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Letter from Human Rights Watch to President Bush

On his upcoming visit to China

November 16, 2005  
 
The Honorable George W. Bush  
The White House  
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.  
Washington, DC 20500  
 
Re: Your Trip to China November 19-20,2005  
 
Dear Mr. President:  
 
We write to urge that during your visit to China on November 19-20, 2005, you take up China’s dismal human rights record in all your meetings and public appearances. We appreciate the statements you made today in Tokyo about the need for China to allow more political freedoms and to increase political openness and the pace of reform. It is important that you place these issues at the top of the agenda during your meetings with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

" The human rights situation in China continues to be dire and, in many respects, has worsened in recent months, with crackdowns on dissidents, human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists. While there had been high expectations for the administration of President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, most Chinese have been disappointed with his lack of action on human rights. "
Brad Adams, Asia Director for Human Rights Watch
  

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We appreciate the attention your administration has given to human rights issues such as religious freedom and the release of political prisoners in China. However, we are concerned that the human rights situation has fallen on the list of priorities in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship in recent years. We hope that your statements in Tokyo reflect a considered decision to refocus the relationship with China on human rights and pluralism.  
 
The human rights situation in China continues to be dire and, in many respects, has worsened in recent months, with crackdowns on dissidents, human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists. While there had been high expectations for the administration of President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, most Chinese have been disappointed with his lack of action on human rights. We urge you to ask President Hu and Prime Minister Wen what their specific commitments to human rights are and how and when they will be implemented.  
 
Across China today, human rights abuses are fuelling rising social unrest. Indeed, China’s stability in the 21st century, and the role it plays in the international community, will depend in great measure on the extent to which it gives its people lawful, peaceful democratic outlets to express their opinions, pursue their aims, and create public accountability. Without the rule of law based on recognized human rights principles, even China’s economic progress will ultimately be fragile.  
 
You have made democratization one of the foreign policy priorities of your presidency. While there have been some developments in village elections––punctuated by attacks on activists who threaten local communist party power bases (for example, when activist Lu Banglie was beaten in front of an international journalist on October 8)––there is no sign that the Chinese leadership is even considering national elections. While we do not suggest that elections can be organized overnight, there is no reason that China cannot begin planning for national elections. This is a subject that is almost never brought up by international leaders in face-to-face talks with the Chinese leadership. Yet no serious explanation has even been offered why China should be a singular exception to this most basic of principles.  
 
The right to take part in the conduct of public affairs is widely recognized in international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. All these instruments make it clear that citizens have the right to vote and to be elected by universal and equal suffrage. As you said in your speech in Japan, this is not a western idea, it is universal, as demonstrated in the many democracies of Asia. We see no reason why more than one billion Chinese citizens should not have the elemental right to choose their leaders. This trip would be a good time to end the international silence on this subject.  
 
This is a particularly important time to raise this subject, as last month the Chinese government issued a white paper, Building of Political Democracy in China, that makes it clear that China will remain a one-party state.  
 
We also urge you to address China’s longstanding habit of releasing one or more political prisoners before or after important meetings. Although the release of a prisoner, especially one who should never have been imprisoned, is a welcome event, we urge that you recognize the gesture for what it is: a public relations stunt that does nothing to address China's continued willingness to imprison dissenters. Should a release or releases occur, we hope you will recognize the “revolving door” quality of China’s prisoner releases––for every prisoner released as a gift to a visiting dignitary, one or more others are then arrested––and insist that no new arrests be carried out to fill the emptied prison bed. We urge that you make this point publicly.  
 
There are many other serious human rights issues that we also urge you to raise on your trip. Please see our letter of August 29, 2005, raising these concerns. We attach the letter here as an appendix.  
 
Thank you for your consideration of these concerns.  
 
Yours sincerely,  
 
Brad Adams  
Executive Director  
Asia Division  
 
 
August 29, 2005  
 
The Honorable George W. Bush  
The White House  
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW  
Washington, DC 20500  
 
Dear Mr. President;  
 
We write to urge that you place human rights problems in China at the top of your agenda with President Hu Jintao when you meet him on September 7.  
 
We appreciate the attention your administration has given to human rights issues such as religious freedom and the release of political prisoners in China. However, we are concerned that overall, the priority given to human rights issues in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship has declined over the last decade.  
 
The United States clearly has many important economic and security issues to address with China. But these issues are inextricably linked to how the Chinese government relates to its people. Across China today, human rights abuses are fueling rising social unrest. Indeed, China’s stability in the coming century, and the role it plays in the international community, will depend in great measure on the extent to which it gives its people lawful, peaceful democratic outlets to express their opinions, pursue their aims and create public accountability.  
 
While there has been progress in many areas of Chinese life, the human rights situation in China remains dire. There is not the slightest pretence of democracy in a one-party state that doesn’t even go through the motions of national elections. We urge you to raise a number of serious human rights concerns, which we list below and describe in detail in an annex to this letter. Although there are many areas we could have included, we have chosen a group of issues that we believe merit special attention. Some are subjects that the U.S. has consistently brought to the attention of Chinese officials; others are longstanding human rights violations that have acquired a new urgency. These are:  
     
  • restrictions on access to China for U.N. human rights monitoring mechanisms;  
  • a renewed crackdown on freedom of expression in the media and on the Internet;  
  • rule of law concerns, such as excessive use of the death penalty and inadequate death penalty review procedures, the persistence of administrative sentencing, including by reeducation through labor, and inadequate protections for defendants’ rights;  
  • persistent mistreatment of petitioners who, in conformity with Chinese regulations, attempt to obtain redress for violations of the law by state agencies or officials;  
  • forced evictions of home owners and tenants and inadequate or no compensation for rural lands acquired by developers with the assistance of local officials;  
  • violations against people living with HIV/AIDS, harassment of AIDS activists, and restrictions on civil society organizations which address HIV/AIDS-related issues;  
  • a renewed crackdown on and interference with religious practice which has targeted, among others, Uighur Muslims in the name of the global “war on terror”, Protestant congregations which fail to register, and Tibetans loyal to the Dalai Lama and to the Panchen Lama he chose; and  
  • the failure of any kind of accountability for the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square and related human rights violations.  
 
Finally, we bring to your attention China’s long-standing habit of releasing a political prisoner before or after important meetings. Although the release of a prisoner, especially one who should never have been in prison, is a welcome event, we urge that you recognize the “gift” for what it is, a distraction that does nothing to address China's dismal rights record. Should a release or releases occur, we hope you will recognize the “revolving door” quality of China’s hostage politics and insist that no new arrests be carried out to fill the prison bed emptied by whoever the Chinese leadership uses to score points with the international community. We urge that you make this point publicly.  
 
We are aware that this is a large and ambitious human rights agenda. But it is the failure of the Chinese authorities to address these and other issues that requires so many human rights problems to receive attention at the highest level.  
 
Thank you for your consideration of these concerns.  
 
Yours sincerely,  
 
Brad Adams  
Director  
Asia Division  
 
Tom Malinowski  
Executive Director  
Washington Advocacy  
 
 
ANNEX  
Human Rights Issues in China
 
 
I. Tiananmen Square and Related Events  
 
The June 1989 military massacre of unarmed protestors in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square remains an open sore in China. Sixteen years after the massacre and related human rights violations, the Chinese leadership has shown no willingness to change its verdict that those who joined the 1989 peaceful protests aimed at bringing democracy to China took part in a “counterrevolutionary” rebellion. It has refused calls for an independent investigation of events surrounding the massacre and it has refused to publicly hold anyone accountable for ordering the army to fire on unarmed, peaceful demonstrators. In fact, no official statistics on civilian deaths or injuries are available. The few individuals who continue to try to collect such information have been met with arrests and threats. Family members of victims are refused permission to publicly mourn.  
 
Until China addresses the events of 1989, there is little prospect for significant and durable progress on human rights and democracy. The Tiananmen massacre continues to divide the Chinese public and is one of the greatest barriers to a government by consent instead of by force, as China’s government continues to be.  
 
Human Rights Watch strongly urges you to make clear to President Hu and the Chinese government that China must:  
 
  • undertaking transparent, credible investigations into the Tiananmen killings;  
  • establishing who ordered the army to fire on unarmed and peaceful demonstrators, and initiating transparent prosecutions of those people;  
  • establishing how many individuals were killed;  
  • establishing how many individuals were sentenced for their peaceful participation in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations throughout China;  
  • ensuring the unconditional release of those still serving prison terms for participation in peaceful demonstrations;  
  • providing appropriate compensation to victims; and  
  • allowing relatives and friends of the victims to publicly mourn their dead.
 
We also appreciate efforts made by the United States to convince the E.U. not to lift the arms embargo it put into place in 1989 in response to the massacre in Tiananmen Square. Lifting the embargo without the above conditions being met––or any serious discussions by China––would be a major setback for human rights promotion in China. While U.S. security concerns over the lifting of the embargo are clearly important to your administration, we urge you to clearly restate the human rights rationale for the embargo and to ensure that U.S. arms export licenses are scrutinized so that, like the E.U., the United States does not risk learning some day that weapons sold to the repressive Chinese security forces have been used against innocent Chinese citizens.  
 
II. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION  
 
There has been significant progress over the past decade in freedom of the press and freedom of personal and private communications. Previously unthinkable criticisms of government and officials can now be read regularly in the Chinese press, particularly when it comes to corruption at the local level. China’s leaders apparently consider allowing such criticisms to be a necessary steam valve in an increasingly unstable and unequal society.  
 
Yet China remains a heavily censored country, with punishments handed out regularly and arbitrarily for peaceful expression and no one exactly sure what is allowed and not allowed. Public criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its senior and national-level leaders remains extremely risky, while calling for the end of CCP rule and the creation of a genuine democracy is often a ticket to prison. Self-censorship on sensitive political subjects due to fear of arrest remains the norm for most journalists and members of the public.  
 
To stop its citizens from learning about the reality of life in China or communicating with the outside world, or indeed among themselves on sensitive subjects, China’s has created the most ambitious and sophisticated Internet firewall in the world. During 2005, officials ordered an extended effort to eliminate “illegal” publications and shut down university Internet message boards. They mandated ideological training for non-government journalists, and blocked access to sites of stories they did not want to circulate within or outside China. Authorities also called for greater controls on the internet, upgraded filtering of internet content, began an announced closure of all unregistered websites, and required that chat room users register their real names. Websites and emails using the terms “human rights,” “democracy,” “Tibet,” and “Taiwan” are regularly blocked. This is anathema to the principles of the United States and deserves a clear and public rebuke.  
 
Media censorship is all the more invidious owing to its usefulness to the government in prosecuting cases of alleged state security and state secrets crimes. The vaguely defined crimes of “subversion,” “endangering state security” and “leaking state secrets” make it remarkably easy to detain, indict, and sentence intellectuals, academics, journalists, and dissidents who criticize the government or CCP or raise issues that China’s leaders prefer to keep out of the public domain.  
 
In July 2005, the Independent Chinese PEN Center listed the names and charges against 46 imprisoned writers, of whom many, if not most, were detained on charges of subversion or the leaking of state secrets. In late 2004, Beijing-based PEN officers were warned that they could be charged with subversion should they persist in critiquing the government and CCP on the Internet.  
 
In the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004, released by the U.S. Department of State in February 28, 2005, there is an extensive section describing n China’s attempts to restrict dissemination of information. Sadly, that section would have to be substantially longer today, just six months later. The trend is disturbing.  
 
We urge you to press the Chinese government to:  
     
  • amend its criminal law and national security laws to conform to international standards to ensure that peaceful expression of political and other views is protected;  
  • amend the State Secrets Law to narrow its scope, such as by eliminating the practice of declaring public material a “secret” only after someone has been arrested for its dissemination or ending the practice of classifying information in the public domain as a state secret when it is disseminated abroad; and  
  • remove restrictions on Internet message boards and blogs, and cease censoring and filtering e-mail and websites.  
 
III. RELIGIOUS REPRESSION  
 
China’s new Regulations on Religious Affairs became effective March 1, 2005, but it is already clear that the changes are little more than a continuation of long-established policies that limit religious freedom. While for many believers there has been a great deal of relaxation over private worship and belief, the state continues to control all aspects of group worship and practice. It treats independent religious groups as threats to the state, arresting, harassing and monitoring individuals.  
 
China has reserved for itself the right to distinguish between a “religion” and a “cult” and to severely limit the activity of the latter. The crackdown on Falungong practice is the most egregious example of the treatment of a so-called cult.  
 
Several large-scale raids focusing on Protestant church leadership training sessions, bible classes, missionary activity, and unregistered churches have taken place since March. Although the activities cited were not in compliance with the new regulations, they fall squarely within freedom of religion.  
 
For Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and Tibetans in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and Tibetan communities in Chinese provinces, the state-sanctioned crackdown on religious activities is stricter than in other parts of China. This is motivated by fears of secessionist activities in both areas, brought on by popular disaffection with Chinese rule. The similarities between the persecution of Uighurs and that of Tibetan monks and nuns are striking: imams and monks are vetted for patriotism and subject to repeated “reeducation”; all religious publication is controlled; religious celebrations are curtailed if not banned altogether; observant students face expulsion from school; there are caps on the number of Tibetan monks allowed and on the number of monasteries, as well as on the number of mosques.  
 
One result of previous U.S.-China negotiations was a commitment by Chinese officials to publicly state that it is consistent with Chinese law and policy for a child to receive a religious education. If the policy is indeed in effect, it was breached in Xinjiang in August when a woman teaching a religious class was detained for “illegally possessing religious materials and subversive historical information.” Thirty-seven of her young students were held, at least temporarily.  
 
Reports from Tibet and Xinjiang indicate that one of the most destructive practices is the inability of the current generation of master teachers to impart their knowledge to an upcoming generation of would-be monks and scholars.  
 
We ask you to press President Hu and the Chinese government to:  
     
  • allow access for members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to the Panchen Lama designated by the Dalai Lama;  
  • release immediately and unconditionally, from any form of detention, all those held for peaceful practice of activities associated with religious beliefs; (Please note that Chinese authorities insist that no one is incarcerated for their religious beliefs but for breaking the law.) Tenzin Delek, a Tibetan serving a life term, is of particular concern;  
  • permit Falungong practitioners to resume public and private sessions.  
  • remove all references to “sects” and “evil religious organizations” from China’s criminal code and rescind all applicable explanations, interpretations, and decisions;  
  • adopt an explicit provision guaranteeing freedom of belief and religious practice for those under eighteen and the right of parents to educate their children in the belief system of their choice; and  
  • determine dates for a visit to China by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.  
 
IV. RULE OF LAW  
 
The rule of law remains a distant goal in China. There are a myriad of rule of law problems deserving attention. Among the most important are China’s excessive use of the death penalty, the lack of meaningful review of death sentences, the misuse of administrative detention, and the lack of fair trials by weighting trial and pre-trial procedures in favor of the state.  
 
Although the exact figure remains a state secret, China is reported to execute more people than any other country. The death penalty may be imposed for an astonishingly long list of offenses––some 68 in all. This epidemic of executions occurs in a country that lacks an independent judiciary, relies for evidence on forced confessions, conducts trials that do not conform to the most basic of standards, and refuses to recognize the presumption of innocence.  
 
It is our understanding that the government is considering removing economic crimes from the list of capital crimes, a move that could result in cutting the number of death penalty cases by one-third. It is also considering review of all death sentences by the Supreme Court. Yet both of these modest reforms have met with resistance.  
 
We urge the U.S. to press China to announce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty while the criminal law is amended to allow use of the death penalty only for the most serious crimes, the judiciary is separated from the CCP and allowed to act independently, and observance of fair trial standards become the norm in China. The U.S. could offer technical assistance to China once China agrees with these initiatives.  
 
We appreciate American efforts to end the reeducation through labor system in China, which has been used to detain millions of Chinese citizens without a trial or recourse to the judiciary. While there had been great hopes for substantial reforms or even the abolition of the system, it is our understanding, however, that within China the impetus for reform has come under substantial attack and has now stalled. We are also concerned that the proposed new regulations are still arbitrary and fall far short of a system complying with international standards as set forth in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Furthermore, recommendations for the reform of reeducation through labor leave in place other forms of administrative sentencing, particularly those applicable to prostitutes and drug users.  
 
We urge the U.S. to intensify its efforts to convince the Chinese government that it must abandon this retrograde practice. The U.S. should continue to work with reformers within China’s legal community to eliminate not just reeducation through labor, but all forms of administrative sentencing.  
 
Human Rights Watch continues to be concerned with trial and pre-trial procedural defects that compromise defendants’ rights. Among the most egregious are those that prevent a lawyer from meeting his or her client during the investigatory phase of a case. It is during this period, which can be lengthy, that suspects are in most danger of being subjected to torture or other mistreatment. Defense lawyers cannot begin their investigations until the official investigation is concluded, by which time an official decision on guilt or innocence has usually been made. Witnesses are not required to appear in court and, therefore, are not subject to cross-examination by the defense. The trial itself continues to be largely a prepared piece of theater, not an effort to establish guilt or innocence through the neutral presentation of evidence to an independent arbiter. Additionally, China’s Section 306 of the Criminal Law provides that defense lawyers may be prosecuted for falsifying evidence should a witness change his statement during trial. Indeed, the development of a criminal defense bar, touted as an important advance, has been significantly impeded by the large number of criminal defense lawyers arrested, threatened, or physically attacked for carrying out their professional duties.  
     
  • As China’s Criminal Procedure Law is now under review, the U.S. should press for the right of lawyers to have access to their clients and begin their investigations from the moment of detention. Witnesses should be required to appear in court and should be subject to cross-examination. Section 306 of the Criminal Law should be eliminated.  
  • The U.S. should express its strong concern about retribution against criminal defense lawyers.  
 
 
V. FORCED EVICTIONS  
 
In the rush to modernize and develop Chinese cities, Chinese local authorities and developers are forcibly evicting hundreds of thousands of homeowners and tenants without due process or proper compensation. Evicted residents have increasingly taken to the streets to protest, only to meet harsh police repression, and many housing rights activists have been imprisoned. A Human Rights Watch report, Demolished: Forced Evictions and the Tenants' Rights Movement in China documents such abuses.  
 
In Beijing, the number of cases of illegal forced evictions is likely to increase in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics as venues are built and the city intensifies its modernization efforts. Senior legal experts and even some government-controlled news media have openly criticized the government's failure to protect the rights of homeowners and tenants. In response, the Chinese government has enacted some legal reforms, including a constitutional amendment to protect property rights. However, provisions of the Chinese constitution are not directly enforceable and courts have not generally upheld the rights of evicted residents. Lawyers active in protecting housing rights have been imprisoned.  
 
We urge you to press the Chinese government to:  
     
  • establish laws and regulations consistent with the provisions of the Chinese Constitution protecting private property from being taken arbitrarily or without appropriate compensation;  
  • ensure that the courts and administrative tribunals uphold the rights of individuals and hold officials accountable for failure to enforce existing regulations that protect the rights of evicted residents; and  
  • release Zheng Enchong, Ye Guozhu, Xu Yonghai and other human rights defenders imprisoned for advocating for the rights of evicted residents.  
 
VI. PETITIONERS  
 
Due to the multiple weaknesses and failures of the Chinese legal and bureaucratic systems, particularly at the local level, many impoverished rural Chinese can only obtain redress or compensation for wrongs through the intervention of higher ranking officials, either at the local level or in Beijing. In cases ranging from official corruption to forced evictions and police brutality, Chinese law permits petitioners to appeal to or “petition” authorities further up the administrative hierarchy for assistance. In response, the national government has blamed local officials, first ordering them to “resolve” petitioner demands at the provincial level or below. To escape blame and meet the demand, provincial authorities often attempt to prevent petitioners from making their complaints known in Beijing. They send police and private enforcers to Beijing to physically assault petitioners and forcibly return them to their home locales. Detentions and reeducation through labor sentences, accompanied by further abuse, often follow.  
 
A newly announced program mandates that petitioners be sent to their home areas to meet with local police chiefs, in many cases those responsible for the initial violations. To draw attention to the issue, petitioners have mounted an increasing number of public protests. In response, police have jailed petitioner activists and have cracked down on those applying for permits to hold legal demonstrations and on lawyers who defend petitioners. The number of petitioners is soaring: official statistics show that tens of thousands descend on Beijing every year. Brought on by arbitrary and illegal action by officials and the lack of official accountability, this has turned into a pressing social issue for China’s leadership.  
 
We urge you to press President Hu and the Chinese government to:  
     
  • investigate the use of police and private enforcers to beat and kidnap petitioners;  
  • use criminal and administrative measures to hold individual police officers and provincial authorities responsible for such attacks accountable; and  
  • release all petitioners detained in retaliation for exercising their legal right to petition and all petitioner activists imprisoned for participating in peaceful protests and for applying for permits to hold legal demonstrations.  
 
VII. HIV/AIDS  
 
Two decades after the first case of HIV/AIDS was diagnosed in China, the country faces what could be the largest AIDS epidemic in the world. In recent years, senior Chinese officials have shown a growing awareness about the need to confront the epidemic. However, AIDS activists continue to be harassed and bureaucratic restrictions continue to be imposed on civil society groups fighting the epidemic. A recent Human Rights Watch report, Restrictions on AIDS Activists in China, documents some of the problem. Activists conducting AIDS information workshops or working with those at high risk of contracting HIV have been harassed or detained at the local level and pornography laws are being used to censor websites providing AIDS information to gay men and lesbians.  
 
In countries that have successfully contained the spread of HIV/AIDS, people with AIDS have been in the forefront of the effort. In Henan, HIV-positive villagers have mobilized services in affected villages. They have demonstrated to draw attention to the need for access to antiretroviral treatment and care, and have decried health workers’ misappropriation of AIDS funding. However, state censorship and the systemic violation of rights to freedom of association and assembly create numerous obstacles for such grass-roots organizations.  
 
We urge the U.S. to press the Chinese government to:  
     
  • revise national regulations to remove burdensome restrictions that limit the registration and growth of non-governmental organizations, particularly those working against the spread of HIV/AIDS;  
  • invite grass-roots HIV/AIDS organizations to share their input on policy and legal reform and to monitor implementation of government aid programs;  
  • enact and enforce national legislation prohibiting discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS; and  
  • cease detaining AIDS activists for protesting or advocating for access to treatment and care.  
 
VIII. RESTRICTIONS ON ACCESS TO CHINA FOR U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS MONITORING MECHANISMS  
 
We would like to bring to your attention particular concerns regarding restrictions on access to China for U.N. human rights monitoring mechanisms and China’s failure to implement extant recommendations of working groups and special rapporteurs. Indeed, no recommendations made to China by either the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention or the Special Rapporteur on Religion have ever been implemented.  
 
We are aware that an invitation has been extended to the Special Rapporteur on Torture and a date set. This is welcome, and we appreciate efforts made by the U.S. in urging China to agree to this visit. We hope that China does not repeat past instances in which it insists on terms of reference which would require the Special Rapporteur to compromise his mandate, and then blame him when negotiations become deadlocked.  
 
We are also concerned that, although an invitation has been extended, no date has been set for a promised visit by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.  
 
We ask that you:  
     
  • reiterate that for visits by special rapporteurs and working groups to take place, all the terms of reference must be respected;  
  • emphasize the U.S.’s on-going concern that the issues raised by special rapporteurs and working groups are not seriously addressed; and  
  • urge China to issue standing invitations to all rapporteurs and working groups.  
 
IX. CULTURAL HERITAGE AND IDENTITY  
 
The Chinese government views Uighurs in Xinjiang and Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas as a threat to the cohesion of the Chinese state. To lessen the threat, the government has instituted a series of measures aimed at erasing the cultural identities of both Uighurs and Tibetans. In addition to massive ethnic Chinese migration into the areas mentioned and the wholesale attack against the preservation of their religions, the government has instituted measures to marginalize their languages and literature, erase their histories and heroes, and trivialize, if not forbid, celebration of their customs and holidays. To stem separatism, the attack on Uighurs is at times justified in the name of counterterrorism.  
 
On August 25, 2005, the Chinese government accused Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur businesswoman, of being a terrorist. Ms. Kadeer, now living in exile in the U.S., was detained in August 1999 and subsequently charged with giving information to separatists outside China’s borders. This information was newspapers, available on the streets of Xinjiang’s regional capital, that she mailed to her husband in the U.S. Ms. Kadeer became a prominent political prisoner who your administration successfully pressured China to release, but not before she served almost six years in prison. Since her arrival in the U.S. in March 2005, Ms. Kadeer has been outspoken about conditions in Xinjiang, apparently prompting the absurd labeling her as a terrorist, an accusation that may put her family members still in Xinjiang and others at risk.  
 
We urge that you make clear to President Hu that peaceful expression of a desire for independence or speaking out about human rights conditions cannot be considered to be an act of terrorism and that conflating the two discredits legitimate counter-terrorism efforts worldwide.  
 
X. POLITICAL PRISONERS  
 
Finally, in addition to the abuses cited, we bring to your attention China’s long-standing habit of releasing a prisoner before or after important meetings. Although the release of a prisoner, especially one who should never have been in prison, is a welcome event, we urge that you recognize the “gift” for what it is, a distraction that does nothing to address China's dismal rights record. We urge that should a release or releases occur, you recognize the “revolving door” quality of China’s hostage politics games and inform President Hu that you will refuse to be a party to it and insist that no new arrests be carried out to fill the prison bed emptied by whoever the Chinese leadership uses to score points with the international community. We urge further that you make this point publicly.  
 
In addition, you should remind President Hu of Chinese assurances that prisoners convicted for political offenses would have the right to sentence reductions equal to those enjoyed by non-political prisoners. We are aware of political prisoners, who, on the grounds that they have not been “re-educated,” – have not renounced their views -- have not been considered for such reductions. We cite two as examples. First, Hada, an inner Mongolian, sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment in 1996 on charges of subversion for advocating preservation of autonomy as guaranteed by the Chinese law. Second, Yang Zili and three friends arrested in 2001 and charged with subversion for expressing political opinions on the Internet. Yang Zili received an eight-year sentence for subversion in May 2003. Two of the others are serving ten-year terms, while the fourth received an eight-year sentence.

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