On October 9, 2014, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China released its 2014 Annual Report on human rights and rule of law developments in China.
Human rights and rule of law conditions in China overall did not improve this past year, and declined in some of the areas covered by this report, “The Chinese government and Communist Party continued to emphasize authoritarian control at the expense of human rights and the rule of law”, it said.
The report deals with democracy, human rights and economic issues. It also mentions the lack of freedoms for the U.S. press in China.
Tiananmen at 25: Enduring Influence on U.S.-China Relations and China’s Political Development
In 1989 citizens from all walks of life participated in demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and throughout China calling for political reform, respect for universal freedoms of speech, assembly, and association, and an end to government corruption. The government’s violent suppression of the protests in June of that year had far-reaching ramifications for both the development of human rights and rule of law in China and U.S.-China relations.
In the years since, Chinese authorities have censored public discussion of Tiananmen and prevented a public accounting of what happened. At the same time, Chinese citizens continue to advocate for human rights, democracy, and an end to corruption.
This year lawyers attending seminar with scholars and family members of victims of the 1989 Tiananmen protests, were arrested and detained.
One of those lawyers is Pu Zhiqiang arrested and later detained the Beijing No. 1 PSB Detention Center on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble. The report mentioned that during the seminar Pu attended, participants reportedly discussed the impact of the 1989 protests and called for an investigation of the violent suppression of protesters.
Authorities detained other seminar participants including Xu Youyu, Hu Shigen, andLiu Di. Pu suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. On June 9, officials rejected Pu’s bail application citing his “danger to society” .
Understanding China’s Crackdown on Rights Advocates: Personal Accounts and Perspectives
Chinese officials have cracked down on independent rights advocacy, detaining large numbers of individuals for peacefully advocating on issues ranging from combating official corruption and protecting the rights of ethnic minorities to ensuring educational equality for migrant children and seeking greater freedom of the press.
Those detained include Ilham Tohti, a scholar and an advocate for the Uyghur ethnic minority, who sought to build bridges between Uyghurs and the majority Han population.
They also include individuals from the New Citizens’ Movement, who have called for social justice, rule of law, and citizen rights. The detentions are occurring against the backdrop of the Chinese government’s own anti-corruption campaign and stated push for legal reforms.
Witnesses will discuss, among other things, personal accounts of the crackdown as well as its significance for China’s human rights and rule of law development.
Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public place” (CL, art. 291). Authorities had confined Xu, a leading rights advocate and proponent of the New Citizens’ Movement, to his home in Beijing municipality for 3 months prior to criminally detaining him on July 16, and formally arresting him on August 22. In a December 13 indictment, authorities alleged Xu was a “ringleader” of incidents that took place in 2012 and 2013 during which individuals called for education equality and government transparency. Xu is a former law lecturer and founded the legal aid NGO,
Open Constitution Initiative.
Prospects for Democracy and Press Freedom in Hong Kong
Under China’s “one country, two systems” policy, Hong Kong residents enjoy greater freedom and autonomy than people in mainland China, including freedoms of speech, press, and religion. China has stated it intends to allow Hong Kong residents to elect their Chief Executive by universal suffrage for the first time in 2017 and to elect Hong Kong’s Legislative Council by universal suffrage in 2020.
As Hong Kong’s government contemplates electoral reform in the run-up to the 2017 election, concerns are growing that China’s central government will attempt to control the election by allowing only pro-Beijing candidates to run for Chief Executive. Concerns over press freedom have also grown in the wake of several incidents in which journalists have been violently attacked or fired.
China’s Compliance With the World Trade Organization and International Trade Rules
When China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 it was hoped that China would strengthen the rule of law, open its markets to U.S. goods, end discriminatory trading policies, and increase transparency, bringing benefits to both the United States and China.
Some 12 years later considerable concern remains over China’s compliance with its WTO obligations and international trade rules generally. The state continues to play a heavy role over China’s economy and to subsidize state-owned enterprises and favored industries at the expense of foreign competition. Other problems include weak enforcement of intellectual property rights, retaliation for U.S. trade actions, lack of transparency, and forced technology transfer.
“This year’s report shows that human rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law deteriorated in China”, said Senator Sherrod Brown, CECC Chair. “China’s commitment to human rights and rule of law affects the safety of our food, the health of our economy, and stability in the Pacific.”