Amnesty International Irish Section

Amnesty International today called on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to make it clear to the Chinese vice-premier, Mr. Li Lanqing, that there must be a measurable improvement in China's atrocious record on human rights, if it is serious about seeking Ireland's support for its membership of the WTO. This is particularly necessary as today the United Nations Commission on Human Rights failed to pass a resolution critical of the situation in China.

"Already the EU took the unprincipled stand of refusing to co-sponsor the resolution despite a serious deterioration in the human rights situation in China during the past year which was marked by wide-ranging suppression of peaceful dissent" said Mary Lawlor Director of Amnesty International, Irish Section. "Arbitrary detention, torture and ill- treatment of criminal suspects and prisoners and the extensive use of the Death Penalty were common practices."

In 1997, China signed two key international human rights treaties, but the new crackdown on dissent showed the gap between the government's assurances about its commitment to international human rights standards and the reality of its domestic policies.

The Chinese government's contempt for international standards on human rights, despite the proliferation of human rights dialogue between China and other countries, was also evident in the implementation of Chinese law.

"The EU continues to believe in the farcical dialogue of the deaf it has with China" said Mary Lawlor Director of Amnesty International, Irish Section. Amnesty International does not oppose dialogue but dialogue is a means to an end - concrete improvement in human rights - and it is corrupted when it becomes an end in itself.

Torture and ill-treatment are common in China. Criminal suspects are often beaten, kicked, hung by the arms, shackled in painful positions, deprived of food and sleep and given electric shocks. Those serving sentences in prisons or labour camps are also tortured by guards or other inmates acting on the instructions of officials.

In the most serious crackdown since 1989, the Chinese authorities in 1999 detained a broad range of people who peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of expression, association, or religion. These included members of the China Democratic Party such as Wang Youcai. Wang Youcai was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment in 1998 for "subverting State power". People pursuing concerns such as labour rights and the fight against corruption as well as members of ethnic and Christian groups and followers of the Falun Gong, have also been arbitrarily detained.

Amnesty International has a list of over two thousand members of the Falun Gong movement who have been detained - including three people who were studying here in Ireland. The Falun Gong, a spiritual movement which teaches a practice of meditation and breathing exercises, was banned by the Chinese government on 22 July 1999 as a "threat to social and political stability".

The family of 60-year-old Chen Zixiu, a Falun Gong follower, were asked to collect her body from a police station in Shandong province where she had been detained for four days in February. Her body was covered with bruises, the teeth were broken and there was blood coming out of her ears. She was arrested on suspicion of planning to go to Beijing to petition the authorities against the banning of the Falun Gong.

More people are executed each year in China than in the rest of the world put together. In 1998, Amnesty International recorded 2,700 death sentences and 1,769 confirmed executions; it believes these figures to be far below the real number. The law still permits execution for more than 60 crimes including many non-violent offences such as fraud, forgery and drug related offences. Death sentences are imposed following trial proceedings, which can only be described as summary.

Gross human rights violations continue in the Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions, where nationalist opponents and suspected sympathisers of the opposition continue to be the target of harsh repression. Political suspects are routinely denied their legal rights. They are held for months without charge, denied access to lawyers, tortured and summarily tried in secret, while families are denied information about their whereabouts or legal status.

In the Xinjiang and Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) thousands of Uighur political prisoners are imprisoned. Many have been executed after summary trials and there are reports of arbitrary killings by the security forces. Torture is routine and many Uighurs are arbitrarily detained merely on account of their suspected nationalist sympathies or for engaging in peaceful religious activities.

Rebiya Kadeer was sentenced to 8 years in March after a secret trial for "providing secret information to foreigners". She was detained in Urumqi while trying to keep an appointment with a group from the US Congressional Research Service. Rebiya is a well-known Uighur businesswoman and mother of ten who formed the "Thousand Mother's Movement" in XUAR.

In Tibet, hundreds of Tibetan political prisoners remain imprisoned. Many of them are monks and nuns jailed for peacefully expressing their views. Many are subjected to torture, ill-treatment, and harsh conditions of detention.