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How Beijing keeps its promises

Posted by Author on October 12, 2006

Human Rights Feature, Oct. 2-6, 2006-

The “voluntary pledge” presented by China in May for the express purpose of winning a seat on the Human Rights Council still rings in the ear, but it is ever more hollow today. Breaking its own promises, China poses a serious challenge to the new RC’s acclaimed reforms to provide a stronger and more effective protection of human rights.
….

In the four months since it made the “voluntary pledge,” the Chinese government has:

– Promulgated press control regulations on international media operating in China. In June, the government proposed huge fines (up to the equivalent of US$12,500) for journalists, foreign or domestic, who report “emergency incidents” such as clashes with police, epidemic outbreaks, or natural/man made disasters without official permission. On 10 September, the government enforced that the Xinhua News Agency would become the only authorized distributor of all news and information by foreign news agencies operating in China, in the process banning several categories of information.

– Closed down countless online publications, discussion forums and chat rooms, and began monitoring email correspondences, cell phone calls, text messages and instant messaging. In the past few months, the government shut down popular websites and online forums frequented by activists and independent writers, such as the Aegean Sea, Century China, and Dijin Minzhu.

– Detained human rights activists and lawyers, including the blind activist Chen Guangcheng in Shangdong, the rights activist/independent writer Guo Feixioang in Guangdong, and the Beijing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. The police have placed Gao Zhisheng’s wife and children under close and invasive surveillance since arresting him in mid-August.

– Charged democracy/human rights activists with political crimes of “incitement and sedition to overthrow the state” that carry long prison terms or the death penalty. The rights activist Guo Qizhen and several other writers/democracy activists have been charged with this crime. On 6 September, authorities arrested Internet writer and former Aegean Sea website editor Zhang Jianhong on the grounds of “inciting subversion”. He faces a possible prison sentence of several years.

– Imprisoned activists for peaceful activities. Chen Guangcheng was sentenced for 4 years and 3 months on 20 August. On 11 August, Tan Kai, an environmentalist from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province and founder of the NGO “Green Watch,” was convicted of “illegally acquiring state secrets” and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. On 25 August, the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Zhao Yan, a researcher at the Beijing office of New York Times, to three years imprisonment on charges of “fraud,” a trumped up charge in retaliation for his concern with peasant land rights and fair compensation, and for providing legal aid to help farmers bring litigation against corrupt officials.

– Intensified persecution of unofficial “house church” members and demolished churches in the eastern provinces. In one case in August, in Xiaoshan of Zhejiang Province, officials demolished a 200-year old Christian church and arrested more than 60 church members who opposed the demolition. Zan Aizong, a journalist and Christian, received seven days of administrative detention for reporting the demolition of this church. He was accused of “spreading rumors and disturbing public order.”

– Put hundreds of activists and outspoken critics of the government under house arrest or residential surveillance; some activists have been detained incommunicado or made to disappear for periods of time. On 18 August, the activist Deng Yongliang and lawyer Zhang Jiankang disappeared in police custody in Yinan, Shandong, and police denied knowledge of their whereabouts. They were eventually released.

– Authorized use of police force to suppress peaceful demonstrations by farmers demanding land rights. On 9 August, 2006, Yao Baohua and Zhou Yaqin, representing landless peasants in Changzhou in Jiangsu Province, were placed under criminal detention by the local police and charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” They had been seeking to petition the local government and were expressing their views peacefully. On 22 August, rights representative Liu Zhengyou was badly beaten by unidentified thugs right before the eyes of police in Zigong City, Sichuan Province. Liu has been urging the government to negotiate with peasants to settle a land dispute fairly and had been participating with the farmers in peaceful demonstrations.

( More from Human Rights Feature’s article )

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