The United States government runs a joint congressional and executive branch commission that monitors China’s record on the rule of law, human rights, workers’ rights and a broad array of related areas. As China joined 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 2011″ begins by noting the following: “More people in today’s China enjoy an improved quality of life, economic freedoms, and greater access to information via the Internet and other communication technologies. But economic and technological progress has not led to commensurate gains in China’s human rights and rule of law record.”
The highlights of the report, which updates last year’s findings, include:
- The Chinese leadership now regularly claims achievements in the area of human rights, and unlike in the past, they no longer just deny that abuses are taking place. However, “China’s human rights and rule of law record has not improved. Indeed … it appears to be worsening in some areas. A troubling trend is officials’ increased willingness to disregard the law when it suits them, particularly to silence dissent. Beginning in February 2011, Chinese police took the unusual step of ‘disappearing’ numerous lawyers and activists in one of the harshest crackdowns in recent memory.”
- The report spotlights some specific cases relating to human rights activists: “Hu Jia, a human rights and environmental advocate, and Chen Guangcheng, a self-trained legal advocate who publicized population planning abuses, were released from prison this year only to face, along with their families, onerous conditions of detention and abuse with little or no basis in Chinese law. In Chen’s case, authorities kept him and his wife under extralegal house arrest and allegedly beat them after video footage of their conditions was smuggled out of the house and released on an overseas website.”
- “China continued to implement policies that are inconsistent with its commitments as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and are incompatible with the rule of law. Industrial policies limit market access for non-Chinese companies and in some cases violate the core WTO principle of national treatment; state-owned enterprises enjoy direct and indirect subsidies, including land and regulatory protection, which is contrary to China’s WTO commitments. Favoring state-owned enterprises has implications for human rights, including the taking of land to subsidize production and the use of the state secrets law to protect information in the state-owned sector.”
- The political prisoner database kept by the Congressional-Executive Commission noted the following as of Sept. 1, 2011: there were “6,623 cases of political or religious imprisonment in China. Of those, 1,451 are cases of political or religious prisoners currently known or believed to be detained or imprisoned, and 5,172 are cases of prisoners who are known or believed to have been released, or executed, who died while imprisoned or soon after release, or who escaped. The Commission notes that there are considerably more than 1,451 cases of current political and religious imprisonment in China.”
- “In January 2011, authorities reportedly banned hundreds of words, including ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ from cell phone text messages. Politically sensitive Web sites continued to be blocked, including a popular Tibetan culture site, an anticorruption site, and a public health advocacy website. Officials also continued to block information in a disproportionate manner that did not appear necessary to achieve a legitimate aim. For example, access to overseas sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube remained completely blocked.”
- “Official statistics indicate that by the end of 2010, there were 457 million Internet users in China, including a growing number in rural areas, and by April 2011, 900 million mobile phone accounts. Officials have sought to expand the Internet to promote economic development and government propaganda.”
Like the 2010 U.S. report, the updated version 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