China Human Rights and Rule of Law Update No. 2 - December 23, 2013

Roundtable: China’s Treatment of Foreign Journalists

On December 11, 2013, the Commission held a roundtable on “China’s Treatment of Foreign Journalists.” Panelists included Edward Wong, Correspondent, The New York Times, Beijing Bureau; Hannah Beech, East Asia Correspondent and China Bureau Chief, TIME; Bob Dietz, Asia Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists; and Sarah Cook, Senior Research Analyst for East Asia, Freedom House. Senator Sherrod Brown, Commission Chairman, opened the discussion. Freelance journalist Paul Mooney submitted a statement for the record. Panelists’ written statements and a video recording of the roundtable are available at:

Roundtable: Corruption in China Today: Consequences for Governance, Human Rights, and Commercial Rule of Law

On November 21, 2013, the Commission held a roundtable on “Corruption in China Today: Consequences for Governance, Human Rights, and Commercial Rule of Law.” Panelists included Joseph Fewsmith, Professor of International Relations and Political Science, Boston University; Li Xiaorong, Independent Scholar; Andrew Wedeman, Professor, Department of Political Science, Georgia State University; and Daniel Chow, Professor of International Law, Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law. Panelists’ written statements and a video recording of the roundtable are available at:


Detention of Labor Representative Highlights Challenges for Collective Bargaining in China

Authorities in Shenzhen city, Guangdong province, detained migrant worker and labor representative Wu Guijun in May 2013 reportedly for participating in a peaceful labor protest. Prior to his detention, Wu was one of seven elected labor representatives involved in collective bargaining with his employer. Labor advocates have condemned Wu’s detention and expressed concern that he has been held for an extended period of time without being formally indicted.  Wu’s case illustrates the challenges Chinese workers face engaging in collective bargaining to resolve workplace grievances.

Chinese Communist Party Announces Revision to Population Planning Policy

In mid-November 2013, Chinese state media announced a proposed revision to the nation’s population planning policy as part of a larger package of reforms resulting from the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. The proposed population planning-related change provides a new exception to the current one-child rule, allowing couples to bear a second child if one of the parents is an only child. It remains unclear when eligible couples will be permitted to begin applying for a second child, as local authorities must first amend applicable local regulations. Central authorities continue to reiterate that the basic nationwide population planning policy will remain in place, reaffirming the government’s control over citizens’ reproductive decisions for the foreseeable future.

Gansu Teenager Detained Under New Rules on Online Rumors

In early September 2013, public security authorities in Gansu province criminally detained a teenager for allegedly “seriously disrupting social order” by posting comments about a local death online. The teenager, surnamed Yang, was reportedly one of the first suspects detained under controversial “online rumor” rules issued by China’s highest court and highest procuratorate in early September 2013. Internet users can now face up to three years’ imprisonment if officials deem the content users post to be “defamatory” and that content is reposted 500 times or is viewed 5,000 times. While authorities later downgraded Yang’s criminal detention and released him after an administrative detention, the case garnered widespread attention and contributed to a backlash against the rules to control Internet comments.

Combating Corruption in China: Advances and Problems and Suppression of Advocates

Chinese leaders and citizens continue to express concern about corruption and President Xi Jinping has linked trust in the Chinese Communist Party to its ability to tackle corruption. Since China’s 18th Party Congress, Party and government authorities have initiated an anticorruption campaign, issued numerous measures to combat corruption, and continued to strengthen legal liabilities for transgressions. There are, however, limits to the most recent wave of anticorruption efforts, protections for whistleblowers remain insufficient, and authorities have cracked down on independent and citizen-led efforts to reduce corruption and promote transparency.

Biru Villagers Respond With Protests to Chinese Flags, Security, Detentions

According to news media and advocacy group reports, beginning in late September 2013, security operations involving substantial numbers of People’s Armed Police (PAP) arriving in Biru (Driru) county, Naqu (Nagchu) prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) reportedly resulted in PAP beating, detaining, and firing on unarmed Tibetans protesters. The sequence of events began with the arrival of government officials and staff in rural areas of Biru and with demands that villagers show patriotism toward China by displaying China’s national flag above their homes. Biru was the residence of four of the TAR’s eight reported self-immolators.

Download full report as PDF here.


Officials Tightly Control the Narrative Surrounding Tiananmen Square Vehicle Crash

In the wake of an SUV crash at Tiananmen Square in Beijing municipality on the afternoon of October 28, 2013, Chinese officials moved quickly to suppress news and debate about the incident by foreign media and Chinese Internet users, as well as promote an official narrative that emphasized themes of terrorism and religious extremism among Uyghurs. On October 28, an SUV crashed into a guardrail next to Tiananmen Square after plowing through a crowd of people, killing 2 people and injuring 40. The crash and subsequent fire also killed the occupants of the SUV, reported by Chinese state media to be Usmen Hasan, his mother Kuwanhan Reyim, and his wife Gulkiz Gini.

Chinese Authorities Release Journalist and Democracy Advocate Shi Tao Early

In August 2013, Chinese authorities released journalist and democracy advocate Shi Tao ahead of his expected release date. International reports did not mention an explanation, although one report noted that Shi was feeling well, indicating he was not likely released for medical reasons.  International human rights organizations applauded Shi’s release, but some caution it does not signify a shift in freedom of expression in China or a change in the treatment of free speech defenders. Shi’s controversial case symbolizes the challenges rights advocates face and illustrates the lack of transparency within China's justice system.