Note: A 2011 report on this topic has been issued that updates the findings below.
The United States government runs a joint Congressional and executive branch commission that monitors the record of China on issues of rule of law, human rights, workers’ rights and a broad array of related areas. As China entered into the World Trade Organization in 2000, the U.S. government established the commission to monitor China’s commitment to living up to the principles expected of WTO members.
The “Congressional-Executive Commission on China Annual Report 2010” begins by noting that the “Chinese people have achieved success on many fronts” but that “human rights conditions in China over the last year have deteriorated.”
The report’s findings include:
- The Chinese government’s increasing control over lawyers working in criminal defense and human rights and the legal profession as a whole “has led some of China’s leading legal experts to state that the rule of law is in ‘full retreat’ in China.”
- In the past, China has often sought in its rhetoric to carve out exceptions for itself on human rights issues. Now, however, “official statements increasingly tend to declare the Chinese government’s compliance with international norms, even in the face of documented noncompliance.”
- The Internet has created a “new category of political prisoners in China,” especially for those with a record of activism. Common charges include “subverting state power” or “splittism”; these carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.
- Chinese officials have increased monitoring and control of news, video, blogging and social-networking sites. In addition, they have “issued legal measures that could increase pressure on Internet companies to censor political content; and sought to impose greater legal requirements on those wishing to post or host content on the Internet that could lead to self-censorship of political content for fear of government retribution.”
- The government has promoted what it calls “indigenous innovation” to reduce Chinese reliance on foreign technology. The stated purpose is to enable China to become “a global leader in technology by mid-century,” but the policies have the effect of increasing state control of the economy.
- Individual representatives of companies doing business in China must grapple with shadowy laws that enable state-owned enterprises to “press the government to classify commercial information as a state secret.” This opens the door for legal liability on the part of business people and for the potential “that the government will use the charge of violating laws on state secrets to advantage Chinese commercial interests.”
The U.S. report analyzes many other areas of life in China, including freedom of religion, the status of women, and patent law, and makes recommendations relating to potential U.S. responses and policy.
Tags: technology, law, religion