The Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom has noted China as a “country of concern” in its Human Rights and Democracy Report 2013.
The report makes note of China’s growing economy providing an increase in the material quality of life. However, the facts on the ground point to the fact that China’s communist regime severely curtails civil and political rights and utilizes the use of violence frequently when faced with free-thinkers, human rights defenders and those who petition for change.
Here we explore specific key points of the report. To read the document in its entirety, (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/china-country-of-concern/china-country-of-concern)
Contrary to China’s Constitution which describes China as a multi-party socialist state, China functions as a one-party state in practice. Elections only take place for village committees and local people’s congress. There has been no movement towards a representative democracy.
Freedom of expression & assembly
Contrary to China’s Constitution stating that freedom of the press and freedom of expression are guaranteed, in practice such rights are “severely limited.” University lecturers cannot discuss press freedom, universal values or any subjects listed on a “seven taboos” restricted list of topics with their students. The internet is subject to extensive censorship, local journalists are required to attend “political education classes” in order to renew press credentials. Foreign journalists remain subject to restrictions and often face official obstruction, intimidation, physical assault and visa renewal delays. NGO activists have been subject to detentions, house arrest, and were indicted on public order charges when trying to assemble to peacefully exercise freedom of expression rights.
Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)
The report details the plight of human rights defenders (HRDs) who frequently face maltreatment from the state through, “unlawful and arbitrary measures to intimidate, harass and detain..and are subjected to procedurally flawed trials, to which diplomats and media were consistently denied access”. Several high profile cases cited in the report include rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng who fought to defend the rights of Falun Gong practitioners, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lui Xiaobo a professor jailed for his participation in writing Charter 8, illustrate the severity of repression of HRDs.
Access to justice and the rule of Law
“Access to justice remains limited and the rule of law weak. The constitution guarantees the independence of the courts, but in practice there is little separation of powers.
Re-education Through Labor (RTL) was formally abolished by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on 28 December. RTL was a form of administrative detention without trial, frequently used for petitioners, Falun Gong practitioners and HRDs. Other forms of arbitrary and extrajudicial detention remain in use, including: so-called “black jails” (unofficial detention centers);
involuntary psychiatric committal; “legal education” centers; and custodial investigation.
Safeguards for the independence and operation of the legal profession remain weak. Human rights lawyers reported being obstructed, harassed, arbitrarily disbarred, administratively detained and even physically assaulted by officials.”
“In absolute terms, it is believed that China continues to execute the largest number of people in the world. The Chinese government treats death penalty figures as a state secret. China retains 55 capital offences, including many non-violent crimes.
In November, Health Minister Li Bin reiterated the Chinese government’s commitment to end the use of organs from executed prisoners for human transplant by mid-2014. (Editor’s note: According to the Epoch Times, this promise has since been rescinded. More info here: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/614808-top-chinese-transplant-official-says-theres-no-plan-to-stop-using-prisoner-organs/?sidebar=morein)
Torture, physical abuse and degradation of prisoners is prohibited by Chinese Law, however reports of abuse and torture continue to surface citing use of electric shocks and sleep deprivation. Despite revisions of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) which contains provisions to help prevent torture and mistreatment by allowing lawyers expedited access to their clients, it was found, “that there were indications that this did not apply in politically sensitive or human rights related cases”.
The report also states that Article 73 of the CPL “allows for secret detention in certain categories of cases”. The report noted that, “police reportedly violated the CPL in order to hold HRDs incommunicado for extended periods.”
Although the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief, in practice there are “extensive restrictions of religious freedom”. Protestant and Catholic churches are subject to state harassment, raids and arrests of pastors and congregants. Even “state approved” churches are not immune from state interference and harassment. Falun Gong practitioners face continuing arrests and their defense lawyers face harassment from the state.
“The authorities continued to enforce family planning policies. The Third Plenum announced reforms which will permit couples to have two children if either parent is an only child. There were continued reports of illegal coercive implementation of family planning policies, including forced abortions and sterilizations.”
Other topics reviewed by the report touched upon Tibet, Xinjian Uyghur Autonomous Region, Refugees and asylum seekers, civil society, and Hong Kong.
China’s response to the UK report
According to the Epoch Times, shortly after the publication of the Human Rights and Democracy 2013 report, Chinese authorities unilaterally canceled the human rights dialogue that was scheduled for April 16th with the United Kingdom citing “irresponsible and careless remarks” regarding the human rights conditions in China.
Hua Chunying, foreign ministry spokesperson said, the UK was “use[ing] the excuse of human rights to interfere in China’s internal politics and the sovereignty of its judicial system.”?
A spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office said in a prepared statement, “We are disappointed that the Chinese government last week unilaterally postponed the dialogue which was due to take place on the 16th of April.” “It is not for us to say why it was postponed… We consider the dialogue to be an important part of bilateral relations with China.”
The UK did not seem repentant about its report on human rights in China. The spokesperson indicated that there were no plans to change how conditions in China are reported. “We stand fully behind the report,” the spokesperson said.?
Tuidang response to the UK report
The UK report briefly addresses the plight of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline in the acknowledgment that practitioners face ongoing arrests, are subject to the abuses of Re-education
Through Labor (RTL), and that their defending lawyers are harassed by the state. However, the report does not delve deeply into the extent and scope of the persecution, nor does it connect the regime’s practice of organ harvesting of executed prisoners to the organ harvesting of executed Falun Gong prisoners of conscience which has been previously exposed by a well documented investigation conducted by Canadian lawyers David Matas and David Kilgour which can be read here: http://www.organharvestinvestigation.net
The UK report touched upon only two known methods of torture- electric shocks and sleep deprivation, overlooking a long and varied list of torture methods commonly used in China which have been documented by human rights NGOs. One such NGO -The International Society for Human Rights which is based in Germany, offers full disclosure China’s torture methods here:
As more information and personal accounts come forth from brave citizens who stand before the international halls of justice to give personal testimony as to what is happening to the Chinese people over the 15 long years of persecution, we encourage the UK to further expand and expose the crimes against humanity perpetrated by communist leaders, and not be put off by China’s response to a rather tepid report on the issue. It is good that the UK stated that it stands by it’s report and did not take an apologist stance.
Yet in reality the report did not go far enough to be the clarion call to have China fully face the weight of a long hidden truth.