Human rights in China
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Politics and government of
the People's Republic of China
The recognition and protection of human rights in the People's Republic of China (also known as China or The PRC) is a matter of dispute. PRC authorities, their supporters, and other proponents claim that existing policies and enforcement measures are sufficient to guard against human rights abuses, whereas other countries and their authorities (i.e. United States Department of State, Canada, India, etc.), alongside international Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (e.g., Human Rights in China, Amnesty International), and dissidents inside the country state that the authorities in Mainland China regularly sanction or create such abuses. In 2012, there were 12 outstanding requests for official visits to China by UN Special Rapporteurs on various human rights issues.
NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, alongside foreign governmental institutions such as the U.S. State Department, have accused the PRC of violating the freedoms of speech, movement, and religion of its citizens and of others within its jurisdiction. Authorities in the PRC believe in a "wider" definition of human rights, to include economic and social as well as political rights, all in relation to "national culture" and the level of development of the country. As per this definition, Authorities in the PRC claim that human rights are being improved, although this is not the definition used by most countries and organisations. Politicians of the PRC have repeatedly maintained that as per the PRC Constitution, the "Four Cardinal Principles" supersede citizenship rights, which PRC officials interpret as a legal basis to arrest people whom the government says seek to overthrow these principles. Chinese nationals whom authorities perceive to be in compliance with these principles are thus permitted by the PRC authorities to enjoy and exercise all the rights that come with citizenship of the PRC, provided they do not violate PRC laws in any other manner.
However, numerous human rights groups have pointed out which human rights issues they consider the government to be mishandling. The more publicised human rights issues in China are, or are related to, policies such as death penalty (capital punishment), the one-child policy, the political and legal status of Tibet, and neglect of freedom of press in Mainland China. One of the foremost areas of concern is the lack of legal recognition of human rights, the want of an independent judiciary, rule of law, and due process. Another area of concern is the severe lack of rights of labourers, closely related to the hukou system restricting migrant labourers' freedom of movement, the absence of independent labour unions, and allegations of discrimination against rural workers and ethnic minorities. Yet another area of concern is the lack of religious freedom, highlighted by the repression of the Christian, Tibetan Buddhist, and Falun Gong religious groups. Some Chinese activist groups are trying to expand these freedoms, including Human Rights in China, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, and the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.
Since the legal reforms of the late 1970s and 1980's, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has officially moved to embrace the language of the rule of law and to establish a modern court system. In the process, it has enacted thousands of new laws and regulations, and has begun training more legal professionals. The concept of "rule of law" has been majorly implemented by the constitution, and the ruling party embarked on campaigns to promote the idea that citizens had protection under the law. At the same time, however, a fundamental contradiction exists in the constitution itself wherein the Communist Party insists that its authority supersedes that of the law; the constitution thus enshrines rule of law, yet simultaneously stresses the principle of the "leadership of the Communist Party." The judiciary is not independent, and judges face political pressure; in many instances, private party committees dictate the outcome of cases. The judicial system is therefore subject to political dependence upon the CPC, which effectively controls the judiciary through its influence. This has produced a system that is often described as "rule by law", alluding to the CPC's power, as opposed to rule of law. Moreover, the legal system lacks protections for civil rights, and often fails to uphold due process.
Foreign experts estimate that in 2000, there were between 1.5-4 million people in prison in China. China does not allow outsiders to inspect the penal system.
Freedom of speech
Although the 1982 constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the Chinese government often uses the subversion of state power and the protection of state secret clauses in their law system to imprison those who are critical of the government. The government is also heavily involved in censoring news through the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China, even though no publicly known state law explicitly authorizes it or any other department of the PRC's government to engage in such activities.
The government promised to issue permits authorizing people to protest in specifically designated 'protest parks' during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but a majority of the applications were withdrawn, suspended, or vetoed, and the police detained some of the people who applied. References to certain controversial events and political movements as well as access to web pages considered by the PRC authorities to be 'dangerous' or 'threatening to state security' happen to be blocked on the internet in PRC-controlled China and content disputed by or critical of PRC authorities is absent from many publications, subject to the CPC's control within mainland China . Laws in the People's Republic of China forbid the advocacy of separation of any part of its claimed territory from PRC-controlled Mainland China, as well as public challenge to the CPC's authoritarian domination of the government of China. An unsanctioned protest during the Olympics by seven foreign activists at the China Nationalities Museum, protesting for a Free Tibet and blocking the entrance, was cleared and the protesters deported.
Foreign internet search engines including Microsoft Bing!, Yahoo!, Google Search China have come under criticism for aiding in these practices, including banning the word "democracy" from its chat rooms in China. Yahoo! in particular, stated that it will not protect the privacy and confidentiality of its Chinese customers from the authorities.
In 2005, reporter Shi Tao was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years for releasing an internal Communist Party document to an overseas Chinese democracy site after Yahoo! China provided his personal emails and IP addresses to the Chinese government. Skype president Josh Silverman said it was "common knowledge" that TOM had "established procedures to... block instant messages containing certain words deemed offensive by the Chinese authorities."
Freedom of the press
Critics also argue that the CPC has failed to live up to its promises about the freedom of the Mainland Chinese media. Freedom House ranked China "Not Free" in its annual press freedom survey. PRC journalist He Qinglian says that the PRC's media is controlled by directives from the Communist Party's propaganda department, and is subjected to intense monitoring alongside punishment for violators rather than pre-publication censorship. ITV News reporter John Ray was arrested while covering a "Free Tibet" protest. International media coverage of Tibetan protests only a few month before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 triggered a strong reaction inside China. Thus, Chinese media practitioners took the opportunity to argue with propaganda authorities for more media freedom: "If not even Chinese journalist are allowed to report about the problems in Tibet, how can foreign journalist know about the Chinese perspective about the events?" Foreign journalists also reported that their access to certain websites, including those of human rights organizations, was restricted. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge stated at the end of the 2008 Olympic Games that "The regulations might not be perfect but they are a sea-change compared to the situation before. We hope that they will continue". The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) issued a statement that "despite welcome progress in terms of accessibility and the number of press conferences within the Olympic facilities, the FCCC has been alarmed at the use of violence, intimidation and harassment outside. The club has confirmed more than 30 cases of reporting interference since the formal opening of the Olympic media centre on 25 July, and is checking at least 20 other reported incidents". Since the Chinese state continues to exert a considerable amount of control over media, public support for domestic reporting came as a surprise to many observers. Which media sources does the Chinese public perceive as credible and why? To what extent do Chinese citizens public believe the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party? Not much is know about the answers to these questions. So far, research on the media in China has focused on the changing relationship between media outlets and the state during the reform era. Little is known about how China's changing media environment has affected the persuasion of media audiences. Research on political trust reveals that exposure to the media correlates positively as well as negatively with support for the government, which has been interpreted as evidence that the Chinese public either believes or disbelieves propaganda transmitted to them through the news media. These contradictory results can be explained once we take into account that ordinary citizen do not consider all media sources to be equally credible, depending on the extent to which media outlets have undergone reform.
In 2012 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Chinese Government, to no avail, to lift restrictions on media access to the region to allow independent and impartial monitors to visit and assess conditions on the ground.
Freedom of the Internet
Freedom of movement
The Communist Party came to power in the late 1940s and instituted a command economy. In 1958, Mao set up a residency permit system defining where people could work, and classified an individual as a "rural" or "urban" worker. A worker seeking to move from the country to an urban area to take up non-agricultural work would have to apply through the relevant bureaucratic institutions. There is uncertainty, however, over how strictly the system has been enforced. People who worked outside the region in which they were registered would not qualify for grain rations, employer-provided housing, or health care. There were controls over education, employment, marriage and so on. One reason cited for instituting this system was to prevent the possible chaos caused by the predictable large-scale urbanization. As a part of the one country, two systems policy proposed by Deng Xiaoping and accepted by the British and Portuguese governments, the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau retained separate border control and immigration policies with the rest of the PRC. Chinese nationals had to gain permission from the government before travelling to Hong Kong or Macau, but this requirement was officially abolished for each SAR after its respective handover. Since then, restrictions imposed by the SAR governments have been the limiting factor on travel.
The Washington Times reported in 2000 that although migrant labourers play a major role in spreading wealth in Chinese villages, they are treated "like second-class citizens by a system so discriminatory that it has been likened to apartheid." Anita Chan also posits that China's household registration and temporary residence permit system has created a situation analogous to the passbook system in South Africa which was implemented to control the supply and actions of cheap labourers from underprivillaged ethnicities, as well as to control the quality and quantity of such labourers. In 2000, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has alleged that people of Han descent in Tibet have a far easier time acquiring the necessary permits to live in urban areas than ethnic Tibetans do.
Abolition of this policy was proposed in 11 provinces, mainly along the developed eastern coast. The law has already been changed such that migrant laborers no longer face summary arrest, after a widely publicised incident in 2003, when a university-educated migrant died in Guangdong province. The Beijing law lecturer who exposed the incident said it spelt the end of the hukou system: in most smaller cities, the system has been abandoned; it has "almost lost its function" in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Treatment of rural workers
In November 2005, Jiang Wenran, acting director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said this system was one of the most strictly enforced 'apartheid' structures in modern world history. He stated "Urban dwellers enjoy a range of social, economic and cultural benefits while peasants, the majority of the Chinese population, are treated as second-class citizens".
The discrimination enforced by the hukou system became particularly onerous in the 1980s after hundreds of millions of migrant workers were forced out of state corporations, co-operatives and other institutions. The system classifies workers as "urban" or "rural", and attempts by workers classified as "rural" to move to urban centers were tightly controlled by the Chinese bureaucracy, which enforced its control by denying access to essential goods and services such as grain rations, housing, and health care, and by regularly closing down migrant workers' private schools. The hukou system also enforced pass laws similar to those in South Africa, with "rural" workers requiring six passes to work in provinces other than their own, and periodic police raids which rounded up those without permits, placed them in detention centers, and deported them. As in South Africa, the restrictions placed on the mobility of migrant workers were pervasive, and transient workers were forced to live a precarious existence in company dormitories or shanty towns, and suffering abusive consequences. Anita Chan furthers that China's household registration and temporary residence permit system has created a situation analogous to the passbook system in apartheid South Africa, which were designed to regulate the supply of cheap labor.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security justified these practices on the grounds that they have purportedly assisted the police in tracking down criminals and maintaining public order, and provided demographic data for government planning and programs.
Freedom of association
China does not allow freedom of association in general, and a free choice of membership with trade unions and political parties in particular. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights articles 20 and 23, every worker has the right to join an association of their choosing, to have their interests represented against their employer, and to take collective action including the right to strike. In China, on a similar model to the Deutsche Arbeitsfront from 1934 to 1945 in Germany, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions has a monopoly on union activity: effectively a nationalised organisation. This violates International Labour Organisation Convention Numbers 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining. The leadership of the ACFTU is not freely elected by its members, and it is not independent from the state or employers.
Political parties in China are also effectively monopolised by the Communist Party of China. As such there is no possibility of genuine electoral competition at any level of government, nor within the Party itself. This violates the UDHR article 21(1) which states that "Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives."
During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), particularly the Destruction of Four Olds campaign, religious affairs of all types were persecuted and discouraged by Chairman Mao Tse–Tung's Government and ideological allies with many religious buildings looted and destroyed. Since then, there have been efforts to repair, reconstruct and protect historical and cultural religious sites. In the human rights report of 2005, the US department of state criticizes by saying that not enough has been done to repair or restore damaged and destroyed sites.
The 1982 Constitution provides its citizens the right to believe in any religion as well as the right to refrain from doing so."Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organization, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination."
The Chinese government tries to maintain tight control over all organized religion, including Christianity, so the only legal Christian groups (Three-Self Patriotic Movement and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association) are those under the Communist Party's control. The members of the illegal, underground Catholic church true to the Pope[dubious ] and members of Protestant "house churches" face prosecution from the PRC authorities 
In 2007, instead of being appointed by the Pope as his butler, the current "official" Catholic bishop of Beijing was elected to replace the deceased Fu Tieshan. According to Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church in particular is viewed as a foreign power in a situation somewhat analogous to that in Post-Reformation England, and so the official church in China is controlled by the state.
The government now controversially claims the power to somehow ensure that no new 'living Buddha' can be identified: the State Administration for Religious Affairs issued a 14-part regulation to diminish the influence of the Dalai Lama, who traditionally lived in Tibet but now resides in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, in the Republic of India, as a result of the PRC's control over the Tibetan region.The PRC's government declared that after 1 September 2007, "[no] living Buddha [may be reincarnated] without government approval, since the Qing dynasty, when the live Buddha system was established.". The PRC Government-appointed Panchen Lama is labelled a fake by those who regard the PRC's effort to control organised religion as contradictory to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other ethical principles. Examples of the political controls exercised in 1998 are:
- quotas on the number of monks to reduce the spiritual population
- forced denunciation of the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader
- unapproved monks' expulsion from monasteries
- forced recitation of patriotic scripts supporting China
- Restriction of religious study before age 18.
Monks celebrating the reception of the US Congressional Gold Medal  by the Dalai Lama have been detained by the PRC. In November 2012 the United Nations human rights chief urged China to address the allegations of rights violations in Tibet, which led to an alarming escalation of “desperate” forms of protest in the region, including self-immolations.
On 20 July 1999, the government banned Falun Gong and all unauthorised 'heterodox religions', and began a nationwide crackdown on the popular new religious movement following a demonstration by 10,000 practitioners outside the leadership enclave at Zhongnanhai on 25 April. Protests in Beijing were frequent for the first few years following the 1999 edict, though these protests have largely been eradicated. Practitioners have occasionally hacked into state television channels to broadcast pro-Falun Gong content. Outside mainland China, practitioners are actively appealing to the governments, media, and people of their respective countries about the situation in China.
According to Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ian Denis Johnson, the government mobilized every aspect of society, including the media apparatus, police force, army, education system, families and workplaces, against Falun Gong. An extra-constitutional body, the "6–10 Office" was created to do what Forbes describes as "overseeing" the terror campaign." The campaign was driven by large-scale propaganda through television, newspaper, radio and internet. Human Rights Watch noted that families and workplaces were urged to cooperate with the government, while practitioners themselves were subject to various coercive measures to have them recant their beliefs. Amnesty International raised particular concerns over reports of torture, illegal imprisonment including forced labor, and psychiatric abuses.
In March 2006, Falun Gong and The Epoch Times said that the Chinese government and its agencies, including the People's Liberation Army, were conducting "widespread and systematic organ harvesting of living practitioners" specifically at the Sujiatun Thrombosis Hospital in Shenyang according to two eye-witness accounts that practitioners detained in the hospital's basement were being tissue-typed, and killed to order. In July 2006, David Kilgour and David Matas, requested by a Falun Gong related group to investigate the allegations, published a report which they admitted the evidence was circumstantial, but which taken together supported the allegations that large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners were victims of systematic organ harvesting whilst still alive.
The Chinese government has refused to believe that its policies constitute any mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners, and a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman denounced the organ harvesting allegations as "absurd lies concocted by the Falun Gong cult followers". Dissident Harry Wu said the two Epoch Times witnesses were "not reliable and most probably they had fabricated the story"; he rejected the totality of the allegations after sending in investigators. A Congressional Research Service said that there was "insufficient evidence to support this specific allegation," without elaboration. David Ownby, a noted expert on Falun Gong, said "Organ harvesting is happening in China, but I see no evidence proving it is aimed particularly at Falun Gong practitioners." Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen said "Depending on who you believe, the Kilgour-Matas report is either compelling evidence that proves the claims about Falun Gong... or a collection of conjecture and inductive reasoning that fails to support its own conclusions".
In September 2012, a report published on the website of the US's House Committee on Foreign Affairs said: " Medical doctors outside China have confirmed that their patients have gone to China and received organs from Falun Gong practitioners".
The People's Republic of China is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but has not ratified it. All citizens of the People's Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 legally have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnicity, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status, or length of residence, except for persons deprived of political rights according to laws imposed by CPC regulations.
In Mao's China, the CPC openly repressed all opposing political groups. This behaviour is now reflected in the judicial system, and has evolved into the selective repression of small groups of people who overtly challenge the CPC's power or its so-called "people's democratic dictatorship". The most recent major movement advocating for political freedom was obliterated through the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the estimated death toll of which ranges from about 200 to 10,000 depending on sources. In November 1992, 192 number of Chinese political activists and democracy advocates submitted a petition to the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China to introduce political reforms. One of the six demands was the ratification of the Covenant. As a reaction to the petition, the Chinese authorities arrested Zhao Changqing, proponent of the petition, and are still holding a number of activists for attempted subversion.
In October 2008, the government denounced the European Parliament's decision to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to political prisoner Hu Jia, maintaining that it was "gross interference in China's domestic affairs" to give such an award to a "jailed criminal.. in disregard of our (the PRC's) repeated representations."
On 8 December 2008, two days before the release of Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo was arrested. He and 302 other Chinese citizens had signed Charter 08, a manifesto released on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 10 December.2009), written in the style of the Czechoslovakian Charter 77 calling for greater freedom of expression, human rights, and free elections. As of May 2009, the Charter has collected over 9,000 signatures from Chinese of various walks of life.
Although the Chinese government does not violate its people's privacy as much or as overtly as it used to, it still deems it necessary to keep tabs on what people say in public. Internet forums are strictly monitored, as is international postal mail (which sometimes is inexplicably "delayed", or simply "disappears") and e-mail.
Local officials are chosen by election, and even though non-Communist Party candidates are allowed to stand, those with dissident views can face arbitrary exclusion from the ballot, interference with campaigning, and even detention.
Freedom House rates China as a 6 (second lowest) in political freedoms. The organization has labelled the changes in China in 2011 as follows: "With a sensitive change of leadership approaching in 2012 and popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes occurring across the Middle East, the ruling Chinese Communist Party showed no signs of loosening its grip on power in 2011. Despite minor legal improvements regarding the death penalty and urban property confiscation, the government stalled or even reversed previous reforms related to the rule of law, while security forces resorted to extralegal forms of repression. Growing public frustration over corruption and injustice fueled tens of thousands of protests and several large outbursts of online criticism during the year. The party responded by committing more resources to internal security forces and intelligence agencies, engaging in the systematic enforced disappearance of dozens of human rights lawyers and bloggers, and enhancing controls over online social media."
China's birth control policy, known widely as the one-child policy, was implemented in 1979 by Chairman Mao Zedong's government to alleviate the overpopulation problem. Having more than one child is illegal and punishable by fines. Voice of America cites critics who argue that it contributes to forced abortions, human rights violations, female infanticide, abandonment and sex-selective abortions, believed to be relatively commonplace in some areas of the country. This is thought to have been a significant contribution to the gender imbalance in mainland China, where there is a 118:100 ratio of male to female children reported. Forced abortions and sterilizations have also been reported.
It has also been argued that the one-child policy is not effective enough to justify its costs, and that external factors caused the dramatic decrease in Chinese fertility rates to begin even before 1979. The policy seems to have had little impact on rural areas (home to about 80% of the population), where birth rates never dropped below 2.5 children per female. Nevertheless, the Chinese government and others estimate that at least 250 million births have been prevented by the policy.
In 2002, the policy was amended to allow ethnic minorities and Chinese living in rural areas to have more than one child. The policy was generally not enforced in rural areas of the country even before this amendment. It has also been relaxed in urban areas, allowing people to have two children.
Chinese state-run media reported on 3 June 2013 that the city of Wuhan is considering legislation that would fine women who have children out of wedlock or with men married to other women. The fine is considered "social compensation fees," and has been sharply criticized for potentially exacerbating the problem of abandoned children.
Executions (Death Penalty/Capital Punishment)
According to Amnesty International throughout the 1990s more people were executed or sentenced to death in China than in the rest of the world put together.
The death penalty in Mainland China is officially administered upon offenders of serious and violent crimes, such as aggravated murder, but China retains in law a number of nonviolent death penalty offences such as drug trafficking. The People's Republic of China administers more official Death penalties, though other countries (such as Iran or Singapore) have higher official execution rates. Reliable NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Right in China have informed the public that the total execution numbers, with unofficial death penalties included, greatly exceed officially recorded executions; in 2009, the Dui Hua Foundation estimated that 5,000 people were executed in China – far more than all other nations combined. The precise number of executions is regarded as a state secret.
PRC authorities have recently been pursuing measures to reduce the official number of crimes punishable by death and limit how much they officially utillise the death penalty. In 2011, the National People's Congress Standing Committee adopted an amendment to reduce the number of death penalty eligible crimes from 68 to 55. Later the same year, the Supreme People's Court ordered lower courts to suspend death sentences for two years and to "ensure that it only applies to a very small minority of criminals committing extremely serious crimes.”
The death penalty is one of the classical Five Punishments of The Chinese Dynasties. In Chinese philosophy, the death penalty was supported by the Legalists but its application was tempered by the Confucianists, who preferred rehabilitation over punishment, let alone capital punishment. In Communist philosophy, Vladimir Lenin advocated for the retention of the death penalty, whilst Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels claimed that the practice was "feudal" and a symbol of "capitalist oppression". Chairman Mao of the Communist Party of China and his government somewhat glorified, to an extent, the death penalty's place in the legal system, albeit whilst advocating that it be used for a limited number of counterrevolutionaries. The market reformer Deng Xiaoping after him stressed that the practice must not be abolished, and advocated its wider use against recidivists and corrupt officials. Leaders of The PRC's minor, non-communist parties have also advocated for greater use of the death penalty. Both Deng and Mao viewed the death penalty as having tremendous popular support, and portrayed the practice as a means "to assuage the people's anger".
The death penalty has widespread support in China, especially for violent crimes, and no group in government or civil society vocally advocates for its abolition. Surveys conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1995, for instance, found that 95 percent of the Chinese population supported the death penalty, and these results were mirrored in other studies. Polling conducted in 2007 in Beijing, Hunan and Guangdong found a more moderate 58 percent in favor of the death penalty, and further found that a majority (63.8 percent) believed that the government should release execution statistics to the public.
A total of 68 crimes are punishable by death, including non-violent, white-collar crimes such as embezzlement and tax fraud. Execution methods include lethal injections and shooting. The People's Armed Police carries out the executions, usually at 10 am.
Death sentences in post-Maoist mainland China can be politically or socially influenced. In 2003, a local court sentenced the leader of a triad society to a death sentence with two years of probation. However, the public opinion was that the sentence was too light. Under public pressure, the supreme court of Communist China took the case and retried the leader, resulting in a death sentence which was carried out immediately.
The execution protocol is defined on the criminal procedure law, under article 212:
- Before a people's court executes a death sentence, it shall notify the people's procuratorate at the same level to send personnel to supervise the execution.
- Death sentences shall be executed by means of shooting or injection.
- Death sentences may be executed at the execution ground or in designated places of custody.
- The judicial personnel directing the execution shall verify the identity of the criminal offender, ask him if he has any last words or letters, and then deliver him to the executioner for the death sentence. If, before the execution, it is found that there may be an error, the execution shall be suspended and the matter shall be reported to the Supreme People's Court for decision.
- Execution of death sentences shall be announced to the public, but shall not be held in public.
- The attending court clerk shall, after an execution, make a written record thereon. The people's court that caused the death sentence to be executed shall submit a report on the execution to the Supreme People's Court.
- The people's court that caused the death sentence to be executed shall, after the execution, notify the family of the criminal offender.
In some areas of China, there is no specific execution ground. A scout team chooses a place in advance to serve as the execution ground. In such case, the execution ground normally will have three perimeters: the innermost 50 meters is the responsibility of the execution team; the 200 meter radius from the center is the responsibility of the People's Armed Police; and the 2 km alert line is the responsibility of the local police. The public is generally not allowed to view the execution.
The role of the executioner was fulfilled in the past by the People's Armed Police. In recent times, the legal police force (Chinese: 法警; pinyin: fǎ jǐng) assumed this role.
China commonly employs to two methods of execution. Since 1949, the most common method has been execution by firing squad, which has been largely superseded by lethal injection, using the same three-drug cocktail pioneered by the United States, introduced in 1996. Execution vans are unique to China, however. Lethal injection is more commonly used for "economic crimes", such as corruption, while firing squads are used for more common crimes like murder. In 2010, Chinese authorities moved to have lethal injection become the dominant form of execution; in some provinces and municipalities, it is now the only legal form of capital punishment. The Dui Hua foundation notes that it is impossible to ascertain whether these guidelines are closely followed, as the method of execution is rarely specified in published reports.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have heavily criticised China's use of the death penalty for a variety of reasons, including its application for non-violent offences, allegations of the use of torture to extract confessions, legal proceedings that do not meet international standards, and the government's not publishing statistics on the death penalty. However, the vast majority of death sentences, as acknowledged by both the Chinese Supreme Court and the United States Department of State, are given for violent, nonpolitical crimes which would be considered serious in other countries.
The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong has accused Chinese hospitals of using the organs of executed prisoners for commercial transplantation. Under Chinese law, condemned prisoners must give written consent to become organ donors, but because of this and other legal restrictions an international black market in organs and cadavers from China has developed. In 2009, Chinese authorities acknowledged that two-thirds of organ transplants in the country could be traced back to executed prisoners and announced a crackdown on the practice.
At least four people have been considered wrongfully executed by PRC courts.
Wei Qingan (Chinese: 魏清安, ?-1984, 23 years old) was a Chinese citizen who was executed for the rape of Liu, a woman who had disappeared. The execution was carried out on 3 May 1984 by the Intermediate People's court. In the next month, Tian Yuxiu (田玉修) was arrested and admitted that he had committed the rape. Three years later, Wei was officially declared innocent.
Teng Xingshan (Chinese: 滕兴善, ?-1989) was a Chinese citizen who was executed for supposedly having raped, robbed and murdered Shi Xiaorong (石小荣), a woman who had disappeared. An old man found a dismembered body, and incompetent police forensics claimed to have matched the body to the photo of the missing Shi Xiaorong. The execution was carried out on 28 January 1989 by the Huaihua Intermediate People's court. In 1993, the previously missing woman returned to the village, saying she had been kidnapped to Shandong. The absolute innocence of the wrongfully executed Teng was not admitted until 2005.
Nie Shubin (Chinese: 聂树斌, 1974–1995) was a Chinese citizen who was executed for the rape and murder of Kang Juhua (康菊花), a woman in her thirties. The execution was carried out on 27 April 1995 by the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's court. In 2005, ten years after the execution, Wang Shujin (Chinese: 王书金) admitted to the police that, in fact, he had committed the murder.
Qoγsiletu (Chinese: 呼格吉勒图, 1977–1996) was an Inner Mongolian who was executed for the rape and murder of a young girl on 10 June 1996. On 5 December 2006, ten years after the execution, Zhao Zhihong (Chinese: 赵志红) wrote the Petition of my Death Penalty admitting that, in fact, he had committed the crime.
Although China outlawed torture in 1996, human rights groups say brutality and degradation are common in Chinese arbitrary detention centres which utillise Re-education through labour methods and CPC-operated black jails, which allegedly utillise brutal torture methods, although the Communist party and other authorities of the PRC strongly deny facillatating the operation of black jails whatsoever.
In May 2010, the PRC Authorities officially passed new regulations in an attempt to nullify evidence gathered through violence or intimidation in their official judicial procedures and to reduce the level of torture administered upon prisoners already in jails, although there isn't much that is known about how procedures may or may not have been modified in black jails, which are not officially part of the judicial system. The move came after a public outcry following the revelation that a farmer, convicted for murder based on his confession under torture, was in fact innocent. The case came to light only when his supposed victim turned up alive and the defendant had spent 10 whole years in prison. International human rights groups gave the change a cautious welcome.
Political abuse of psychiatry
In 2002, Human Rights Watch published the book Dangerous Minds: Political Psychiatry in China Today and its Origins in the Mao Era written by Robin Munro and based on the documents obtained by him. The British researcher Robin Munro, a sinologist who was writing his dissertation in London after a long sojourn in China, had travelled to China several times to survey libraries in provincial towns and had gathered a large amount of literature which bore the stamp ‘secret’ but at the same time was openly available.:242 This literature included even historical analyses going back to the days of the Cultural Revolution and concerned articles and reports on the number of people who were taken to mental hospitals because they complained of a series of issues.:242 It was found, according to Munro, that the involuntary confinement of religious groups, political dissidents, and whistleblowers had a lengthy history in China. The abuse had begun in the 1950s and 1960s, and had grown extremely prevalent throughout the Cultural Revolution.:242 During the period of the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976, it achieved its apogee, then under the reign of Mao Zedong and the Gang of Four, which established a very repressive and harsh regime. No deviance or opposition in thought or in practice was tolerated.
The documents told of a massive abuse of psychiatry for political purposes during the leadership of Mao Zedong, during which millions of people had been declared mentally sick.:242 In the 1980s, according to the official documents, there was political connotation to fifteen percent of all forensic psychiatric cases.:242 In the early 1990s, the numbers had dropped to five percent, but with beginning of the campaign against Falun Gong, the percentage had again increased quite rapidly.:242
Chinese official psychiatric literature testifies distinctly that the Communist Party's notion of ‘political dangerousness’ was long since institutionally engrafted in the diagnostic armory of China's psychiatry and included in the main concept of psychiatric dangerousness.:4
The People’s Republic of China is the only country which appears to abuse psychiatry for political purposes in a systematic way, and despite international criticism, this seems to be continuing. Political abuse of psychiatry in the People’s Republic of China is high on the agenda and has produced recurring disputes in the international psychiatric community. The abuses there appear to be even more widespread than in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and involve the incarceration of ‘petitioners’, human rights workers, trade union activists, followers of the Falun Gong movement, and people complaining against injustices by local authorities.
It also seemed that, China had hardly known high security forensic institutions until 1989.:243 However, since then, the Chinese authorities have constructed the entire network of special forensic mental hospitals called Ankang which in Chinese is for ‘Peace and Health.’:243 By that time, China had had 20 Ankang institutions with the staff employed by the Ministry of State Security.:243 The psychiatrists who worked there were wearing uniforms under their white coats.:243
The political abuse of psychiatry in China seems to take place only in the institutions under the authority of the police and the Ministry of State Security but not in those belonging to other governmental sectors.:243 Psychiatric care in China falls into four sectors that hardly connect up with each other.:243 These are Ankang institutions of the Ministry of State Security; those belonging to the police; those that fall under the authority of the Ministry of Social Affairs; those belonging to the Ministry of Health.:243 Both the sectors belonging to the police and the Ministry of State Security are the closed sectors, and, consequently, information hardly ever leaks out.:243 In the hospitals belonging to the Ministry of Health, psychiatrists do not contact with the Ankang institutions and had no idea of what occurred there, and could sincerely state that they were not informed of political abuse of psychiatry in China.:243
In China, the structure of forensic psychiatry was to a great extent identical to that in the USSR.:243 On its own, it is not so strange, since psychiatrists of the Moscow Serbsky Institute visited Beijing in 1957 to help their Chinese ‘brethren’, the same psychiatrists who promoted the system of political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union.:243 As a consequence, diagnostics were not much different than in the Soviet Union.:244 The only difference was that the Soviets preferred ‘sluggish schizophrenia’ as a diagnosis, and the Chinese generally cleaved to the diagnosis ‘paranoia’ or ‘paranoid schizophrenia’.:244 However, the results were the same: long hospitalization in a mental hospital, involuntary treatment with neuroleptics, torture, abuse, all aimed at breaking the victim’s will.:244
In accordance with Chinese law that contains the concept of “political harm to society” as legally dangerous mentally ill behavior, police take into mental hospitals “political maniacs,” defined as persons who write reactionary letters, make anti-government speeches, or “express opinions on important domestic and international affairs.” Psychiatrists are frequently caught involved in such cases, unable and unwilling to challenge the police, according to psychiatry professor at the Peking University Yu Xin. As Mr. Liu’s database suggests, today’s most frequent victims of psychiatric abuse are political dissidents, petitioners, and Falun Gong members. In the beginning of 2000s, Human Rights Watch accused China of locking up Falun Gong members and dissidents in a number of Chinese mental hospitals managed by the Public Security Bureau. Access to the hospitals was requested by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), but denied by China, and the controversy subsided.
The WPA attempted to confine the problem by presenting it as Falun Gong issue and, at the same time, make the impression that the members of the movement were likely not mentally sound, that it was a sect which likely brainwashed its members, etc.:245 There was even a diagnosis of ‘qigong syndrome’ which was used reflecting on the exercises practiced by Falun Gong.:245 It was the unfair game aiming to avoid the political abuse of psychiatry from dominating the WPA agenda.:245
In August 2002, the General Assembly was to take place during the next WPA World Congress in Yokohama.:247 The issue of Chinese political abuse of psychiatry had been placed as one of the final items on the agenda of the General Assembly.:251 When the issue was broached during the General Assembly, the exact nature of compromise came to light.:252 In order to investigate the political abuse of psychiatry, the WPA would send an investigative mission to China.:252 The visit was projected for the spring of 2003 in order to assure that one could present a report during the annual meeting of the British Royal College of Psychiatrists in June/July of that year and the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in May of the same year.:252 After the 2002 World Congress, the WPA Executive Committee’s half-hearted attitude in Yokohama came to light: it was an omen of a longstanding policy of diversion and postponement.:252 The 2003 investigative mission never took place, and when finally a visit to China did take place, this visit was more of scientific exchange.:252 In the meantime, the political abuse of psychiatry persisted unabatedly, nevertheless the WPA did not seem to care.:252
There are 55 official native ethnic minorities in China. Article 4 of the Chinese constitution states "All nationalities in the People's Republic of China are equal", and the government argues that it has made efforts to improve ethnic education and increased ethnic representation in local government.
Some policies cause reverse racism, where Han Chinese or even ethnic minorities from other regions are treated as second-class citizens in the ethnic region. In the same line, there are wide-ranging preferential policies (i.e. affirmative actions) in place to promote social and economic developments for ethnic minorities, including preferential employments, political appointments, and business loans. Universities typically have quota reserved for ethnic minorities despite having lower admission test scores. Ethnic minorities are also more exempt from the one-child policy which targets the Han Chinese.
Stern punishments towards independence-seeking demonstrators, rioters, or terrorists have led to mistreatment of the Tibetan and Uyghur minorities in Western China. The United States in 2007 refused to help repatriate five Chinese Uyghur Guantanamo Bay detainees because of the "past treatment of the Uigur minority". On the other hand, China has many border regions with large minority populations, including Guangxi with 16 million Zhuang people, and other concentrated Muslim populations such as the Hui people, with some even poorer than the Uyghurs, such as the Dongxiang, Bonan, and the Salar, among whom there have been "no reports of separatism, violence, or even Islamic radicalism". The fellow Muslim Kazakhs, who live with the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang area under similar laws and conditions, have not organized rebellions against the state or aligned themselves with Kazakhstan.
Tibetans who opposed the diversion of irrigation water by Chinese authorities to the China Gold International Resources mining operations were detained, tortured and murdered. Allegations of what the PRC officially labelled 'judicial mutilation' against Tibetans by the Dalai Lama's government, and the serfdom controversy have been cited by the PRC as reasons to interfere for what they claim is the welfare of Tibetans, although their claims of 'judicial mutilation' are controversial and subject to scepticism and dispute by foreign countries and international organisations. Conflicting reports about Tibetan human rights have evolved since then. The PRC purports that a Tibetan cultural revival since the 1950s, whereas the Dalai Lama says "whether intentionally or unintentionally, somewhere cultural genocide is taking place".
Following the Chinese economic reform, businesspeople from other parts of China have made many business trips to Tibet, although most do not stay in region. The New York Times has cited this ethnic diversity in Tibet as a cause of "ethnic tensions". It has also majorly disagreed with the PRC Authorities' promotion of home ownership in nomadic Tibetan societies. Western politicians often level the likely charge that the Tibetan languages are at risk of extinction in Tibet. However, there some positions, both in and outside China and Tibet, that would have those who agree with it point out that for an alleged vast majority of Tibetans, who live in rural areas, the Chinese language is merely introduced as a second language in secondary.
Economic and property rights
|This section requires expansion. (July 2010)|
According to the Der Spiegel magazine, despite the National People's Congress enacting a law in 2007 to protect private property with the exception of land, local Chinese authorities have used brutal means to expropriate property, in a bid to profit from the construction boom.
HIV/AIDS and rights on sexuality
Other human rights issues
Worker's rights and privacy are other contentious human rights issues in China. There have been several reports of core International Labor Organization conventions being denied to workers. One such report was released by the International Labor Rights Fund in October 2006 documenting minimum wage violations, long work hours, and inappropriate actions towards workers by management. Workers cannot form their own unions in the workplace, only being able to join State-sanctioned ones. The extent to which these organizations can fight for the rights of Chinese workers is disputed.
The issue of refugees from North Korea is a recurring one. It is official policy to repatriate them to North Korea, but the policy is not evenly enforced and a considerable number of them stay in the People's Republic (some move on to other countries). Though it is in contravention of international law to deport political refugees, as illegal immigrants their situation is precarious. Their rights are not always protected. Some of them are tricked into marriage or prostitution.
African students in China have complained about their treatment in China, that was largely ignored until 1988-9, when "students rose up in protest against what they called 'Chinese apartheid'". African officials took notice of the issue, and the Organization of African Unity issued an official protest. The organization's chairman, Mali's president Moussa Traoré, went on a fact-finding mission to China. According to a Guardian 1989 Third World Report titled "Chinese apartheid" threatens links with Africa, these practices could threaten Peking's entire relationship with the continent."
Position of the PRC government
The Government of the People's Republic of China has argued that its concept of "Asian values" is that the "welfare" of the collective should always be put ahead of the rights of any individual whenever conflicts between these arise. It claims that there is a responsibility of the government to design, implement and enforce what it calls a 'socialist harmonious society' and a People's Dictatorship
The Communist Party of China and its affiliates make the claim that in some cases it is necessary to force individuals to make sacrifices in their rights for what the Government and ruling party perceive as the wider, allegedly more important requirements of their society. It claims that a strong, powerful, authoritarian government is required in order to regulate what they have labelled as the 'potentially conflicting interests of the public'. PRC official statements have argued that their principle of a 'People's democratic dictatorship' is, in the CPC's opinion, an apt measure to enforce the compromises they deem necessary to counter these conflicting interests. People with pro-CPC perspectives have expressed their highly controversial and internationally disputed belief that Governments with constitutionally determined and restricted authority who grant their citizens the degree of freedom and liberty present in most free nations would, in their opinion, fail to take on such a responsibility, although such an occurrence has failed to occur at a large scale in democracies (e.g. Canada, the Republic of India, the United Kingdom, etc.) and international organisations such as the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation generally support democracy, whilst criticising authoritarian perspectives, like that of the PRC, and totalitarian perspectives like that of North Korea, a somewhat major ally of the PRC.
Western human rights
Pro-CPC perspectives point towards an alleged rapid deterioration in Western societies, claiming that there has been an increase in geographic, religious and racial segregation; rising crime rates; family breakdown; industrial action; vandalism; and political extremism within Western societies, although western-centred groups such as the European Union and the United Nations claim, and appear, to be stopping these types of human rights violations, save for a few violations committed by some western governments (e.g. the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme).The PRC holds the opinion, though, that many alleged negatives about democratic society are somehow a direct result of an excess of individual freedom, saying that “Too much freedom is dangerous.” The PRC Authorities believe that these actions in Western Nations are all violations of human rights. They say that these should be taken into account when assessing a country's human right records. The PRC Authorities have on occasion criticised the United States policies, including and especially, albeit not limited to the so-called 'human rights reports' published by its State Department and other related authorities, officially citing the now widespread opinion the United States alongside the United Kingdom has also violated human rights laws, for example during the invasion of Iraq and the CIA's black sites, used allegedly for extrajudicial detention as well as its highly criticised extraordinary rendition programmes, whereby it allegedly transfers criminals from foreign territory to nations where they could be tortured, although the US government has denied facillatating any of these human rights violations, and British authorities have denied helping them. They respond to CPC's accusations by reminding them that PRC administrative groups have been accused of operating labour camps that violate human rights laws, although often sanctioned by official PRC laws and the Communist Party of China strongly denies operating any labour camps or jails that violate the PRC's official laws, and counters that the NSA has been known to engage in warrantless phone hacking and wiretaping in the US and upon US citizens in other places.
Other than that, PRC government repeats the often ambiguously and confusingly stated opinion that human rights should encompass what its officials have labelled as 'economic standards of living and measures of health and economic prosperity'. On cultural grounds they insist that as the economic, cultural and political situations, as they perceive them, differ substantially between countries; a universal 'one-size-fits-all' definition of human rights literally cannot apply internationally, as per the CPC and other government officials in Mainland China, although this does arguably contradict their accusations that the US has violated human rights laws as their claims are based on the international definition(s) applied by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), such as Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders; the PRC hasn't payed as much attention to synchronising this with their claims that the Western definition of human rights leads to 'geographic, religious and racial segregation; rising crime rates; family breakdown; industrial action; vandalism; and political extremism' either.
In March 2003, an amendment was officially made to the official Constitution of the People's Republic of China, officially yet ambiguously stating that "The State respects and preserves human rights." In addition, China was dropped from a list of top 10 human rights violators in the annual human rights report released by the U.S. State Department in 2008, while the report indicated that there were still widespread human rights-related issues in the PRC.
Since 1988, the Chinese government reportedly began direct village elections to help maintain social and political order whilst facing rapid economic change. Elections now occur in "about 650,000 villages across China, reaching 75% of the nation's 1.3 billion people," according to the Carter Center. In 2008, Shenzhen –which enjoys the highest per capita GDP in China– was selected for experimentation, and over 70% of the government officials on the district level are to be directly elected. However, in keeping with Communist Party philosophy, candidates must be selected from a pre-approved list.
- Human rights in Hong Kong
- Human rights in Macau
- Human rights in Tibet
- Human rights in Taiwan
- Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
- Ecological migration
- Empowerment and Rights Institute
- The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China
- Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China
- Human Rights in China (organization)
- Tangshan Protest
- Re-education through labor
- Charter 08
- Black jails
- Open Constitution Initiative
- Yan Xiaoling - Fan Yanqiong Case
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