China Human Rights and Rule of Law Update - January 2008


Message From the Chairmen

Official Chinese statements express that the 2008 Olympic Summer Games may be a catalyst for lasting progress in areas important to the advancement of human rights and the rule of law. The Commission is concerned, however, about a steadily worsening human rights climate in the run up to the Summer Games. The articles in this newsletter substantiate that concern. The suppression of citizen activism in the name of preserving social stability remains a recurring theme. China's leaders choose to regard the active involvement of citizens in spotlighting social, political, environmental, and economic problems as a source of social unrest. The Commission recognizes such public-mindedness by citizens as a source of hope.

In increasingly sophisticated ways, China uses law to cloak strategies of control in the appearance of accommodation to the needs and aspirations of the Chinese people. And the plight of political prisoners in China continues. At the same time, China's citizens accept the risks of activism in increasing numbers—and suffer the consequences. Readers of this newsletter will find that there is considerable room for progress to be made if China is to live up to its international commitments to advance human rights and the rule of law. The Commission looks forward to detailing that record fully in the months ahead.



CECC Hearing on the Impact of the 2008 Olympic Games on Human Rights and Rule of Law in China

On February 27 at 2:30 PM, the CECC will hold a hearing on the impact of the 2008 Olympic summer games on human rights and rule of law. The CECC will send out additional information about the hearing as the date approaches.


Beijing Public Security Officials Formally Arrest Activist Hu Jia

Beijing public security officials formally arrested activist Hu Jia on charges of "inciting subversion of state power," according to a February 1 Radio Free Asia (RFA) article and a January 31 report in the Dui Hua Foundation's Human Rights Journal. Beijing public security officials detained Hu on December 27, 2007. On January 30, officials served Hu's family with an arrest notice and officials allowed Hu's father to visit him on January 31, according to the Dui Hua report and a February 3 RFA article.

"Green Olympics" Commitments Raise Concerns Over Transparency and Implementation

Beijing's bid in 2000 to host the 2008 Olympics promised a "Green Olympics" and the "greatest Olympic Games environmental legacy ever," yet concerns remain over Beijing's transparency and progress toward fulfilling the specific commitments underlying these promises, especially with regard to air quality. In its bid, Beijing promised to achieve objectives in the city's environmental master plan three years ahead of schedule with the completion of 20 major projects by 2007.

Party Congress Promotes Officials Linked to Harsh Policies Toward Tibetans

The 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which concluded on October 21, 2007, resulted in the promotions of two high-ranking Party officials, Zhou Yongkang and Liu Yandong, whose recent posts associate them with harsh policies that contribute to the repression of human rights such as the freedoms of religion and expression, and that undermine ethnic minority rights guaranteed by China's Constitution and system of regional ethnic autonomy.

Mixed Progress for Olympic Foreign Reporting Regulations One Year Later

A year after China's Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists During the Beijing Olympic Games and the Preparatory Period went into effect, a Beijing-based association of foreign journalists noted "improved overall reporting conditions for foreign journalists" but also "hot spots where journalists have experienced repeated violations" of the regulations, according to a January 1 Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) press release. The temporary regulations, effective from January 1, 2007 to October 17, 2008, give foreign journalists greater freedom to report in China, something the International Olympic Committee required China do in order to host the 2008 Olympics.

Politburo Study Session Calls for Uniting Religious Communities Around Party

At a Politburo study session held December 18, Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao reaffirmed the Party's policies for controlling religion and called on religious communities to play a "positive role" in promoting state goals and to "closely unite" around the Party. Hu's statements, which outlined direction for carrying forward Party policy on religion, also continued a trend in mentioning a "positive role" for religious communities at high levels of the Communist Party.

Central Propaganda Department Restricts Reporting on Air Quality, Food Safety

The Central Propaganda Department (CPD) of the Chinese Communist Party recently issued a notice to Chinese news editors restricting domestic coverage of topics relating to China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics, including air quality and food safety, according to a November 13 South China Morning Post (SCMP) report (subscription required).

Bishop Ordinations in 2007 Return to Holy See Involvement

The state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), which oversees China's registered Catholic church, ordained three bishops in late 2007 who had received approval from the Holy See, continuing a trend that was interrupted in 2006 by several bishop ordinations without Holy See approval.

Religious Repression in Xinjiang Continues During Ramadan

Local governments and educational institutions in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) continued in 2007 to impose religious restrictions on Muslims' observance of the holiday of Ramadan. Local governments and schools called for increased controls over religious activities during Ramadan, banning students from fasting, forbidding teachers and other state employees from engaging in religious activities, and requiring local restaurants to remain open during the holiday.

Tibetans Appeal Splittism, Espionage Sentences for Horse-Racing Festival Incident

Relatives of four Tibetan men -- two nomads, a monk, and a school teacher -- traveled from a Tibetan area of Sichuan province to the provincial capital, Chengdu City, to submit appeals to the Sichuan High People's Court following the men's sentencing on November 20, 2007, on splittism and espionage charges, according to a December 4 Radio Free Asia (RFA) report. The Ganzi (Kardze) Intermediate People's Court, located in Kangding (Dartsedo), the capital of Ganzi (Kardze) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), Sichuan province, sentenced the four men to prison terms of up to 10 years on charges of splittism, espionage, or both, for actions linked to an August 1 incident at a horse-racing festival in Litang (Lithang) county in Ganzi TAP, according to a Xinhua report published the same day as the sentencing.

Guo Feixiong Sentenced to Five Years for Illegal Business Operation

A Guangzhou court sentenced rights defender Yang Maodong (who uses the pen name Guo Feixiong) to five years in prison for "illegal operation of a business," a crime under Article 225 of China's Criminal Law, according to a November 16 Guangzhou Daily article (in Chinese, via the Web site of the Guangzhou Municipal People's Government). A November 14 Human Rights in China (HRIC) press release said that the Tianhe District People's Court, in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province, handed down the sentence on November 14 and also fined him 40,000 yuan (US$5,400).

Wang Dejia, Shi Weihan Released on Bail

State security officials in China released Internet essayist Wang Dejia (whose pen name is Jing Chu) on bail on January 12, the Chinese rights advocacy Web site Minsheng Guancha reported on the same day. The report said that Wang had been released from the Quanzhou County Detention Center in Guilin city, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Wang was originally detained in Quanzhou on December 13, 2007, on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power."

Slogans Take on Softer Tone, But Restrictive Population Policies Remain

China's National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) has altered its population planning slogans to reflect a less strident tone, according to an October 11 Xinhua article and a July 19 circular posted on the NPFPC Web site. The NPFPC eliminated older slogans like "Raise fewer babies but more piggies" and "One more baby means one more tomb" that drew controversy and created a "misunderstanding about the [population planning] policy and even tarnish[ed] the image of the government," according to the NPFPC, as cited in the Xinhua article.

SEPA Issues Measures on Open Environmental Information

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) issued measures that standardize the disclosure of environmental information by government agencies and enterprises, and provide the public with the right to request government environmental information, according to an April 25, 2007, SEPA press release. SEPA issued the Measures on Open Environmental Information (the Measures) on April 11, and was the first government agency to release its own implementing measures after the State Council issued the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Open Government Information on April 5.

Work-Study Programs Using Child Labor Continue in Xinjiang

Tibetan Nomad Calling for Dalai Lama's Return Convicted of Subversion and Splittism

A court in Sichuan province convicted Tibetan nomad Ronggyal Adrag on October 29, 2007, on charges of attempting to "subvert state power" and "split the country" by standing before a crowd gathered at a horse-racing festival and yelling slogans calling for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet and greater Tibetan freedoms, according to an October 30 Radio Free Asia (RFA) report. The judge presiding over the Ganzi (Kardze) Intermediate People's Court, located in Kangding (Dartsedo), the capital of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, said that sentencing would take place within six or seven days.

Official Defends Response to Forced Labor Scandal

Yu Youjun, the former provincial governor of Shanxi province, described as "unparalleled" the punishment of 95 local Communist Party officials for their role in a scandal involving the enslavement of more than 1,300 people, including kidnapped children and mentally challenged adults, discovered working in Shanxi brick kilns in May and June 2007. According to an October 22, 2007, China Daily article, "About 8 of the 95 officials were expelled from the Party and lost their jobs, 30 were dismissed from their posts and more than 20 officials were demoted."