China Human Rights and Rule of Law Update - No. 5 - June 4, 2010


Statement of the Chairman and Cochairman on the Twenty-first Anniversary of the Suppression of the Tiananmen Square Democracy Protests

Twenty-one years ago, as students, government employees, journalists, workers, police, and other citizens calling for democratic reform gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and in over 100 other Chinese cities, thousands of armed forces moved into Beijing. Training its firepower directly onto crowds around Tiananmen Square, the People’s Liberation Army killed or injured thousands of unarmed civilians. We express our sympathy to the relatives and friends of those killed on that day, and we stand with those who were unjustly wounded, detained, or imprisoned and with those who continue to suffer today.

We call on the Chinese government to end its harassment and detention of and its discrimination against those who were involved in the 1989 protests, not only in Beijing, but in other parts of China where protests took place, and to end its harassment, detention and imprisonment of those who continue to advocate peacefully for political reform. We call on the Chinese government to permit Tiananmen protest participants who escaped to or who are living in exile in the United States and other countries, or who reside outside of China because they have been ‘blacklisted’ in China as a result of their peaceful participation in democracy protests, to return home to China, without risk of retribution or repercussion.

Today, we honor the memory and courage of those who were injured, ill-treated or who lost their lives in the 1989 protests. Those in China who demand a full and impartial investigation into and accounting of the events surrounding June 4, 1989 and those who continue to advocate peacefully for democratic reform deserve our unconditional support. 


Chinese Human Rights Defender Gao Zhisheng Disappears Again

Prominent Chinese human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, who in late March 2010 resurfaced after having disappeared for more than a year, has again gone missing. The latest disappearance comes only a month after Gao reappeared in public following his nearly 14 months in what experts on the case describe as official custody. In late March and early April, Gao made contact with friends and family and gave several interviews, during which he reportedly appeared to be under surveillance. Multiple international news outlets now have reported that Gao failed to return to Beijing after visiting with family in western China in mid-April, and has again disappeared.

National People's Congress Standing Committee Issues Revised State Secrets Law

In late April 2010, the National People's Congress Standing Committee issued the revised Law on the Protection of State Secrets which takes effect in October. The revised law maintains the vague and broad definition of state secrets under the existing law that has made it susceptible to abuse by officials. It remains to be seen whether the revised law will lead to less arbitrary determinations of state secrets and whether Internet and other public information network providers will be required to do more to locate and remove state secrets.

Hong Kong Government Releases Proposals for Constitutional Reform

On April 14, 2010, the Hong Kong government released its Package of Proposals for the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2012. The package of proposals increases the membership of the Legislative Council and of the committee that selects the chief executive. However, the proposals reflect limitations imposed by China in a 2007 decision on constitutional reform.

Environmental Activist Wu Lihong Released, Alleges Abuse

Wu Lihong, a long-time environmental activist, was released from prison in Jiangsu province in April 2010 after serving a three-year sentence for fraud and extortion. Prior to his incarceration, Wu had spent years documenting pollution in the Lake Tai area of Jiangsu province. His environmental activism had made him the target of harassment over many years, but also reportedly resulted in heightened regulatory scrutiny of polluting enterprises. Wu claims that he is innocent of all charges, maintains that his confession was coerced, and has alleged mistreatment in prison. Wu's two appeals in Jiangsu courts were unsuccessful but he plans to file another appeal with the Supreme People's Court in order to challenge the original verdict in his case, to obtain compensation, and to set in motion an investigation into his allegations of mistreatment.

Xinjiang Authorities Tighten Controls Over Muslim Women

The Communist Party-controlled women's federation in the far western region of Xinjiang has strengthened efforts in the past year to control the religious practices of Muslim women. The Federation has carried out activities to regulate Muslim women religious specialists and to urge women to remove veils and face coverings. The Federation reported carrying out one local campaign in coordination with government offices, while a separate Communist Party office in another locality reported it would increase monitoring of Muslim women religious specialists. The restrictions on the women's religious freedom come as authorities have instituted broader campaigns targeting "religious extremism" and other perceived threats to the region's stability.

Hukou Reform Experiment Begins in Guangzhou

China's hukou (household registration) system imposes strict limits on where Chinese citizens may obtain legal residence. Limited reforms, however, are currently taking place in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province. Guangzhou's Public Security Bureau has directed various levels of city officials, starting in May 2010, to begin implementing a hukou reform experiment, originally proposed last summer, to phase out the rural and non-rural hukou distinctions over the next five years. In addition, the mayor of another major city, Chongqing, announced on May 5 that hukou reform will be among his top priorities.

Communist Party Controls Media Coverage of Yushu Earthquake

Communist Party officials reportedly banned journalists from outside Qinghai province from covering the large earthquake that struck the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on April 14, 2010, although many media appeared to ignore the ban. In addition, a top Party official told Chinese media to propagate several themes in their reporting, including the government's response to the disaster, the "good(ness)" of the Communist Party, and ethnic groups "uniting" in disaster relief. In keeping with the Chinese government's response to other recent disasters, authorities have sought to establish the official narrative through faster reporting that follows the Party line while censoring other sources of information that may be critical of the government's response.

Shenzhen Expands Measures Against "Abnormal Petitioning"

On April 15, 2010, public security authorities in the city of Shenzhen issued an announcement introducing a new policy restricting citizens from obtaining local residence permits if they have engaged in activities specified in the announcement including "abnormal petitioning." The directive follows a joint circular issued in November 2009 in Shenzhen city outlining penalties, including reeducation through labor (RTL), for citizens accused of 14 different types of "abnormal petitioning." Various other local governments have issued circulars similar to Shenzhen's that make "abnormal petitioning" subject to punishment. Several citizens in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region reportedly have been sent to reeducation through labor centers for "abnormal petitioning."

New Measures Regulate Financial Affairs of Venues for Religious Activities

New measures have entered into force on a trial basis in China that regulate the financial affairs of sites of religious activity. While stipulating more state oversight for the religious venues, the measures also provide some protection for the venues' property and income. Authorities described issuing the measures to standardize religious venues' management of finances and to address issues such as embezzlement and illegal property confiscation. The new measures apply only to religious venues registered with the government, leaving unregistered venues both outside this system of oversight and outside the limited protections afforded by the measures. The new measures follow other legal measures in China that also regulate religion, subjecting registered religious communities and venues to a system of tight state control but also affording them a degree of state protection.

Urumqi and Xinjiang Authorities Increase Oversight of Migrants, Rental Housing

Authorities in the far western region of Xinjiang have stepped up monitoring of migrants in the past year, following demonstrations and rioting in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in July 2009. Some of the measures, especially controls over rental units in Urumqi that house migrants, appear to target Uyghurs who have migrated to the city from other parts of Xinjiang. Authorities allege that Uyghur migrants who were involved in events in July had lived in Urumqi in unregulated rental housing. Urumqi authorities passed a formal regulation in April to regulate rental housing. Other recent steps to regulate migrants in Xinjiang appear to apply to all migrants in the region, including migrants to Xinjiang from other parts of China.