China Human Right report 2005
China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2005
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 8, 2006
(The section for Tibet, the report for Hong Kong, and the report for Macau are appended below.)
The People's Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which, as specified in its constitution, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the paramount source of power. Party members hold almost all top government, police and military positions. Ultimate authority rests with the 24-member political bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its 9-member standing committee. General Secretary Hu Jintao holds the three most powerful positions as CCP general secretary, president, and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). The party's authority rested primarily on the government's ability to maintain social stability; appeals to nationalism and patriotism; party control of personnel, media, and the security apparatus; and continued improvement in the living standards of most of the country's 1.3 billion citizens. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government's human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses. There was a trend towards increased harassment, detention, and imprisonment by government and security authorities of those perceived as threatening to government authority. The government also adopted measures to control more tightly print, broadcast and electronic media, and censored online content. Protests by those seeking to redress grievances increased significantly and were suppressed, at times violently, by security forces. There were notable developments in legal reforms during the year. However, some key measures to increase the authority of the judiciary and reduce the arbitrary power of police and security forces stalled. The government adopted new religious affairs regulations expanding legal protection for some activities of registered religious groups but was criticized for failing to protect unregistered groups.
The following human rights problems were reported:
• denial of the right to change the government
• physical abuse resulting in deaths in custody
• torture and coerced confessions of prisoners
• harassment, detention, and imprisonment of those perceived as threatening to party and government authority
• arbitrary arrest and detention, including nonjudicial administrative detention, reeducation-through-labor, psychiatric detention, and extended or incommunicado pretrial detention
• a politically controlled judiciary and a lack of due process in certain cases, especially those involving dissidents
• detention of political prisoners, including those convicted of disclosing state secrets and subversion, those convicted under the now-abolished crime of counterrevolution, and those jailed in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations
• house arrest and other nonjudicially approved surveillance and detention of dissidents
• monitoring of citizens' mail, telephone and electronic communications
• use of a coercive birth limitation policy, in some cases resulting in forced abortion and sterilization
• increased restrictions on freedom of speech and the press; closure of newspapers and journals; banning of politically sensitive books, periodicals, and films; and jamming of some broadcast signals
• restrictions on the freedom of assembly, including detention and abuse of demonstrators and petitioners
• restrictions on religious freedom, control of religious groups, and harassment and detention of unregistered religious groups
• restrictions on the freedom of travel, especially for politically sensitive and underground religious figures
• forcible repatriation of North Koreans and inadequate protection of many refugees
• severe government corruption
• increased scrutiny, harassment and restrictions on independent domestic and foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO) operations
• trafficking in women and children
• societal discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities
• cultural and religious repression of minorities in Tibetan areas and Muslim areas of Xinjiang
• restriction of labor rights, including freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and worker health and safety
• forced labor, including prison labor
There were several positive human rights developments during the year. The government returned authority to approve death sentences to the Supreme People's Court, supported local experiments to record police interrogation of suspects, and limited the administrative detention of minors, the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. In March government officials stated that family bible studies in private homes need not be registered with the government and said that the law permitted religious education of minors, but problems continued in both areas. The National People's Congress (NPC) adopted amendments to the law protecting women's rights and interests, including one outlawing sexual harassment. The government ratified International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 111 prohibiting discrimination in employment. The government also hosted visits by international human rights monitors.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
During the year politically motivated and other arbitrary and unlawful killings occurred. While no official statistics on deaths in custody were available, state-run media reported that law enforcement officials killed 460 persons and seriously injured more than 100 through abuse or dereliction of duty in 2003.
In December police shot and killed at least three protesters in Dongzhou village, Guangdong Province, the first known shooting of public protesters by security forces since 1989. Villagers claimed that as many as 20 villagers were shot and killed by paramilitary riot police, with approximately 40 others missing. The government said the shooting occurred after protesters threw explosives at police and claimed that three protesters were killed. It suspended an official responsible for the incident, pending an investigation.
An unconfirmed, published report said that authorities beat a petitioner to death in Beijing in April.
Trials involving capital offenses sometimes took place under circumstances involving severe lack of due process and with no meaningful appeal. Executions often took place on the day of conviction or failed appeal. In Xinjiang, executions of Uighurs whom authorities accused of separatism but which some observers claimed were politically motivated were reported (see section 5). The government regarded the number of death sentences it carried out as a state secret. However, in March 2004 an NPC deputy asserted that nearly 10 thousand cases per year "result in immediate execution," a figure Supreme People's Court (SPC) and Ministry of Justice officials stated was exaggerated. Foreign experts estimated that the country executed between 5 thousand and 12 thousand persons each year. The SPC announced its intention to take back from provincial courts the authority to approve all death sentences, an authority given to provinces during the government's 1983 anticrime "strike hard" campaign. During the year judges were hired and an administrative division established to conduct reviews of death sentences, but the SPC had not yet begun exercising its authority (see section 1.e.). Media reports stated that approximately 10 percent of executions were for economic crimes, especially corruption. NPC officials insisted during the year that there were no plans to abolish the death penalty for economic crimes.
The government used incommunicado detention. The law requires notification of family members within 24 hours of detention, but individuals were often held without notification for significantly longer periods, especially in politically sensitive cases. Citizens who were reportedly detained with no or severely delayed notice included blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, attorney Zhu Jiuhu, petitioner advocate Hou Wenzhuo, and writer Yang Maodong (also known as Guo Feixiong). In 2004 Jiang Yanyong and his wife were detained and held incommunicado for several weeks in connection with a letter he wrote to government leaders asking for reconsideration of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.