PPD Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is a "political prisoner?"

A: The Commission treats as a "political prisoner" an individual detained for exercising his or her human rights under international law, such as peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, freedom of association, free expression, including the freedom to advocate peaceful social or political change, and to criticize government policy or government officials. (This list is not meant to be exhaustive, just illustrative.) In most cases, prisoners in the PPD were detained or imprisoned for attempting to exercise rights guaranteed to them by China's Constitution and law, or by international law, or both.

Q: What is the Political Prisoner Database (PPD)?

A: The CECC Political Prisoner Database contains information about political prisoners in China detained for exercising their human rights under international law who were held or are being held in public detention centers, prisons, re-education through labor centers, or other detention facilities, or who are held under other forms of official control. Forty different types of prisoner information are available in the PPD.

Q: How can I use the PPD?

A: The PPD is designed for political prisoner advocacy and research by U.S. government officials and the general public anywhere in the world. You can query the PPD and receive information about individual prisoners and groups of prisoners. The best way to get started is to read the instructions located here. The instructions will help you understand the PPD features and prepare you to build queries in a way most likely to deliver the results you want.

Q: Do I need a password to use the PPD?

A: No. However, if you want to save your queries in the PPD for future use, you will need to register and establish a user account and password.

Q: Where does the Commission get information on political prisoners?

A: The Commission relies on its own staff research, as well as information provided by multinational, national, and nongovernmental organizations specializing in human rights and political prisoners. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China expresses special thanks to the Dui Hua Foundation and the Tibet Information Network for sharing their extensive experience and data on political and religious prisoners in China. Their cooperation was invaluable in launching the Political Prisoner Database.

Q: Is the information in the PPD reliable and up-to-date?

A: Reliable up-to-date information about Chinese political prisoners is not easy to acquire. The Chinese government generally does not provide information on such prisoners through government and official media and asserts that there are no "political prisoners" in China. When the Chinese government chooses to provide information about a political prisoner, the information reflects Chinese government and Communist Party perspectives on human rights and the rule of law. Chinese citizens who attempt to provide information about such imprisonment to people or organizations outside China risk being accused of espionage or illegally disclosing state secrets. If Chinese citizens are convicted of such charges, courts may sentence them to lengthy periods of imprisonment.

By necessity, therefore, much of the prisoner information in the PPD is unofficial. The content of unofficial reports varies widely. In some cases unofficial reports contain information and analysis of the highest quality. In other cases, as a result of the difficulty of obtaining information, reports may be incomplete, flawed, or contradictory, and sometimes represent informed conjecture.

The Commission cannot guarantee all information in the PPD is completely up-to-date or accurate. We try in good faith to provide credible and accurate information. To do this, we regularly revise, correct, and add information to individual prisoner records.

Q: How far back do PPD records go?

A: The PPD generally concentrates on persons imprisoned since the Communist Party-led crackdown against the June 1989 Chinese democracy protests. The PPD also contains information about some prisoners who were sentenced before June 1989. Records for Tibetan prisoners, for example, begin in September 1987.

Q: Does the CECC monitor user activity on the PPD?

A: The CECC neither asks for nor attempts to acquire information about a user UNLESS he or she registers for a PPD account (in order to be able to save queries). The PPD does not store a resident Internet cookie on a user's computer, and it does not store saved PPD queries on a user's computer.

Q: Can my activity on the PPD be monitored?

A: Computer operating systems and Internet browsers store information about user activity on the Internet. Furthermore, users in China should be aware that Chinese law requires Internet Service Providers and Internet cafe operators to maintain records of their customers' Internet usage, and provide this information to the police upon request.