Statement of The bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China Chairman Sherrod Brown and Cochairman Christopher Smith on the Release of the 2013 Annual Report:
“Amid talk of a new round of economic reforms under President Xi Jinping, this year’s report serves as an important reminder that China is no closer to granting its citizens basic human rights than when China entered the World Trade Organization nearly 12 years ago,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), Chairman of the Commission. “Increased trade ties have not improved working conditions or the environment, and Chinese citizens still do not enjoy the freedoms of expression, assembly, and religion to which they are entitled under international law. To the contrary, China’s new leaders continue to heavily censor the Internet, repress Tibetans and Uyghurs, and violate international trade rules by unfairly subsidizing state-owned enterprises, failing to stop the massive theft of intellectual property, and undervaluing its currency at the expense of American businesses and workers.”
“In the strongest terms used to date, this report underscores the abuse of women and the draconian repressive policies which remain firmly in place, such as the one-child policy which has involved egregious abuses such as forced abortions and forced sterilizations” said Chris Smith (NJ), Cochairman of the Commission. “President Xi Jinping and the new Chinese leadership talk about reform but their actions show that the Communist Party remains preoccupied with maintaining their rule at the expense of guaranteeing citizens’ rights. As a result of the Chinese government’s barbaric attack on mothers and their children, there are some 40 million more males than females in China today. With respect to Freedom of Religion, the report shows that practitioners continue to be harassed. Brave citizens such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo remain in jail. And China continues to violate internationally recognized worker rights by not allowing workers to freely associate and form independent trade unions.”
The past year marked a major leadership change in China, with Xi Jinping taking over as President and the Chinese Communist Party’s General Secretary. As the report found, Xi and other top leaders began their tenure with rhetoric suggesting openness to reforms and limits on official power. The report noted, however, that Chinese officials soon cracked down on calls for human rights and the rule of law, labeling them the product of anti-China forces and targeting individuals associated with the grassroots New Citizens’ Movement, some of whom have called for officials to disclose their assets. Notable rights advocates Xu Zhiyong and Guo Feixiong joined the long list of political prisoners in China detained for criticizing their government and exercising their rights to free speech.
The Commission documented changes at the margins throughout the report, including the issuance of a national anti-trafficking plan, the loosening of residency restrictions in some localities, the introduction of labor law amendments intended to curb the abuse of subcontracted labor, and the discontinuation of reeducation through labor sentences in some provinces. But as concerns about food safety, air pollution, corruption, and ethnic minority tensions grew this past year, the Chinese government continued to view citizen efforts to respond to these problems with suspicion and to prefer secrecy over openness.
The report recommended that Members of Congress and the Administration urge China to commit to a specific timetable to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to raise this issue at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of China’s human rights record on October 22, 2013. The report also urged U.S. officials to raise China’s qualifications for membership on the UN Human Rights Council during elections in November 2013.
In addition, the report pointed out the direct connections between China’s domestic human rights and rule of law development and the public health and economic well-being of Americans, and recommended that U.S. officials include human rights and rule of law concerns as part of trade discussions with China and continue to ensure that China adheres to its World Trade Organization obligations.
The report unequivocally urges the Chinese government to stop coercion and violence against women during population planning implementation and to clarify provisions under Chinese law that would protect women against such rights abuses and establish criminal and financial penalties for officials and individuals who engage in coercive or violent population planning enforcement, including forced abortion, forced sterilization, and forced contraceptive use.
The report noted ongoing and tragic self-immolations in Tibetan areas of China and some of the most severe unrest in Xinjiang since 2009 and urged Chinese officials to adopt a more inclusive, democratic approach that fully takes into account the views of Tibetans and Uyghurs and respects their culture, language, and religion.
Finally, the report noted that Chinese officials had raised the possibility of changes to the abusive reeducation through labor system, population planning policy, and household registration system. The Commission recommended that U.S. officials inquire about possible changes in these policies and urge Chinese officials to undertake serious reform that would both remedy rights violations and lead to greater social stability by ending policies that are widely opposed in China.
The CECC’s 2013 Annual Report is the Commission’s 12th since it was created by Congress in 2000. The Commission consists of Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, and senior Administration officials appointed by the President. In addition to its annual reports, the Commission maintains an extensive database of political prisoners in China, many of whom are cited in its reports.