CECC Chairman Byron Dorgan and Cochairman Sander Levin Issue Joint Statement on Human Rights Day 2009

Congressional-Executive Commission on China | www.cecc.gov

CECC Chairman Byron Dorgan and Cochairman Sander Levin Issue Joint Statement on Human Rights Day 2009

December 9, 2009

(Washington, DC)—Last year, on the eve of Human Rights Day, which is observed each year on December 10th, 303 Chinese citizens—including scholars, writers, lawyers, and activists—issued on the Internet Charter 08, a document calling for political reform and greater protection of human rights in China. Liu Xiaobo, a prominent intellectual and dissident who signed Charter 08, was detained the night before the document was released. In June 2009, authorities formally arrested Liu for "inciting subversion." Earlier this month, the police forwarded the case to prosecutors, almost a year after he was taken into custody. Many of the other original signers of Charter 08 (which has since garnered over 10,000 signatures within and outside China) have been subjected to harassment, surveillance, and unlawful house arrest. Chinese authorities have blocked Charter 08, and any reference to it, on the Internet.

Human Rights Day commemorates the anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. China voted to adopt the UDHR in 1948, and the current Chinese government has committed itself to protecting the fundamental human rights that are enshrined in the UDHR through international agreements and its own domestic law. In April 2009, the Chinese government reaffirmed this commitment in its first-ever National Human Rights Action Plan.

As detailed in this Commission's 2009 Annual Report, there were many setbacks for rule of law and human rights in China during this past year. In addition to the crackdown on Charter 08 signers, the persecution of human rights lawyers, including Jiang Tianyong and others, reached an unprecedented level; authorities have revoked or suspended the licenses of numerous human rights lawyers and many face ongoing persecution and harassment. Ten months after his disappearance, lawyer Gao Zhisheng remains missing. Petitioners continue to be detained and abused in illegal "black jails." The trials of people—mostly Uyghurs—charged with crimes committed during unrest in Xinjiang in July have been marked by violations of international standards for due process including judges selected for "political reliability" and curbs on defendants' right to independent counsel. The Chinese government continues to suppress civil society initiatives and freedom of expression. For their efforts to advocate peacefully for parents of schoolchildren killed in the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake, authorities put Huang Qi and Tan Zuoren on trial for endangering national security; Huang Qi recently was convicted and sentenced to a prison term of three years for "illegal possession of state secrets." The cases of over 1,200 of the many political and religious prisoners who are being held in China's jails and prisons today are documented in the Commission's publicly accessible Political Prisoner Database.

On Human Rights Day 2009, this Commission calls on the Chinese government to cease the harassment, control, and arbitrary detention of Chinese citizens who engage in peaceful advocacy for their rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international human rights instruments, and China's own Constitution and laws.