Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

March 4, 2002

China (Includes Hong Kong and Macau)

The Government's human rights record throughout the year remained poor and the Government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses. Authorities still were quick to suppress any person or group, whether religious, political, or social, that they perceived to be a threat to government power, or to national stability, and citizens who sought to express openly dissenting political and religious views continued to live in an environment filled with repression. Overall, government respect for religious freedom remained poor and crackdowns against unregistered groups [...] continued.

Arbitrary arrest and detention also remained serious problems. Because the Government tightly controls information, it is not possible accurately to determine the total number of persons subjected to new or continued arbitrary arrest or detention. According to international press reports, over 200,000 persons are serving sentences, not subject to judicial review, in reeducation-through-labor camps. Many thousands more remain incarcerated in prisons. The Government denied that it holds any political or religious prisoners, and asserted that authorities detained persons not for their political or religious views, but because they violated the law. However, the authorities continued to detain citizens for political and religious reasons. During the year, the Government used laws on subversion and endangering state security to threaten, arrest and imprison a wide range of political, religious, and labor activists and dissidents, including former Government officials, NGO organizers, activists for artistic freedom, and independent advocates for legal reform that directly and publicly opposed the Government and the CCP. After 2 years of intense repression marked by propaganda campaigns, beatings, and imprisonment, thousands of organizers and adherents of the banned Falun Gong (FLG) movement were in reeducation-through-labor camps or in prison, most without benefit of formal judicial process. Various sources reported that over 200 Falun Gong practitioners died in detention as a result of torture or mistreatment.



Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life

The official press reported a number of extrajudicial killings, but no nationwide statistics were available. During the year, deaths in custody due to police use of torture to coerce confessions from criminal suspects continued to be a problem. According to a number of credible sources, scores of FLG adherents died while in police custody (see Section 2.c.). FLG adherent Zhang Shengfan was dragged from his home by local authorities in Shuangcheng City, Heilongjiang province in June. Three days later, he was declared dead at a local hospital. His family was not allowed to view the body, order an autopsy, or bury his remains. Local officials disposed of the body in an undisclosed location. Reliable reports from Western journalists allege that local officials in Shandong's Weifang City were responsible for beating to death FLG adherents at the rate of about one per month.


b. Disappearance

There were no new reports of disappearances. However, the Government has not provided a comprehensive, credible accounting of all those missing or detained in connection with the suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits torture; however, police and other elements of the security apparatus employ torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. Human rights monitors reported a number of unconfirmed but credible cases of torture. The Prison Law prohibits prison guards extorting confessions by torture, insulting prisoners' dignity, and beating or encouraging others to beat prisoners. Senior officials acknowledge that torture and coerced confessions are chronic problems, but have not taken sufficient measures to end these practices. [...]

There were many reports of persons, especially FLG adherents, sentenced to mental hospitals for expressing either their political or religious beliefs.

There were reports during the year that police sometimes used excessive force to break up demonstrations. Police also beat persons being arrested and persons in detention. Eyewitnesses have reported frequent abuse of FLG protesters as they were being detained.

Conditions in penal institutions for both political prisoners and common criminals generally are harsh and frequently degrading. Forced labor is common. Conditions in administrative detention facilities (including reeducation-through-labor camps and custody and repatriation centers) are similar to those in prisons. Prisoners and detainees often are kept in overcrowded conditions with poor sanitation, and their food often is inadequate and of poor quality. [...]

Forced labor in prisons and reeducation-through-labor camps is common. At one camp in the western part of the country, inmates are forced to work up to 16 hours per day breaking rocks or making bricks, according to credible reports. There were several deaths from overwork, poor medical care, and beatings by guards in 2000.


d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention remain serious problems. The law permits the authorities in some circumstances to detain persons without arresting or charging them, and persons may be sentenced administratively to up to 3 years in reeducation-through-labor camps and other similar facilities without a trial. Because the Government tightly controls information, it is impossible to determine accurately the total number of persons subjected to new or continued arbitrary arrest or detention. Official government statistics report that in 1997 there were 230,000 persons in reeducation-through-labor camps. According to a March article by the official news agency, there are 300 reeducation-through-labor camps that have held over 3.5 million prisoners since 1957. It has been estimated that as many as 1.7 million persons per year were detained in a form of administrative detention known as custody and repatriation before 1996; the number of persons subject to this form of detention reportedly has grown since that time. According to reliable reports, the Government confined some FLG adherents, and some political, religious, and labor activists and dissidents to psychiatric hospitals; and has forced some to take drugs or submit to electric shock treatments. [...]

According to researchers, the country has 20 "ankang" institutions, directly administered by the Ministry of Public Security, in which dissidents and activists are housed with mentally ill patients. The regulations for committing a person into an ankang facility are not clear. Credible reports indicate a number of political or trade union dissidents, "underground" religious believers, and FLG adherents are incarcerated in such facilities.


Police sometimes detained relatives of dissidents (see Section 1.f.).

Persons critical of official corruption or malfeasance also frequently were threatened, detained, or imprisoned. [...]

Local authorities used the Government's anticult campaign to detain and arrest large numbers of religious practitioners. For example, in December 2000, four members of the Zhong Gong qigong group were charged by Nanjing authorities with "inciting subversion of the state's political power" and sentenced to between 2 and 41/2 years in prison. [...]


Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution states that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental rights to be enjoyed by all citizens; however, the Government restricts these rights in practice. During the year, the Government maintained tight restrictions on freedom of speech and the press. The Government interprets the Communist Party's "leading role"--as mandated in the preamble to the Constitution--as circumscribing these rights. The Government strictly regulates the establishment and management of publications. The Government does not permit citizens to publish or broadcast criticisms of senior leaders or opinions that directly challenge Communist Party rule. The Party and Government continue to control many--and, on occasion, all--print and broadcast media tightly, and use them to propagate the current ideological line. According to official statistics, in 1998 the country had 2,053 newspapers, 7,999 magazines and trade publications, and published 7.24 billion copies of books representing 7,999 titles. All media employees are under explicit, public orders to follow CCP directives, and "guide public opinion," as directed by political authorities. Both formal and informal guidelines continue to require journalists to avoid coverage of many politically sensitive topics. The State Security Law forbids journalists from divulging "state secrets." These public orders, guidelines, and statutes greatly restrict the freedom of broadcast journalists and newspapers to report the news, and lead to a high degree of self-censorship. [...]

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the Government severely restricts this right in practice. The Constitution stipulates that such activities may not challenge "Party leadership" or infringe upon the "interests of the State." Protests against the political system or national leaders are prohibited. Authorities deny permits and quickly move to suppress demonstrations involving expression of dissenting political views.

At times police used excessive force against demonstrators. Demonstrations with political or social themes were often broken up quickly and violently. The most widely publicized demonstrations in recent years were those of the FLG spiritual movement. For the past 3 years, the Government has waged a severe political, propaganda, and police campaign against the FLG movement. Since the Government banned the FLG in 1999, the mere belief in the discipline (and since January, even without any public manifestation of its tenets) has been sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment. In some cases, practitioners in custody have suffered torture and death. Several hundred practitioners have been tried and convicted of crimes--including that of "using a heretical cult to disturb social order." However, the great majority of practitioners have been punished without a trial. In the wake of a series of large protests on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the Government stepped up the use of the reeducation-through-labor system to sentence practitioners administratively to up to 3 years in detention.

Many thousands of FLG practitioners have been detained in reeducation-through-labor camps; many more have been confined to psychiatric hospitals. During the year, facilities were established specifically to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refuse to recant their belief voluntarily (see Section 2.c.).

The tactic used most frequently by the central government against FLG, however, has been to make local officials, family members, and employers of known practitioners responsible for preventing FLG activities by individuals. In many cases, practitioners are subject to close scrutiny by local security personnel and their personal mobility is tightly restricted, particularly on days when the Government believes public protests are likely. Directives to prevent FLG protests at all costs has resulted in many egregious abuses.


c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religious belief and the freedom not to believe; however, the Government seeks to restrict religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship and to control the growth and scope of the activity of religious groups. There are five officially recognized religions--Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism. For each faith, there is a government-affiliated association to monitor and supervise its activities. Membership in religions is growing rapidly; however, while the Government generally does not seek to suppress this growth outright, it tries to control and regulate religious groups to prevent the rise of groups or sources of authority outside the control of the Government and the Communist Party. The Criminal Law states that government officials who deprive citizens of religious freedom may, in serious cases, be sentenced to up to 2 years in prison. There are no known cases of persons being punished under this statute.

Overall, government respect for religious freedom remained poor and crackdowns against unregistered groups, including underground Protestant and Catholic groups, Muslim Uighurs, and Tibetan Buddhists continued. The Government intensified its repression of groups that it determined to be "cults," and of the FLG in particular. Various sources report that thousands of FLG adherents have been arrested, detained, and imprisoned, and that approximately 200 or more FLG adherents have died in detention since 1999; many of their bodies reportedly bore signs of severe beatings or torture or were cremated before relatives could examine them. The atmosphere created by the nationwide campaign against FLG had a spillover effect on unregistered churches, temples, and mosques in many parts of the country. Separately, under the guise of urban renewal and cracking down on unregistered places of worship, authorities in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province razed an unknown number of churches and temples in late 2000. However, official repression of underground Catholic and Protestant groups in Guangdong and Fujian provinces eased somewhat.


Offenses related to membership in unapproved religious groups are classified as crimes of disturbing the social order. According to the Law Yearbook of China, arrests for "Disturbing the Social Order" increased dramatically in 1999 over 1998. In 1998, 76,500 persons were arrested; in 1999, over 90,000 persons were arrested. Most experts agree the increase primarily was due to the Government's crackdown, begun in mid-1999, on qigong groups like the FLG, evangelical Christian groups, localized Buddhist groups such as the Society of Disciples (Mentu Hui) and the Guanyin Famin, Protestant house churches, and the underground Roman Catholic Church.


The Government continued its harsh and comprehensive campaign against the FLG during the year. Since the Government banned the FLG in 1999, the mere belief in the discipline (and since January, even without any public manifestation of its tenets) has been sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment. Although the vast majority of practitioners detained since 2000 were released, those identified by the Government as "core leaders" have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment. More than a dozen FLG members have been sentenced to prison for the crime of "endangering state security," but the great majority of FLG members convicted of crimes by courts since 1999 have been sentenced to prison for "organizing or using a sect to undermine the implementation of the law," a less serious offense. However, most practitioners have been punished administratively. Although firm numbers are impossible to obtain, many thousands of individuals are serving sentences in reeducation-through-labor camps. Other practitioners have been sent to facilities specifically established to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refuse to recant their belief voluntarily.

According to the FLG, hundreds of its practitioners have been confined to mental hospitals. Police often used excessive force when detaining peaceful FLG protesters, including some who were elderly or who were accompanied by small children. During the year, there were numerous credible reports of abuse and even killings of FLG practitioners by the police and other security personnel, including police involvement in beatings, detention under extremely harsh conditions, and torture (including by electric shock and by having hands and feet shackled and linked with crossed steel chains). Various sources report that since 1997 approximately 200 or more FLG adherents have died while in police custody (see Section 1.a.).


According to press reports, after the January 23 self-immolations, the Government launched a massive anti-FLG propaganda campaign and initiated a comprehensive effort to round up practitioners not already in custody, and sanctioned the use of high pressure indoctrination tactics against the group in an effort to force them to renounce the FLG. Neighborhood committees, state institutions (including universities), and companies reportedly were ordered to send all known FLG practitioners to intensive anti-FLG study sessions. Even practitioners who had not protested or made other public demonstrations of belief reportedly were forced to attend such classes. Those who refused to recant their beliefs after weeks of intensive anti-FLG instruction reportedly were sent to reeducation-through-labor camps, where in some cases, beatings and torture were used to force them to recant their beliefs; some of the most active FLG practitioners were sent directly to reeducation-through-labor camps.


Authorities also detained foreign practitioners. In November more than 30 foreigners and citizens resident abroad were detained in Beijing as they demonstrated in support of the FLG. They were expelled from the country; some credibly reported being mistreated while in custody. In November 2000, FLG practitioner and U.S. resident Teng Chunyan was tried on charges of providing national security information to foreigners, reportedly for providing information about the Government's crackdown on FLG. In December 2000, she was sentenced to 3 years of reeducation-through-labor. In November she recanted her allegiance to FLG on national television.


Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government restricts freedom of movement within the country and restricts the freedom to change one's workplace or residence. The Government's national household registration/identification card system, used to control and restrict the location of an individual's residence, is being liberalized and the ability of most citizens to move around the country to live and work continued to improve. However, the Government retained the ability to restrict freedom of movement through other mechanisms, and it increased restrictions during the year, especially before politically sensitive anniversaries and to forestall FLG demonstrations. The "floating population" of economic migrants leaving their home areas to seek work elsewhere in the country was estimated to be between 80 and 130 million. There also were a growing number of middle-class professionals attracted to large cities by hopes of better paying jobs in their fields. This itinerant population lacks permanent residence status, which is required for full access to social and educational services. Unless such persons obtain resident status, they generally must pay a premium for these services. However, some cities, such as Beijing, are offering some social services free of charge.

Prior to sensitive anniversaries, authorities in urban areas rounded up "undesirables," including the homeless, the unemployed, migrant workers, those without proper residence or work permits, petty criminals, prostitutes, and the mentally ill or persons with disabilities. These persons often were detained or expelled under custody and repatriation regulations or similar administrative regulations (see Sections 1.d. and 1.e.). There were reports of spot checks of identification documents, housing raids, and harassment of migrants at train and bus stations in Beijing during the year, particularly prior to the October 1 National holiday.

Dissidents reported that the authorities restricted their freedom of movement during politically sensitive periods or while foreign dignitaries visited the country.

Read the full human rights report online at