Statement of CECC Chairman Byron Dorgan and Cochairman Sander Levin on the Newly Enhanced Political Prisoner Database

Congressional-Executive Commission on China |

Statement of CECC Chairman Byron Dorgan and Cochairman Sander Levin on the Newly Enhanced Political Prisoner Database

July 27, 2010

(Washington, DC)—Today the Congressional-Executive Commission on China launches its newly enhanced Political Prisoner Database. Since 2004, the Political Prisoner Database has provided a unique resource for governments, NGOs, educational institutions, and individuals who research political and religious imprisonment in China, or who advocate on behalf of such prisoners.

This new enhancement makes the database more powerful than ever before. By making it easier for users to find and download information about political prisoners in China, the Database now can do more than virtually any other online advocacy tool to serve our government, the American public, and Internet users around the world.

A "political prisoner" is someone who is detained or imprisoned for peacefully exercising his or her human rights under China's own Constitution and laws, or under international law. These rights include peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and free expression—including the freedom to advocate for peaceful social or political change, and to criticize Chinese government policy or Chinese government officials.

To promote the rule of law in China it is vital to publicize and seek the release of people imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs, or for attempting to exercise internationally recognized rights expressing those beliefs. It is these prisoners who are making extraordinary personal sacrifices to bring greater respect for human rights and the rule of law to China. It was international pressure that played a critical role in securing the freedom of Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Kim Daejong, and many others who helped lead their countries to greater social justice. Today's imprisoned dissidents are the leading figures of tomorrow’s free societies built on respect for fundamental rights.

At this time, the Commission's Political Prisoner Database contains about 5,500 records of political prisoners in China. The database's new and powerful tools empower individuals, organizations, and governments to better report on political imprisonment in China and to advocate on behalf of Chinese political prisoners. The enhancement roughly doubles the types of information available to the public, including the name of the court which heard the case and dates of key legal proceedings, as well as the political prisoner's photograph. It allows for a one-click download of the entire contents of the database as an Excel spreadsheet. Moreover, the enhancement allows anyone to link to a political prisoner record and open the database record with just one click on any other Web site, blog, online document, or email. The link doesn't just open a stored Web page—it opens the current database record.

The United States and China's engagement on trade and other matters has never been as extensive as it is today. The potential of this engagement in the future to bring prosperity and stability depends on China's applying its laws equally and fairly, in accordance with international human rights norms, and that will require an end to the practice of political imprisonment. The Commission's newly enhanced Political Prisoner Database will play a critical role in enabling governments, NGOs, educational institutions, and the general public around the world to monitor China’s progress toward that end.