U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China: Human Rights Conditions in China Have Not Improved Overall in the Past Year
In the recently published U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2003 annual report, the commission concluded that human rights conditions in China have not improved overall in the past year. "The Chinese government continues to violate China's own constitution and laws and international norms and standards protecting human rights." The commission recognizes "the complexity of the obstacles the Chinese people face in their continuing effort to build an accountable government that respects basic human rights and freedoms."
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by Congress in October, 2000, with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China. It consists of nine Senators, nine members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President.
In the 2003 annual report, the commission pointed out "Chinese citizens are detained and imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and belief. Law enforcement authorities routinely ignore Chinese domestic law, or exploit loopholes in the law, to detain suspects and defendants for periods greater than Chinese law or international human rights norms and standards permit." "The judiciary continues to be plagued by complex and interrelated problems, including a shortage of qualified judges, pervasive corruption, and significant limits on independence."
The report also said "Government authorities continue to repress spiritual groups, including the Falun Gong spiritual movement, chiefly through the use of anti-cult laws. Chinese citizens do not enjoy freedom of speech or freedom of the press. The Chinese government suppresses freedom of expression in a manner that directly contravenes not only international human rights norms and standards, but also China's own constitution. Some individuals and groups that cannot obtain government authorization manage to publish on a small scale, but only by employing methods that risk administrative and criminal punishment."
The Commission made recommendations to the U.S. Congress and President, which includes the following:
Human Rights for the Chinese People
The Chinese government made significant and far-reaching commitments on human rights matters during the December 2002 U.S.-China human rights dialogue. The President and the Congress should increase diplomatic efforts to hold the Chinese government to these commitments, particularly the release of those arbitrarily detained, and the unconditional invitations to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
U.S. government efforts to ensure that prison labor-made goods do not enter the United States have been hampered by a general lack of information and cooperation from the Chinese government. The President should direct that the Task Force on Prohibition of Importation of Products of Forced or Prison Labor from the People's Republic of China (created by Title V of P.L. 106, V286) develop a database of known Chinese prison factories to be used to bar the entry of goods produced in whole or part in those facilities. The database should also be used to develop lists of Chinese exporters handling goods from these prison manufacturing facilities.
Religious Freedom for China's Faithful
The freedom to practice one's religious faith is an essential right. The President and the Congress should urge the Chinese government to reschedule without restrictions previously-promised visits to China by the U.S. International Commission on Religious Freedom and the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance.
China's officially sanctioned religious associations unfairly restrict the ability of Chinese believers to practice their religions freely, and many believers have been imprisoned for practicing religion outside the government-controlled system. The Congress and the President should press the Chinese government to permit free religious practice outside these official religious associations and release all those imprisoned for their religious beliefs.
Free Flow of Information for China's Citizens
The Chinese government exploits administrative restraints to chill free expression and control the media. The President and the Congress should urge the Chinese government to eliminate these restraints on publishing.
China's government continues to prevent its citizens from accessing news from sources it does not control, particularly from Chinese language sources. The President and the Congress should urge Chinese authorities to cease detaining journalists and writers, to stop blocking news broadcasts and Web sites, and to grant journalist visas and full accreditation to at least two native Mandarin speaking reporters from Voice of America's Chinese Branch. The Congress should fund programs to develop technologies to enable Internet users in China to access news, education, government, and human rights Web sites that China's government currently blocks.
Rule of Law and Civil Society for China's Citizens
A vibrant civil society and the rule of law help a country develop politically, economically, socially, and culturally. The President should request, and the Congress should provide, significant additional funds to support U.S. government and U.S. NGO programs working to build the institutions of civil society and rule of law in China.
As the overall U.S. government effort supporting rule of law programs increases, certain small-scale U.S. programs will have an impact beyond their size and funding. The President and the Congress should augment existing U.S. programs by making it a priority to create a permanent Resident Legal Advisor position at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and to increase funding for the Rule of Law Small Grants Program.
(Original annual report is available at http://www.cecc.gov/pages/annualRpt/annRpt2003.php)