Torture
Following the June 1989 crackdown, the Chinese authorities adopted, in effect, a two-track system for incarcerating pro-democracy dissidents. A small number of well-known intellectuals and student leaders _ those upon whom international attention tended to be most sharply focused _ were held in relatively humane conditions and were by and large not subjected to gross ill-treatment. When released in the course of 1990, some of these detainees gave relatively favorable accounts of their conditions of imprisonment and general treatment.
However, for the vast majority of lesser-known or entirely unknown pro-democracy detainees, a very different prison regime has been the norm. In detention centers and police lockups around the country, such prisoners were _ and continue to be _ held in conditions of extreme overcrowding and inadequate sanitation and diet, and subjected to gross physical and psychological brutality at the hands of prison guards and other inmates. Numerous reports received by Asia Watch from political prisoners who were released in 1991 and their families confirmed these and other details, including that ill prisoners are routinely denied proper medical care; indeed, withholding such care is one means commonly used by prison officials to force "confessions."
The use of beatings and torture against prisoners became so widespread in 1991 that the central authorities have again had to appeal publicly for measures to curb it. In April, Deputy Chief Procurator Lian Guoqing reported that in the first three months of the year his department had investigated 2,900 cases of "perverting justice for bribes, extorting confessions by torture, illegal detention and neglect of duty." More than 490 of these cases had resulted in death or serious injury, he added. Around the same time, the People's Public Security News commented, "the method of getting evidence by extracting confessions through torture has not been entirely eradicated, and is very serious in the case of a minority of officials."24 In September, the same newspaper _ indulgently attributing the problem to police officers' "hazy knowledge of the law" _ reported the recent case of a peasant who had been wrongfully executed after officers beat him into falsely confessing that he had mugged and raped a woman.25 Finally, in November, the newspaper complained: "Some Chinese policemen take their power so much for granted that they routinely torture suspects to extract confessions."26 In this and other human rights matters, the central government proved itself either unwilling or unable to control events in the provinces. When two escaped dissidents, worker-activist Li Lin and his musician brother Li Zhi, returned to their home in Hunan Province in February 1991 _ after public assurances had been given by top leaders, including Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin, that overseas dissidents who ceased "illegal activities" would not be punished if they returned to China _ the brothers were seized and imprisoned almost immediately. Their main inquisitor, bureau chief Deng of the Hengyang state security bureau, told one of the brothers: "Jiang Zemin's statements do not amount to much. He is only speaking for himself, not the Communist Party or the country....I am the law, I do whatever I like."27 Following a successful international campaign to secure the Lis' release, they told The New York Times of their five months of ill-treatment:
The brothers were placed in separate jails, crammed in cells with common criminals, and the authorities urged the other inmates to beat them up. In fact, many of the criminals were far more humane than the guards....Life in prison was scarcely endurable. Li Lin had not been allowed to take warm clothes and nearly froze in the drafty, unheated cells. Meals consisted of a potato or part of a squash, and inmates were constantly hungry and malnourished. Lice and vermin and disease were part of life, and medical care was denied even to prisoners who seemed near to death....Beatings were frequent, and Li Lin said that four or five times he was tortured with an electric cattle prod until he was writhing on the ground.28
Such ill-treatment is not confined to the pretrial, interrogative phase of detention. Particularly in the case of political prisoners who "stubbornly" refuse to admit guilt and abandon their dissident ways, such treatment often continues beyond the trial, sometimes even throughout the term of imprisonment. A particularly disturbing case in 1991 concerned Zhou Zhirong, a thirty-year-old middle school teacher from Xiangtan, Hunan Province, who was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for "counterrevolution" after making pro-democracy speeches during the 1989 demonstrations. Zhou was consigned to Longxi Prison and subjected, along with other political prisoners, to the notorious "strict regime" (yanguandui) treatment.29 Zhou tried to organize the other political prisoners by convening secret discussions among them. On February 5, 1991, according to a recently escaped former prisoner familiar with the details of the case, all were consequently put in solitary confinement in the prison's "black rooms" _ windowless, pitch-dark boxes of less than two square meters, where the floor was awash with fetid water and the only "bed" was a low, one-foot wide concrete platform.
But for Zhou Zhirong, the torment had scarcely begun. On February 12, he was secretly transferred to a solitary confinement unit in Provincial No. 3 Prison at Lingling, and secured hand and foot to a punishment device called the "shackle board" (menbanliao) _ a raised, horizontal wooden structure the size of a door, equipped with shackles at the four corners and a hole at the lower end for bodily functions. He was held, without respite, on this revolting device for three full months. When he showed continued resistance by shouting at his jailers, a filthy rag was stuffed in his mouth, to be removed only at feeding times. According to Asia Watch's informant, Zhou had become severely psychiatrically disturbed by the time he was removed from the "shackle board" in May 1991.
Another example of severe prisoner abuse came to light one week before U.S. Secretary of State James Baker's visit to Beijing in November, when six prominent dissidents in Liaoning Province, currently serving sentences ranging form four to twenty years on account of "counterrevolutionary" involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, announced their intention to begin a hunger strike on November 15, declaring that they could "no longer bear the Chinese Communists' persecution and torture."30 In a statement issued by friends and relatives in Beijing, the condition of the six dissidents _ all of whom were undergoing "strict regime" treatment in a labor camp known outwardly as the Lingyuan General Car Factory Disciplinary Brigade _ was described as follows:
Every day they are forced to work for fourteen hours. The prison authorities assigned them extremely heavy work quotas, and they are viciously beaten if they fail to meet these. The same happens if they refuse to say things contrary to their consciences during 'political examination' sessions. In fact, the prison wardens beat and curse them at will _ punching and kicking them or assaulting them with electric batons and leather belts. Many prisoners have already suffered injuries in this way. Prison warden Yang Guoping, his assistant Kiao Lie and other Communist Party thugs and henchmen subject them to degrading treatment and instigate the 'convict heads and cell bosses' [i.e., other prisoners] to persecute them.
Sanitation and medical facilities in the prison are utterly foul and deficient, and inmates are never given proper medical treatment when they fall ill. More than forty prisoners at a time are crammed into cells measuring just over twenty square meters.
After a whole day's exhausting labor, all that they are given to keep themselves alive is a corn-flour bun and some vegetable soup. Needless to say, they are not allowed to read anything or do any writing, and the guards strip them of their right to receive letters on the slightest of pretexts. The authorities are pursuing a 'total assault' policy against these political prisoners, aimed deliberately at breaking them physically, spiritually and morally.
After news of the impending hunger strike was reported internationally, the authorities issued angry denials and closed off all channels of further information on the condition of the six dissidents held at Lingyuan. But in December, Asia Watch learned that Liu Gang, one of the student leaders serving a six-year sentence at Lingyuan, refused to submit to forced feeding and was beaten so badly his arm was broken. No further details were available on his condition or that of the other hunger-strikers.
Persecution and harassment of released dissidents
Pro-democracy activists released from prison in the course of 1991 continued, like their counterparts of the year before, to suffer a wide range of government-imposed punishments, restrictions and petty harassments. These may include: loss of employment, income and housing; surveillance by public security authorities; expulsion from school or college; restrictions on traveling (including being forbidden to leave China for study in the United States); frequent mandatory reporting to security officials; and compulsory transfer of household registration (hukou) to a small town or the countryside.
In addition, many released dissidents return home in poor or broken health, typically suffering from tuberculosis, skin diseases, malnutrition and, in some cases, damaged organs from beatings received in prison. Medical treatment in the cases known to Asia Watch was poor or nonexistent. When hospitalization was required, families themselves had to bear the costs _ sometimes while their relatives were still imprisoned, and always after they were released _ even if their medical condition was directly related to their imprisonment.
Repression of religious dissidents
In the course of the Party's intensified drive in 1991 to muzzle and intimidate all alternative sources of authority in society, several dozen more Catholic priests and believers who refused to renounce their allegiance to the Vatican, together with an unknown number of unofficial Protestant and Buddhist worshippers, were rounded up and imprisoned.
This latest crackdown against unofficial religious groups was first announced by the authorities in a directive in February. According to the document: "The public security department at all levels...must resolutely attack those counterrevolutionaries and others who make use of religion to carry out destructive activities." Moreover, the security forces were urged "to firmly resist the infiltration of foreign religious inimical forces." The message was reinforced in November, when Tao Siju, minister of public security, stated that the security forces would make the crushing of illegal underground organizations, including religious units, their priority.31
In mid-September, two-thousand Protestants worshipping in a "house church" on the outskirts of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, were reportedly dispersed by a large contingent of police, some of whom fired shots into the air. Several preachers were beaten and detained, though later released. In subsequent weeks, missionary sources in Hong Kong reported that large-scale arrests of activists of underground churches had taken place in the provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangsu and Henan and in the cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.32
On June 11, Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, 75, was arrested and held for five weeks, apparently in an act of official retaliation for Pope John Paul II's appointment shortly before of another dissident Catholic leader, Ignatius Gong Pinmei, now 90, to the level of cardinal. Bishop Fan had earlier spent fifteen years (1967-1982) in a forced labor camp in Qinghai Province.33 In July 1991, an Italian priest, Father Ciro Biondi, was expelled from China, also in apparent retaliation for the appointment of Cardinal Gong.34
In September, the Rome-based church publication Asia News reported that eight bishops in Hebei Province had been detained in the previous seven months and sent to political reeducation camps, and the authorities had opened another such camp for bishops and priests in Shaanxi Province. In addition, the journal reported, fifteen more priests had been arrested in July in Fujian Province.35 In December, a spokesman for the official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association accused underground priests and bishops appointed by the Pope of "spreading heresy" and confirmed that a number of them had been arrested after holding a secret episcopal conference in northwest China in November 1990. The spokesman added that those arrested were "guilty of founding an illegal organization," but denied any connection between this and the detainees' religious beliefs.36
In October, public security authorities in Shanghai arrested at least five Chinese Jehovah's Witnesses, and expelled an Australian businessman who had been holding secret Bible-reading sessions with them. The authorities told the businessman that other foreigners involved in religious activities would also be expelled soon.37
Repression of ethnic minorities
Repression continued in Tibet with more arrests of Tibetans for participating in peaceful demonstrations both in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and the Tibetan regions of Gansu and Qinghai provinces. New information emerged about trials of Tibetan dissidents which were notable chiefly for their lack of fairness and for the heavy sentences handed down for nonviolent political activities. Prison conditions were harsh, and efforts by prisoners to protest those conditions led to severe punishment. The Chinese government permitted several international delegations to have access to Tibet to discuss human rights, among other issues, but the visits took place under tightly controlled conditions.
Numerous demonstrations in support of independence took place in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and in a Tibetan region of Qinghai. On March 17, at least five monks from Dhing-gar, a monastery in the Toelung area of Lhasa, were detained for taking part in a pro-independence demonstration in the Barkhor, the square in front of the Jokhang, Lhasa's most important temple. Also in March, four monks from Drepung, the largest monastery in Tibet, were detained for political activities that included putting up pro-independence posters on the monastery walls. Dozens of small demonstrations took place in Tibet after the Chinese government's commemoration on May 23 of the fortieth anniversary of Tibet's "liberation" in 1951. In August, a monk and a nun were detained for peacefully demonstrating in the Barkhor. On September 14, six people, including five monks, were taken into custody for unfurling the Tibetan flag in the Barkhor. One of the six died three days later, of head injuries. Lhasa sources said they were promised an investigation by local authorities.
New information surfaced about trials, both those that took place in 1991 and one in 1990. In July 1991, documents concerning the December 24, 1990 trial of a human rights activist were smuggled out of Tibet. Jampa Ngodrup, 45, a doctor in Chengguan Qu Municipal Clinic in Lhasa, was detained on October 20, 1989 and formally arrested on August 13, 1990. He was accused of having, at the end of 1988, arranged for a colleague to collect a list of all those arrested during the March 5, 1988 demonstrations in Lhasa. He then allegedly passed the list to a Tibetan woman whom the trial documents describe as a "foreign resident." The woman, in turn, gave Jampa Ngodrup a list of those injured and arrested in the December 10, 1988 protests, which he copied. He was accused of being a foreign agent and sentenced to thirteen years in prison.
On February 8, two men named Tseten Norgye and Thubten Tsering, and a woman named Sonam Choedron were tried on charges of spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda. Tseten Norgye had been detained on April 20, 1989 for distributing a document calling on Tibetans to support independence and the Five Point Proposal of the Dalai Lama. He was formally arrested on November 10, 1989 and, after a one-day trial, was sentenced to four years in prison. Thubten Tsering, a member of the Communist Party, was sentenced to five years in prison, and Sonam Choedron to two. She was released in April. There were reports from Tibetan sources in early November 1989 that Tseten Norgye had been tortured.
The most telling evidence of poor conditions in prisons came on March 31, when two prisoners in TAR Prison No. 1, in Drapchi, Lhasa, tried to hand visiting U.S. Ambassador James Lilley a petition about mistreatment and torture of prisoners. Prison officials grabbed the petition out of Lilley's hand and refused to give it back. The two prisoners, Lobsang Tenzin and Tenpa Wangdrak, together with three other men, were put in solitary confinement in Drapchi, then transferred on April 27 to a labor reform camp in Nyingtri, three hundred kilometers east of Lhasa, and the next day reportedly transferred again to a small prison in Damchu. Tibetan sources say they were moved back to Lhasa on July 27; Asia Watch was told by officers of the Bureau of Labor Reform in the Tibetan Autonomous Region in early August that they were still in Nyingtri.
A series of protests over the transfers held by other political prisoners in Drapchi resulted in widespread beatings of the protestors and other punishments.
In December 1991, Tibetan sources reported that Sonam Wangdu, a thirty-six-year-old prisoner arrested for involvement in the killing of a policeman during the demonstrations in Lhasa on March 5, 1988, was near death, without medical treatment, in Drapchi prison.
At least three international delegations visited Tibet during the year to discuss the human rights situation. An Australian government delegation ended a thirteen-day visit to China and Tibet on July 26; despite repeated requests, it was not able to get access to Drapchi prison, although it was given specific information about a dozen Tibetan prisoners. A delegation under the auspices of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, in which Asia Watch took part, visited Tibet between July 31 and August 8. The group did gain access to Drapchi, but virtually all male prisoners had been removed from their cells before the visit. Two women prisoners with whom members of the group had a chance to speak briefly _ in the company of prison officials _ were both nuns, serving time for taking part in political demonstrations.
In recognition of continuing human rights abuses in Tibet, the first U.N. resolution on Tibet in twenty-five years was passed on August 23 by the U.N. Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities. It said that human rights violations "threaten the distinct cultural, religious and national identity of the Tibetan people."
Unrest continued in Xinjiang, the northwestern frontier province inhabited mainly by Muslim ethnic groups, following the April 1990 Baren uprising. The protest was suppressed by the PLA with the loss of several dozen Muslim lives.
In July 1991, the Hong Kong magazine Zheng Ming (Contention) reported that during the previous two months a series of armed rebellions seeking independence, the localization of military forces and the right to organize political parties had broken out in remote areas of Xinjiang bordering the Soviet Union. The magazine stated that for thirty-six hours in mid-May, government buildings in Tacheng city were occupied by armed crowds and demands were made for a transfer of power; official reports were cited to say that 140 "armed bandits" had been killed, wounded or arrested in the subsequent army crackdown. In addition, Zheng Ming reported that on June 11, three thousands demonstrators gathered before the government headquarters in Bole city demanding the democratic election of city leaders; when violence erupted the next day, locally stationed troops were sent in and up to five hundred demonstrators were reportedly killed or wounded. Both areas were subsequently closed off to foreigners, and martial law was imposed in the Bole area.38 Asia Watch is concerned that the authorities appear to have used grossly excessive force in dealing with these incidents of ethnic unrest and that a considerable number of those killed or injured may actually have been peaceful demonstrators.
In November, the official Xinjiang Daily reported that five local men had been sentenced to between one and three years' imprisonment for organizing a protest demonstration by taxi drivers in Urumqi, the regional capital. The newspaper said that the demonstration had begun over a dispute about how much of their fares the drivers should be required to hand over to the city authorities, but this was just "an excuse," it claimed. The report contained no allegations of violence by the demonstrators, and it appears that the five were imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.39
The year 1991 also saw a severe new round of repression in China's third major ethnic region, Inner Mongolia. The central authorities in 1981 officially designated the region as having suffered among the heaviest fatalities and worst persecution of any part of the country during the Cultural Revolution.
On May 11, the Party Committee of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region issued top-secret "Document No. 13" banning and ordering a major crackdown on two small unofficial organizations which had been recently formed by ethnic Mongol intellectuals and cadres in the region. The organizations were called the Ih Ju League National Culture Society and the Bayannur League National Modernization Society. On May 15, Huchuntegus and Wang Manlai, two leaders of the Ih Ju League, were arrested, and twenty-six other members of the society's provisional council were placed under house arrest. According to an appeal issued on June 30 by an underground dissident group called the Inner Mongolian League for the Defense of Human Rights, the authorities later moved the two to a secret prison facility in Hohhot, the regional capital, used to hold important political prisoners and administered by Section No. 5 of the provincial Public Security Department. The men's wives reportedly have been subjected to regular harassment, and have not been allowed to visit their husbands or informed of their place of detention. Before their arrest, Wang Manglai and Huchuntegus were employed as officials at the Ih Ju League's Office of Education.
The dissident appeal said that another leader of the unofficial association, Sechinbayar, a research fellow at the Ih Ju League's Ghengis Khan Research Center, and others from the group of twenty-six placed under house arrest had been summoned frequently for interrogation and subjected to intimidation, insults and corporal punishment to force them to confess. The authorities reportedly indicated that some of the twenty-six would later be formally arrested, probably eight of the more active ones including Sechinbayar.
Fewer details have emerged of the crackdown against the Bayannur League National Modernization Society, probably because it was based in a more remote and inaccessible part of the region, bordering the Soviet Union. However, the June 30 appeal reported that the society's leader, Baoyintaoktao, had been secretly tried (the length of the sentence given is not known) and incarcerated in the same secret prison in Hohhot as the two leaders of the Ih Ju society. It added that seven other members of the Bayannur dissident group had been escorted by public security authorities to a detention facility in the league's Linhe municipality, and that nothing further had been heard of them. Moreover, the appeal stated that following protests held in Hohhot and other parts of Inner Mongolia to commemorate the second anniversary of the June 4, 1989 massacre in Beijing, a journalism sophomore at the University of Inner Mongolia, an ethnic Mongol named Zhang Haiquan, had been arrested and was being held incommunicado in an unknown location.
In October, Radio France Internationale reported that Ulan Chovo (Wulan Sabu in Chinese), a thirty-seven-year-old professor of history at the University of Inner Mongolia, had been arrested on July 11 on charges of giving documents concerning human rights violations in the region to a foreigner. Ulan Chovo is thought to have been one of the leaders of the Ih Ju League National Culture Society; according to an Asia Watch source, he too has been incarcerated in a secret prison in Hohhot. The allegations of passing documents to a foreigner may well refer to the above-cited top-secret Party Document No. 13 and the June 30 appeal by the Inner Mongolian League for the Defense for Human Rights. In August, a Beijing-based journalist for The Independent of London, Andrew Higgins, was expelled from China, having earlier been caught in possession of these documents. In July, the full text of the documents was published in English translation by Asia Watch. (However, neither Higgins nor Asia Watch had obtained the documents directly or indirectly from Ulan Chovo.)
Two other ethnic Mongol dissidents known to be imprisoned in Inner Mongolia on account of their peaceful exercise of the right to free expression are Bater, 35, formerly an official in the government planning commission of Xilingol league,40 and Bao Hongguang, also 35, an engineer. Both men were leaders of a large student protest movement in 1981 against Han domination of the Inner Mongolian Region. In the summer of 1987, the two escaped across the border to the Mongolian People's Republic and sought political asylum there, but were later extradited to China and each sentenced to eight years in prison.41
The Right to Monitor
Even as the Chinese government sent delegations, including one from the Institute of Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, to the United States to discuss human rights with American human rights organizations and members of Congress, independent human rights monitoring remained illegal in China and Tibet. As mentioned above, an organization called The Study Group on Human Rights Issues in China, formed in early 1991 in Shanghai by a student named Gu Bin and a veteran dissident, Yang Zhou, was smashed in April when Gu and Yang were arrested.
In June, Asia Watch received several documents from an underground organization in Inner Mongolia called the Inner Mongolian League for the Defense of Human Rights, formed to protest the intimidation of Mongolian intellectuals and, specifically, the imprisonment of two men who tried to form groups to promote Mongolian culture. Nothing more is known about the League.
Hou Xiaotian, wife of dissident Wang Juntao, and other individuals were fearless in protesting violations of human rights, but any effort to form a monitoring organization in China would have landed them in jail.
In Tibet, collecting the names of imprisoned pro-independence activists and passing them on to foreigners was considered tantamount to espionage, as could be seen from the trial of Jampa Ngodrup described above.
China did not permit international human rights monitoring groups as such to conduct fact-finding missions in China or Tibet, but it granted Asia Watch's executive director an official visa to take part in a study group on Tibet in August, which discussed human rights issues with senior government officials and visited Drapchi prison in Lhasa.
China's dismal human rights prognosis in 1991 was a persistent indictment of President Bush's approach toward that country. Once again, President Bush continued to shelter China from the congressional threat to enact significant economic sanctions, and the State Department did its best to smooth the disruptions in U.S.-China relations caused by Beijing's recalcitrance on human rights.
The president himself bears responsibility for a policy that has become increasingly discredited. It is widely understood that President Bush, a former U.S. ambassador to China, sets the agenda on China as for no other country in the world. (State Department critics label President Bush the Department's "China desk officer," implying that the president is personally involved in the smallest details of U.S.-China relations.) There has been no letup in sharp congressional criticism of this policy in light of the meager fruit it has borne.
The significance of the president's extraordinary personal identification with the Chinese leadership cannot be overstated. It signals to the repressive regime that it has nothing to fear from the United States, no matter how much criticism it receives from other quarters.
President Bush articulated his views about U.S.-China relations at a speech on May 27 at Yale University. He attacked critics of his China policy, stating: "Some argue that a nation as moral and just as ours should not taint itself by dealing with nations less moral, less just. But this counsel offers up self-righteousness draped in a false morality. You do not reform a world by ignoring it." He went on to characterize the opposition to continuing Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status as "not moral."42
This policy [MFN for China] has generated considerable controversy. Some critics have said revoke MFN or endanger it with sweeping conditions _ to censure China, cut our ties and isolate them. We are told this is a principled policy, a moral thing to do. This advice is not new, it's not wise, it is not in the best interest of our country, the United States, and in the end, in spite of noble and best intentions, it is not moral.
Throughout the MFN debate, Administration officials consistently made the argument that a policy of constructive engagement with China had the best chance of success in promoting reforms and human rights improvements. This argument had two dimensions: first, the belief that the U.S.-China trade made possible by MFN status provides a framework for discussing human rights and other issues of concern to the United States; and second, the view that withdrawing MFN would lead to the isolation of those in China seeking to liberalize the society, particularly in the market-oriented coastal provinces. The Administration refused to consider the likelihood that China's hard-liners would accommodate to any conditions placed on MFN _ beyond those already contained in the Jackson-Vanik provision _ rather than risk losing the huge economic and political benefits of MFN. Thus the White House and State Department labeled any new conditions on MFN as tantamount to eventual withdrawal of the trade status.
Critics of the president's policy, on the other hand, maintained that constructive engagement, combined with the lifting of most of the most important sanctions imposed against China after June 1989, had not produced significant human rights improvements. They argued that China's leaders would respond only to a combination of diplomatic and economic pressure, and that providing MFN unconditionally simply strengthened the hand of the hard-liners. Beijing's ideologues could essentially have it both ways, pursuing a policy of "openness" to the West to acquire badly needed Western trade and investment, while at the same time maintaining a policy of harsh repression. Human rights advocates pointed to conditions on MFN as the most effective way to link China's domestic behavior with its international economic performance. A package of flexible, measurable human rights conditions on MFN in 1992 would give the Bush Administration and the Chinese government a powerful incentive to work towards concrete human rights improvements. The president's personal involvement in setting China policy and his assault on his critics successfully deterred Congress from adopting legislative alternatives in 1991, notwithstanding the unpopularity of current policy with both Democratic and Republican legislators, although the MFN issue remained unresolved at year's end.
In early 1991, there were some signs that the Administration might be using the threat of withdrawing MFN to encourage human rights progress. On May 5, Robert Kimmitt, the under secretary of state for political affairs, visited China for discussions about a variety of U.S. concerns, including trade, human rights and nuclear proliferation. Secretary Kimmitt reported that he had called upon the Chinese to issue an amnesty for those who engage in "non-violent political acts." He explained: "I made it clear that a decision on MFN would be made in the political context of concerns about human rights, nonproliferation and trade, and that prospects of renewal of MFN would be improved by progress in these areas."43
Kimmitt's visit was preceded in March by a trip to Beijing by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Richard Solomon. Secretary Solomon said that a "dialogue" was continuing with Chinese security officials regarding the cases of 150 dissidents. "We feel we've institutionalized the dialogue" which had been underway since the previous December. "That is in my view a breakthrough," he asserted.44 Hopes that the Administration would use the MFN debate to extract major human rights concessions were dashed when the White House and the State Department made it clear that they opposed even the mildest conditions on MFN for China when Congress begin deliberations on the issue in June. On July 11, the House passed legislation attaching strict human rights conditions to MFN by a lopsided 313-to-112 margin. The Senate's version of the bill placed not only human rights conditions on MFN but also conditions relating to China's nuclear proliferation and trade policy. Having lost badly in the House, White House officials and President Bush himself lobbied many senators, persuading enough of them to back unconditional MFN that his expected veto was sure to be upheld. The vote, on July 23, was fifty-five to forty-four in favor of the conditions bill _ twelve short of the sixty-seven votes needed to override a veto by a two-thirds majority. Stating that "we are very pleased with the vote," Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, added, "the president has said that he will veto this bill, and he will."
In October, a House-Senate conference was convened to reconcile the two bills and issue a "conference report" for final adoption by Congress. On November 26, the House passed the conference bill by an overwhelming vote of 409 to 21. The bill imposes nonwaivable human rights conditions on MFN _ notably the release of citizens imprisoned as a result of nonviolent expression of their political beliefs in connection with the Tiananmen Square and post-Tiananmen repression, as well as a full accounting of those detained, accused or sentenced for such expression. The legislation also spells out several "human rights objectives" on which there must be overall progress for the president to extend MFN when it next comes up for renewal in June 1992.
The strong bipartisan consensus behind the bill in the House _ a substantially larger margin than the vote on the original legislation _ was fueled by congressional disappointment over the meager outcome of Secretary of State James Baker's visit to China the week before. The Senate is not expected to take up the conference bill until it reconvenes in January 1992.
The president's ability to override a legislative challenge to his China policy _ if he remains able to do so following the new Senate vote _ is by no means evidence that the policy enjoys widespread support. Indeed, the ranks of those disgruntled with China grew even larger in 1991, due to new revelations about a category of abuses that had previously escaped close scrutiny. Asia Watch released in April secret Chinese government documents describing a policy of exporting prison-made goods to the United States, which confirmed what many had long suspected: the Chinese authorities are using the forced labor of over a million prisoners in the Chinese gulag to bolster their export economy. The official documents made it plain that China's central leadership was not only aware of the practice but was actively promoting such exports to the United States, in contravention of U.S. law.45
The question of prison labor in China became a major human rights issue in 1991 for several reasons. First, many of the prisoners producing export goods are sent to the camps without any judicial hearing whatsoever and others are forced to stay on after their sentences expire. Second, some of the gulag inmates are political dissidents, arrested for the crime of "counterrevolution"; the imposition of forced labor to punish persons for their political views is strictly prohibited by International Labor Organization Convention 105.46 Third, working conditions inside these camps are reported to be poor, even dangerous, and in some cases, the prisoners get no renumeration at all.
In addition to the human rights concerns, the forced-labor controversy developed into a sort of litmus test of the Chinese government's credibility. Its repeated denials that prison goods were being exported to the United States or were a matter of Chinese government policy, despite clear evidence to the contrary, undercut Beijing's credibility in Congress at a time when the Bush Administration's China policy was predicated on good-faith dialogue and constructive engagement.
The forced-labor revelations were a key feature during the dispute between the White House and Congress over MFN for China. Indeed, the House bill included a provision requiring the Chinese to stop forced-labor exports as a precondition to maintaining MFN status.47 In seeking to sway votes needed to sustain a veto of any legislated conditions on MFN for China, the Administration won the support of at least fifteen undecided senators by persuading them that their concerns about forced labor would be addressed by other means, namely, action by the U.S. Customs Service to bar incoming products. In a July 19 letter sent before the Senate vote on MFN to Senator Max Baucus and other undecided senators, President Bush stated:
The Department of State will seek to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with China on procedures for the prompt investigation of allegations that specific imports from China were produced by prison labor. Pending negotiation of this agreement, the U.S. Customs Service will deny entry to products imported from China when there is reasonable indication that the products were made by prison labor.
The president's promises on the forced-labor issue were empty: none of the promised steps was taken in the months following the Senate's MFN vote. At a hearing before the House Merchant Marine and Fishery Subcommittee on July 17, the Customs Service announced that it had not barred a single product from entering the United States.
A stunning broadcast on September 15 by CBS's "Sixty Minutes," which showed actual transactions for the export of prison-made goods to the United States and shocking footage of prisoners laboring in wretched conditions, and an extensive set of articles in Newsweek, jolted the Administration into its first concrete steps to restrict Chinese forced-labor exports. Beginning in October, the Customs Service acted to withhold from the U.S. market specific products mentioned in the CBS and Newsweek coverage, as well as others (described in detail below.) The Administration came in for particular criticism on the issue of forced labor because of the perception that the Customs Service had been dragging its feet in the pursuit of numerous leads regarding the importation of Chinese forced-labor goods.48
At September 23 hearings before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy and Trade, Stephen DeVaughn, acting director of the Customs Service's Office of Investigative Programs, justified his agency's lethargy by insisting that the Customs Service's regulations prohibited its agents from barring anything but specific items that can be shown to have been produced by forced labor; if the forced-labor goods are co-mingled with fungible goods made without forced labor, he claimed, the Customs Service is powerless to stop entry of any of the goods.
In the past, however, the Customs Service has told Congress a different story. At hearings in August 1985 before the Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Customs Service testified that "the law does not require a finding that a particular item of merchandise imported into the United States is made with forced labor, but rather that goods of a class or kind identical or very similar are made with forced labor." The regulations themselves, which have not changed, appear to permit either interpretation.49 Because of the Bush Administration's new, narrow reading of the law, literally no products from China were excluded from the United States until political pressure reached intolerable levels after the "Sixty Minutes" revelations in September.
After months of dodging angry congressional questions, the Customs Service on October 3 announced that shipments of "Elephant Brand" monkey wrenches and other specific tools produced by three suspect tool companies in Shanghai would be withheld from release in the United States. Additional orders were issued by Customs on October 25, withholding release of all hand tools from the "Shanghai Laodong Machinery Plant" prison factory, and on October 29, blocking the importation of a particular brand of socks produced in Beijing Prison No. 1. Samples of the socks had been obtained by Representatives Frank Wolf and Christopher Smith during a visit to the prison in March and promptly delivered to Customs.
On November 1, the Customs Service learned that hand tools made with Chinese prison labor had been exported to San Diego along with a shipment of diesel engines manufactured by Yunnan Province No. 1 Prison. An order withholding the release of the engines was issued on November 14, the same day that NBC News broadcast footage of the engines being delivered to an importer in California. The news program also featured an expose of a San Francisco trade fair at which prison-labor products from Shandong Province were being openly marketed. And on December 2, Customs agents conducted a raid on a plant in Hastings, Michigan, confiscating machine presses made in a Chinese prison and business documents that Customs says prove the company was knowingly importing prison-made goods.50
Although these specific actions by Customs were welcome, its continuing refusal to ban categories of goods when some goods among them are known to be produced with prison labor assures that vast quantities of prison-made goods will continue to be imported into the United States, given China's secrecy about its prison factories.
The Administration's practice of taking only limited steps to block forced-labor imports mirrors its approach to sanctions generally. In his July letter to the Senate, President Bush stated, "I have kept in place a number of sanctions since the Tiananmen Square crackdown which have affected arms sales, high-level contacts, U.S. economic programs and U.S. support for multilateral development bank loans to China." In fact, by 1991 there was almost nothing left of these sanctions, which the Administration had been circumventing or diluting almost since they were imposed. In the case of the ban on military sales, for example, the Administration stopped some sales but approved others, including satellites and high-speed computers. Meanwhile, the Administration continued it policy of abstaining on loans to China by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank that did not meet basic human needs but, according to informed sources, did nothing to prevent such loans from coming up for consideration, and thus effectively allowed the multilateral development banks gradually to resume normal lending to China.51
Early in 1991, the Administration commented on the harsh prison sentences given to prominent pro-democracy dissidents, and said that it had tried unsuccessfully to obtain consular access to their trials. On February 12, the State Department reacted with subdued criticism to the thirteen-year prison terms received by Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming, calling them "deeply troubling"; questioned the fairness of their trials; said that "no prison sentence imposed for nonviolent political activity can be considered lenient"; and "call[ed] on the Chinese authorities to release all other remaining detainees."
On August 1, Asia Watch sent President Bush a public letter urging his personal intervention on behalf of Wang Juntao, who had announced plans to begin a potentially life-threatening hunger strike until he received medical attention for his steadily worsening liver disease. (Wang had been held under squalid conditions in solitary confinement since April 1991 and, even at the time of his trial, was suffering from hepatitis-B). As word spread of the condition of Wang and his co-defendant, Chen Ziming, who was also in solitary confinement, there was a flurry of international media attention and appeals from Congress, addressed to both the Chinese and U.S. governments. On September 25, by unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution urging President Bush to "communicate directly to the leadership of the Government of [China] the urgent concern of the Congress and American people for the lives and welfare of Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming and to call for their immediate release from prison on medical parole." Despite these appeals and the significance of the case, President Bush declined to intervene or to make a public statement about the two pro-democracy leaders that would have demonstrated his personal concern and commitment to human rights following his energetic efforts to fend off conditions on MFN for China. The State Department told Asia Watch that it had communicated with Beijing through normal channels and "expressed our strong concern to the Chinese...about Wang's deteriorating health," but that the Chinese government had denied that Wang was in poor health or on a hunger strike. The State Department said that it had urged the Chinese government to allow outside observers to visit Wang and Chen, and repeated this request in a public statement issued on August 30.52
The Administration's oft-repeated claim _ up until Secretary Baker's China visit in November _ that the ban on high-level diplomatic contacts remained in effect, is not borne out by the record of increasing contacts in the past year. Since December 1990, four separate trips were made by high-ranking State Department officials, including Secretary Kimmitt, Undersecretary for Security Assistance, Science and Technology Reginald Bartholomew, Secretary Solomon, and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Richard Schifter.
On November 15 to 17, the ban on high-level contacts officially ended when Secretary Baker himself went to China, without obtaining advance concrete assurances that Beijing would make meaningful concessions on human rights. A U.S. official acknowledged that "no deal" had been made with the Chinese, and that "it is a bit of a gamble for the [U.S.-China] relationship."53
As plans for Baker's visit were announced, Asia Watch revealed the existence of an official State Department list of political prisoners that had been submitted to the Chinese authorities in June. It is particularly unfortunate that Secretary Baker went to Beijing in the absence of any progress on the list. The list grew out of a trip to China by Secretary Schifter in December 1990, when he presented the authorities with an earlier version that contained the names of 150 political prisoners. The gesture, which was announced to the press, was important as an indication of the Administration's concern about human rights. In the first several months of 1991, Secretary Schifter's office took the welcome step of working with U.S.-based human rights groups to expand the list to over eight hundred detainees who were not known to have engaged in anything more than peaceful political or religious activities. In June, the expanded list was formally but quietly submitted to the Chinese government, but the Chinese blackmailed the State Department into silence for the next six months, despite the lack of any significant response from the Chinese. State Department officials told Asia Watch on several occasions that the Administration agreed to keep the list secret at the insistence of the Chinese government, which threatened to cut off the nonexistent "dialogue" on human rights if the list was made public.
Secretary Baker's visit was a huge propaganda coup for Beijing's leaders, but it produced meager results in terms of human rights. As he left Beijing, Baker acknowledged there was no "breakthrough" on human rights, and other U.S. officials were said to be "very disappointed" at China's intransigence.54 Baker announced that the United States finally had been given an accounting of the prisoners on the eight-hundred-plus list _ that is, information on who had been convicted, who was still under investigation, who had been released, and who could not be identified _ but the Administration has not revealed the quality of the information or made it public.55
Prior to the visit, Asia Watch and several members of Congress had urged Secretary Baker to arrange to meet with released dissidents in Beijing to send a visible message to the authorities and to offer moral support to those still in detention. In a calculated insult to Baker and to American concerns about human rights, the Chinese abducted two prominent dissidents, Hou Xiaotian (wife of Wang Juntao) and the journalist Dai Qing, to prevent them from attending meetings with Baker's delegation that had been arranged by the U.S. Embassy. Hou was released on November 17, just hours after Baker left China, but Dai Qing was spirited away by police and held for four days by staff of the newspaper Guangming Daily, until November 20. Meanwhile, on November 18, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher repeated assurances received from the Chinese Foreign Ministry that Dai Qing "had not been arrested and is free," while acknowledging that U.S. embassy officials had been unable to make contact with her. Boucher emphasized that assurances had been given to Baker that "any person against whom no criminal proceedings are pending will be allowed to travel abroad after completing the usual formalities." He also said that "we assume she [Dai] would qualify for a permit [to travel]" based on these assurances.56 This guarantee was the most significant human rights concession that Baker obtained during his visit.
Access to prisoners by the International Committee of the Red Cross was also on Baker's agenda for the talks, but there was no indication of specific progress made on the issue. Similarly, on the matter of forced-labor exports, the "memorandum of understanding" first promised by President Bush in July was agreed to "in principle."57 But Baker failed to persuade the Chinese to allow expanded U.S. or international access to prison factories and farms, although this was a crucial component of the "memorandum" and, in light of documented Chinese deception on the issue, necessary to make the agreement viable.58 As of early December, negotiations on the memorandum were continuing.59
One week after Baker's visit, the Chinese government announced that one prisoner would be freed and one former prisoner still facing charges would be allowed to leave the country, apparently as a gesture in delayed response to the president's decision to end the ban on high-level exchanges.60
Baker's trip signaled the utter failure of the Administration's policy of "constructive engagement" with China. The failure was sharply underlined by the refusal of China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaopeng, to see Baker to accept a letter from President Bush appealing for concessions. The letter was finally read aloud by Baker during his final meeting with the Chinese foreign minister in an attempt to salvage the floundering talks.61 Despite the minimal results, the Administration seemed wedded to its China policy. In the immediate aftermath of the Baker trip, Administration officials expressed confidence that they still had the votes in the Senate needed to prevent a congressional override of the president's expected veto of legislation conditioning extension of MFN on human rights grounds.62 In closed briefings with the secretary of state, who carefully avoided public questioning by the media or Congress following his return, members of Congress from both parties expressed dissatisfaction with the trip's outcome. But it remains unclear whether frustration at lack of progress on human rights could ultimately provoke Congress and the Administration to agree on a human rights policy toward China that moves beyond diplomatic dialogue to include economic pressure.
The Work of Asia Watch
Asia Watch devoted more time and resources to work on China and Tibet than on any other country or region in Asia. Its office in Hong Kong produced a steady stream of information that in some cases changed the nature of the debate over human rights in China and in others gave new and important substance to the debate already under way. The Asia Watch staff in Washington was able to use that information effectively in Congress to challenge aspects of U.S. policy on China, but the impact of the research went far beyond the United States. Asia Watch's findings made headlines in newspapers in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Europe, Thailand and elsewhere.
Much of the information generated in Hong Kong came from leaked documents or neibu (restricted circulation) journals that enabled Asia Watch to analyze central government policy. The most notable example was a series of four articles published in a neibu journal for labor reform officials that proved beyond question the government's encouragement of labor reform camps to use cheap, forced labor to boost export earnings. U.S. law prohibits the import of goods made by forced labor, and Asia Watch tried to use China's deliberate violation of that law to raise concerns in the United States about who was detained in those camps and the conditions under which they were held. Prison labor quickly became one of the major human rights issues in Congress as a result.
Asia Watch was also able to obtain documents from the trials of leading dissidents in early 1991. Combined with interviews of friends and professional colleagues of those on trial, the documents provided key insights into why people like Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao were branded the "black hands" of the Tiananmen Square protests, how others connected with their activities became guilty by association, and how utterly unfair the judicial process was.
Another set of documents leaked to Asia Watch concerned a crackdown on groups organized to promote Mongolian culture and language in Inner Mongolia. The documents included secret party directives and statements handwritten in Mongolian script from an underground human rights organization in the province. The ability of Asia Watch's Hong Kong office to obtain, translate and analyze these documents contributed to the respect accorded the office by journalists, diplomats and others interested in developments in China.
Dissidents recently escaped from China supplied Asia Watch with detailed, up-to-the-minute descriptions of prison conditions, the use of torture, and lists of those known to be detained throughout the country. The Hong Kong office helped to arrange medical and other assistance for released dissidents and their families, and for the families of still-detained prisoners. It maintained regular contacts with the media in China and other parts of Asia, and with the foreign diplomatic community in Hong Kong and China.
New, detailed, reliable information was the key to the success of Asia Watch's advocacy efforts in Washington. In April and May, Asia Watch provided information on prisoners in China and Tibet to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Richard Schifter for inclusion in a list of prisoners later submitted to Beijing. A meeting took place with Secretary Schifter in October to discuss prisoner cases and the upcoming trip to China by Secretary of State James Baker.
In June, Asia Watch staff discussed prison-labor exports from China with officials of the U.S. Customs Service who were in the process of investigating violations of U.S. law; the staff continued to provide information to the Customs Service during the year. In July, Asia Watch met with the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to China, R. Stapleton Roy, to brief him on human rights concerns and make recommendations for U.S. policy. Also in July, Asia Watch briefed the new human rights officer being dispatched to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
In August, Asia Watch wrote to President Bush to urge his intervention in the cases of Wang Juntao and Chen Zeming, and released the letter to the media with a public appeal. In September, following Asia Watch's participation in a visit to Tibet sponsored by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the Asia Watch staff briefed the new director of the State Department's Office on Chinese and Mongolian Affairs.
Asia Watch's advocacy work helped to raise the profile of human rights before, during and after Secretary Baker's trip to China. Before the trip, Asia Watch wrote to Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Richard Solomon and met with him to discuss our recommendations and concerns. Following the Baker trip in November, we wrote to Secretary Baker and publicized our proposals for new U.S. policy initiatives.
Asia Watch reports were widely circulated and used on Capitol Hill in floor debates, Congressional resolutions, and letters to Chinese and U.S. government officials. Asia Watch was frequently consulted for advice on U.S. policy issues, such as MFN, as well as on specific prisoner cases. On a dozen different occasions, Asia Watch testified before congressional committees and forums. Testimony was presented on MFN, prison labor and general human rights conditions before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the U.S. Customs Service, the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee (its Subcommittee on Trade), the House Foreign Affairs Committee (its Subcommittees on International Economic Policy and on Trade and Human Rights and International Organizations), the House Committee on Merchant Marines and Fisheries (its Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee) and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.
Washington and Hong Kong-based staff briefed various Congressional members and staff traveling to China in January, March, August, September and December, and in many cases debriefed them upon their return. Asia Watch also participated in a seminar for Hill staff on MFN sponsored by the Congressional Research Service in June.
On the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown, Asia Watch co-sponsored a rally on the Capitol steps with the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and other organizations. A scroll with the names of over 1,100 political prisoners provided by Asia Watch was signed by members of Congress and delivered to the Chinese Embassy with a message calling for their release and a full accounting of their status and whereabouts.
Other Washington-based advocacy efforts were focused on the World Bank, providing information to foreign embassies (including those of countries sending human rights delegations or political leaders to China in 1991, namely Australia, France and Japan), and responding to hundreds of inquiries or requests for interviews from domestic and foreign correspondents.
In September, Asia Watch representatives met for the first time with China's ambassador to the United States.
"Crackdown on 'illegal' churches," South China Morning Post, November 13, 1991.
This number does not include the several hundred pro-independence activists believed to be held in Tibet, nor several dozen Protestants, "unauthorized" Catholic priests, and a small but growing number of ethnic activists in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang who are in detention.
South China Morning Post, March 27, 1991.
In China, formal "arrest" -- signifying the prosecution's filing of charges and preparation for trial -- usually occurs only many months after a person's detention. However, since detention almost invariably leads to arrest, there is a little practical distinction between the two, so far as the detainee's lack of liberty is concerned. "Arrest" and "detention" thus are used largely interchangeably in this chapter.
The list of these Hunan detainees, together with a list of several hundred additional Tibetan prisoners -- neither of which is included in our year-end list of over one thousand Chinese political prisoners -- is scheduled for publication by Asia Watch in early 1992.
"Tianjin reform group cracked," South China Morning Post, August 26, 1991. The relative leniency offered to this group may well have been due to the strong local influence in Tianjin of Li Ruihuan, the city's reform-minded former mayor who was recently promoted to a central leadership post.
"Dissident Fu held by police," South China Morning Post, June 4, 1991.
"Paper decries use of torture," South China Morning Post, July 29, 1991.
"Force used to get crime evidence," South China Morning Post, September 12, 1991.
People's Public Security News, November 15, 1991, as reported in "Policemen take torture for granted", South China Morning Post, November 19, 1991.
"Stay away, say brothers," South China Morning Post, September 15, 1991; and "China's 'Iron Fist' may be losing its grip," Asian Wall Street Journal, September 27 1991.
"China Dissident, Freed After West's Pressure, Still Speaks Out Despite Risk," The New York Times, September 22, 1991.
The existence of these "strict regime" units is acknowledged by the authorities only in classified, internally circulated publications. One such publication, a penal officials' journal entitled Theoretical Studies in Labor Reform and Labor Reeducation, stated in its April 1989 issue that prisoners assigned to "strict regime" treatment receive only basic foodstuffs, may not receive visitors or letters, are subjected to physical and "disguised" physical punishment, and are forced to perform excess manual labor and receive insufficient sleeping time. In fact, conditions are far worse even than this.
The six dissidents (and their prison sentences) are: Beijing student leaders Liu Gang (six years) and Zhang Ming (four years); and independent labor activists Tang Yuanjuan (twenty years), Li Wei (thirteen years), Leng Wanbao (eight years) and Kong Xianfeng (three years). See "Hunger Strike by activists for Baker visit," South China Morning Post, November 7, 1991. Quoted extracts above are from a copy of the full hunger-strike appeal obtained by Asia Watch.
Associated Press, November 12, 1991; see also "Crackdown on 'illegal churches,'" South China Morning Post, November 13, 1991.
"Crackdown on 'illegal churches,'" South China Morning Post, November 13, 1991.
"Bishop, 75, arrested in retaliation against Pope," Hong Kong Standard, June 21, 1991. Gong Pinmei had spent thirty years in prison, from 1955 onward, but in 1988 was allowed to move to the United States, where he now lives.
"Priest expelled as protest," Hong Kong Standard, July 5, 1991.
"Catholic repression worsening: claim," South China Morning Post, September 14, 1991.
"Catholic priests accused of heresy," South China Morning Post, December 17, 1991.
"Jehovah's Witnesses held," South China Morning Post, November 8, 1991.
"Xingjiang fasheng wuzhuang baodong," Zheng Ming, July 1991, as reported in Federal Broadcast Information Service, July 3, 1991.
Reuters, "Sentence of hard labor for protest," South China Morning Post, November 6, 1991.
A league is an administrative district in Inner Mongolia.
For more details, see Asia Watch, "Crackdown in Inner Mongolia," July 1991, and Asia Watch, "Crackdown in Inner Mongolia, (Update No. 1)," December 1991.
Most Favored Nation trading status is the term used to designate normal trade relations with the United States. Communist countries are prohibited by U.S. law from receiving MFN status unless the president waives the provisions of the law on an annual basis. Since the Beijing massacre of June 1989, the MFN renewal process has become increasingly controversial in the U.S. Congress. Legislation placing human rights conditions on MFN for China passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin in 1990, but languished in the Senate. Accordingly, MFN was maintained for Chinese export to the United States throughout 1990 and 1991.
Kathy Wilhelm, Associated Press, "US Envoy Talks with Chinese on Human Rights, Trade," May 7, 1991.
United Press International, March 12, 1991.
Section 307 of the 1930 Tariff Act, the so-called Smoot-Hawley Act, prohibits the importation of all prison-made goods into the United States.
ILO Convention 105 prohibits the use of forced or compulsory labor "as a means of political coercion or education or as punishment for holding or expressing political views ideologically opposed to the established political, social or economic system."
H.R. 2212 provided that MFN cannot be extended to China in 1992 until China has taken "appropriate steps to prevent the exportation of products made by prisoners and detainees assigned to labor camps, prisons, detention centers and other facilities holding detainees and has allowed U.S. officials and international humanitarian and intergovernmental organizations to inspect the places of detention suspected to be producing export goods to ensure that appropriate steps have been taken and are in effect."
For example, Senator Jesse Helms compiled a list of some ninety-five different commodities for which there was evidence of forced labor used in their production.
The Reagan Administration, while conceding that the Customs Service is empowered to block importation of entire categories of goods, did not actually take such action. The goods in question at the time of the 1985 hearings were items produced by prisoners in the Soviet Union. According to the September 23, 1991 testimony to Congress of William Van Rabb, the commissioner of Customs from 1981 to 1989, he had reached a decision to ban entire categories of Soviet exports but was overruled by the Reagan White House.
The raid on E.W. Bliss Co. came about because of a tip from a competing company. The Customs affidavit seeking a search warrant stated that Bliss officials had visited the prison factory in China and seen inmates at work under armed guards. If Customs can prove Bliss imported the goods knowing they were produced with prison labor, they could be subject to criminal prosecution. Business Week, December 23, 1991.
The United States abstained, and did nothing to stop votes on a series of non-basic-human-needs World Bank loans during the first six months of 1991. As reported to Congress, these were: $168.4 million for medium-sized cities' development, on January 8; $150 million for Shanghai industrial development, on January 29; $131.2 million for "Key Studies Development," on February 26; $70 million for Liaoning Urban Infrastructure, on March 21; and $153.6 million for Jiangsu Provincial Transport, on April 9. The United States voted for a $335 million loan for a massive agricultural-irrigation project, on June 4, claiming that it fit the Administration's loose definition of a basic-human-needs loan. At the Asian Development Bank the United States abstained on several approved project loans between January and June: $70 million for the Shanghai-Nanpu Bridge, on May 28; $1.7 million for economic reform policies, infrastructure planning, and toll-bridge operations and management, the same day; $67.5 for the Yaogu-Maoming Railway, on June 20; and $1 million for the Guangdon-Sanmao Railway, also on June 20.
Letter to Asia Watch from Robert Perito, director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs, August 16; and statement of Richard Boucher, State Department spokesman, August 30.
Reuters, November 12, 1991.
James Gerstenzang, "US Concedes It Failed to Sway China on Rights Issues," The Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1991.
Although Asia Watch has not yet seen the Chinese government's responses, we understand that the data is limited to name lists only, with no details about dates of arrest or release, current whereabouts, or conviction status, and that in over two hundred cases the Chinese authorities claim to have no information on the person.
Dai was invited to Harvard University to accept a Neiman Fellowship, but had been denied an exit permit. She was finally granted a permit on December 16.
Statement by Secretary Baker, Beijing, November 17, 1991.
Robert Perito, director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs, testified at a U.S. Customs Service hearing on November 1 that the State Department had "every expectation" that it would obtain "greater access" as a result of the memorandum of understanding. He said that at the time only thirty-one of China's 680 prisons were "open to foreigners." The total figure is low because it does not include labor-reform or reeducation- through-labor facilities.
Testimony by Robert Perito before the House Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade, December 5, 1991: "The memorandum of understanding remains in negotiation....[Since the Secretary's visit] we have provided the Chinese with a draft. The Chinese have provided us with a counter draft. We have provided them with a proposal which melds the two drafts together....Our proposal provides for joint inspections that Americans would be allowed to engage in investigations...."
It was announced, through a U.S. businessman, that China would release the student leader Wang Youcai and allow Han Dongfang, an ill labor organizer released from jail but with charges still pending against him, to leave the country. S.L. Law, "Tiananmen Student Leader To Be Freed," Hong Kong Standard, November 23, 1991. As of mid-December, these actions had yet to occur.
Jim Mann, "Baker Runs into the Diplomatic Great Wall of Resistance," The Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1991.
"We didn't lose any ground [in Congress as a result of the Baker trip] and we didn't gain any," an Administration official was quoted as saying. Don Oberdorder, "China Trip Sways Few in Congress," The Washington Post, November 22, 1991.