China and Tibet
The Chinese leadership's preoccupation with stability in the face of continued economic and social upheaval fueled an increase in human rights violations. China's increasingly prominent international profile, symbolized in 2001 by its entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and by Beijing's successful bid to host the 2008 Olympics, was accompanied by tightened controls on fundamental freedoms. The leadership turned to trusted tools, limiting free expression by arresting academics, closing newspapers and magazines, strictly controlling Internet content, and utilizing a refurbished Strike Hard campaign to circumvent legal safeguards for criminal suspects and alleged separatists, terrorists, and so-called religious extremists. In its campaign to eradicate Falungong, Chinese officials imprisoned thousands of practitioners and used torture and psychological pressure to force recantations. Legal experts continued the work of professionalizing the legal system but authorities in too many cases invoked "rule of law" to justify repressive politics. After the September 11 attacks in the United States, Chinese officials used concern with global terrorism as justification for crackdowns in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Starting in late 2000, authorities began tightening existing restrictions on the circulation of information, limiting the space available to academics, journalists and Internet users. Attacks on academic researchers may have been partly a response to the January 2001 publication of the Tiananmen Papers, a collection of government documents spirited out of China which described in detail the role played by Chinese leaders at the time of the historic June 1989 crackdown.
In December 2000, Guangdong's publicity bureau told newspapers and journals not to publish articles by eleven prominent scholars. In June 2001, one of those named, economist He Qinglian, fearing imminent arrest, fled China. Although her 1998 book, China's Pitfalls, had been widely praised by the Communist leadership for its exposé of corruption, she later angered authorities when she publicized the widening income gap in the country.
Between February and September, four Chinese academics who were either naturalized U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents were arrested, tried on charges of spying for Taiwan, and then deported. The four were Dr. Gao Zhan, a scholar at American University in Washington; journalist and writer Wu Jianmin; Qin Guangguang, a former editor and scholar; and Dr. Li Shaomin, a naturalized U.S. citizen teaching in Hong Kong. Sichuan native Xu Zerong, a Hong Kong resident since 1987, detained in June 2000, was still in custody in November 2001.
Scholars were also affected when the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences rescinded invitations to foreign and Taiwan scholars to participate in an August 2001 conference on income disparities. In November 2000, authorities cancelled an officially sponsored poets' meeting in Guangxi province after it became known that dissident poets, some of whom helped underground colleagues publish, were expected to attend. Three organizers were detained. In May, police in Hunan province raided a political reading club that had attracted teachers and intellectuals, and detained several participants including the founder.
Restrictions on information flows also affected HIV-AIDS research and reporting. In May, Beijing prohibited Dr. Gao Yaojie, who had helped publicize the role of unsanitary blood collection stations in the spread of the disease, from traveling to the U.S. to receive an award. Earlier, Henan health officials had accused her of being used by "anti-Chinese forces;" local officials, who often profited from the sale of blood, had warned her not to speak out. In July, village cadres refused to allow her to enter their AIDS-ridden villages.
Media regulations were also tightened. In November, the Communist Party's top publicity official signaled a new policy when he told a meeting of journalists that "the broad masses of journalists must be in strict agreement with the central committee with President Jiang Zemin at its core," a warning repeated in January by Jiang himself. The same month, a Party Central Propaganda Department internal circular warned that any newspaper, television channel, or radio station would be closed if it acted independently to publish stories on sensitive or taboo topics such as domestic politics, national unity, or social stability. The regulations instituted a new warning system; after three citations, a media outlet was subject to closure.
By June, the Party had instituted a stricter regime. A decree expanded taboo content to include speculation on leadership changes, calls for political reforms, criticism of Party policies including those related to ethnic minorities or religion, and rejection of the guiding role of Marxism-Leninism and Mao-Deng theories, among many other categories. The decree forbade independent reporting on major corruption scandals, major criminal cases, and human and natural disasters and threatened immediate shutdown for violators. The government also ordered a nationwide campaign to educate journalists in "Marxist news ideology."
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee Propaganda Department ordered news media to refrain from playing up the incident, relaying foreign news photos or reports, holding forums, or publishing news commentaries without permission. Chinese youth had welcomed the attacks on Internet postings and officials said the restrictions were needed to prevent damage to U.S.-China relations.
Authorities routinely prohibited the domestic press from reporting on incidents it considered damaging to China's image. After a military truck blew up in Xinjiang in November 2000, three journalists were sanctioned for "violat[ing] news discipline and reveal[ing] a lot of detailed information" before Xinhua, the official news agency, printed the official line on the incident. News media in China are required to use Xinhua reports on any stories that local or central propaganda authorities deem sensitive. In June, Yao Xiaohong, head of news for Dushi Consumer Daily in Jiangxi province, was dismissed after reporting an illegal kidney transplant from an executed prisoner. In October, under pressure from central government publicity authorities, he was fired from his new job at the Yangcheng Evening News in Guangdong province. Jiang Weiping, a Dalian, Liaoning province journalist who had exposed corruption, received a nine-year prison sentence in September 2001 for "leaking state secrets."
Chinese authorities moved against publications as well as individual journalists. In May, Today's Celebrities was peremptorily closed for printing articles about corruption and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). In June, authorities replaced the acting editor and other editorial staff at Southern Weekend (Nanfang Zhoumuo), China's most outspoken news publication after the magazine published a series of articles blaming the government for problems in rural areas. Officials also closed the Guangxi Business Daily, which had operated for two years as an independent, privately-owned paper, when it refused to merge with the Guanxi Daily. In Jiangsu province, officials ordered the immediate suspension of the Business Morning Daily after it suggested that President Jiang's policies had advanced Shanghai's development at the expense of other cities.
In August, party leaders associated with Jiang used publishing regulations to shutter an opposition party faction, suspending the theoretical journal Seeking Truth, (Zhenli de Zhuiqui) which had opposed Jiang's proposal to allow private entrepreneurs to become party members, and tightening control over Mainstream (Zhongliu) and Contemporary Thoughts, also affiliated with opposition factions.
That same month, the State Council announced revised "Regulations on Printing," which included a sweeping provision forbidding publication of reactionary, erotic, or superstitious materials or "any other" material forbidden by the state. In early November 2000, courts sentenced ten people to prison terms ranging from five years to life for illegally printing and selling books about such topics as the Chinese intelligence community and the film community. In September, tens of thousands of Falungong publications were among some 500,000 documents confiscated in Anhui province.
The foreign press was also muzzled. In early March, after Time ran a story on Falungong, Beijing banned future newsstand sales of the magazine. In June, five security officers beat an Agence France Presse reporter after he photographed a protestor outside a "Three Tenors" concert held to support Beijing's Olympic bid. In July, government officials in Beijing prohibited the U.S. CBS television network from transmitting video footage for a story about Falungong. Chinese authorities banned the October 29 issue of Newsweek when it ran a cover story on corruption.
China Central Television also reneged on a July agreement to air in full U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's Beijing interview. It cut one-fifth of his remarks, including those defending U.S. criticism of Beijing's human rights record.
Other moves to tighten information flows and increase government control included the construction of new jamming facilities aimed at preventing ethnic groups in Tibet and Xinjiang from receiving news from overseas "hostile radio stations." In May, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television ordered all cable TV networks folded into provincial or municipal broadcasting networks. In July and August, the State Press and Publications Administration announced plans to set up publishing conglomerates to consolidate control of magazines and newspapers.
Stringent regulations on rapidly growing Internet use came into effect in November 2000. New regulations required general portal sites to get their news solely from state-controlled media, required that bulletin board services and chatrooms limit postings to approved topics, and made monitoring of postings routine. A month later, Chinese authorities increased the number of Internet police to more than 300,000. In January 2001, a new regulation made it a capital crime to send "secret" or "reactionary" information over the Internet. In February, software called Internet Police 100, capable of "capturing" computer screens and "casting" them onto screens at local public security bureaus, was released in versions that could be installed in homes, cafés, and schools. But even with some sixty sets of regulations in force, President Jiang in July decried the spread of "pernicious information" over the Web and called the existing legal framework inadequate.
Chinese regulations limited news postings on the websites of U.S.-based companies operating in China. The English chatroom of SOHU.com, partly owned by Dow Jones, posted a list of issues prohibited on the Internet by Chinese law, including criticism of the Chinese constitution, topics which damage China's reputation, discussion that undermines China's religious policy, and "any discussion and promotion of content which PRC laws prohibit." The posting continues: "If you are a Chinese national and willingly choose to break these laws, SOHU.com is legally obligated to report you to the Public Security Bureau." An internal AOL memo recommended that if AOL were asked what it would do if the Chinese government demanded records relating to political dissidents, AOL staff should respond "It is our policy to abide by the laws of the country in which we offer services."
Chinese officials stopped licensing new Internet cafes beginning in April while public security departments checked more than 55,000 cafes. In October, officials announced that more than 17,000 had been closed. Internet bulletin boards, chat rooms, and online magazines, including university-based sites and those catering to journalists, were also closed. Sites that were normally blocked, such as those of U.S. newspapers, were unblocked during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Shanghai in mid-October, but blocked again as soon as the conference was over.
At least sixteen people were arrested or sentenced in 2001 for using the Internet to send information or express views that the leadership disliked. Four others were tried at the end of September on charges of subversion for organizing a new youth organization and publishing articles about political reform. As of mid-November, there was still no information available on the outcome of Huang Qi's secret trial in August 2001. Huang was charged with subversion for featuring articles about democracy on his website.
Political dissidents continued to be persecuted, including members of the banned China Democracy Party. Activists associated with the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, which seeks to promote Mongolian traditions and cultural values, and farmers in the Three Gorges dam area protesting corruption associated with resettlement in the dam basin were also monitored and in some cases arrested and sentenced on spurious charges.
On April 3, 2001, President Jiang initiated a three-month Strike Hard (yan da) campaign. Stressing the need to safeguard social stability and the reform process, he asked that improvements in fighting crime be made with "two tough hands." The campaign featured hastily processed cases, denial of due process rights, summary trials, harsh sentences, mass sentencing rallies, and an upsurge in executions. Although the use of torture to elicit confessions was illegal, such confessions, admissible in court, were officially acknowledged. Li Kuisheng, a prominent lawyer in Zhengzhou, Henan, was finally cleared of all charges and released in January 2001. He had been arrested in November 1998 after defending a client fighting corruption charges, and under torture had "confessed" to fabricating evidence.
Provinces and municipalities, in a kind of bizarre competition, reported regularly on their compliance with the campaign. Their accounts included totals of those apprehended, sentenced, and executed, and information on the kinds of crimes committed. Capital sentences were imposed for some sixty offenses including, in addition to violent acts, economic crimes, drug trafficking, smuggling, arms dealing, racketeering, counterfeiting, poaching, pimping, robbery, and theft. During the first month of Strike Hard, some 10,000 people were arrested and at least five hundred executed. By the end of October, at least 1,800 people had been executed, at least double that number had received death sentences, and officials had announced they would continue the campaign at least through June 2002 with increased "intensity."
Despite the Strike Hard campaign, officials in some areas implicitly acknowledged unfairness in the criminal justice system. In November 2000, Liaoning officials announced that prosecutions in some cities would be based on proof rather than confessions, thus guaranteeing suspects' right to remain silent during criminal interrogation. In January, the vice-president of the Supreme People's Court admitted to corruption within the legal system, including intentional errors of judgment, forged court papers, and bribe taking. In June, the Supreme People's Procuratorate issued six new regulations to prevent violations in the handling of cases and acknowledged Communist Party interference in sensitive cases. However, in August, in Luoyang, Henan province, judges who heard the cases of twenty-three defendants charged in a fire that killed 309 people said they would not release their findings until they had talked to provincial leaders.
China continued to crack down on groups it labeled cults and on independent religious organizations. Falungong continued to experience the harshest repression, with thousands of practitioners assigned to "reeducation through labor" camps and more than 350 imprisoned, many for nothing more than printing leaflets or recruiting followers for protests . On June 11, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate issued a new interpretation of cult provisions in the Criminal Law to make it easier to punish practitioners on a wide variety of charges. Authorities also targeted other so-called cults, among them Zhonggong, Xiang Gong, Guanyin Famin, and Kuangmin Zhaimen, sentencing their leaders, closing down their offices, and seizing their publications.
A few weeks before Christmas 2000, hundreds of "illegal" Protestant and Catholic churches and Buddhist and Taoist temples and shrines in Wenzhou were demolished. In March and April, several dozen house church leaders in Hubei province were detained; in May, twelve others were administratively sentenced in Inner Mongolia. Beijing also instituted a special study group to bring Christianity "into line with socialism" through reinterpretation of basic beliefs. The continuing government-ordered merger of Catholic dioceses, a move that went unrecognized by Rome, also signaled Beijing's determination to run the church in accord with its own needs. In October, after Pope John Paul expressed regrets for Catholic Church errors committed during the "colonial period" and expressed hope of normalized relations, Chinese religious officials responded by demanding that the Vatican first sever its ties with Taiwan, refrain from "using the pretext of religious issues to meddle in Chinese internal affairs," and apologize for last year's canonization of "foreign missionaries and their followers who committed notorious crimes in China." Detentions in 2001 included those of several elderly influential bishops and priests. One priest, Father Lu, was sentenced administratively in April to three years' reeducation through labor for refusing to join the official Catholic Patriotic Association and continuing to preach the gospel and celebrate Mass. In May, the Chinese government leveled the grave of Bishop Fan Xueyan, a prominent "underground" bishop who died in 1992, to prevent Catholics from paying their respects.
Reports of clashes between police and workers and farmers protesting layoffs, unpaid wages and benefits, corruption, and relocation problems continued throughout the year. In April, police in Yuntang, Jiangxi arrested five villagers who had been leading a three-year protest against new taxes, then stormed the village killing two unarmed protestors and injuring some thirty-eight others. In October, police in Qingdao, Shandong detained protestors demonstrating against the city's failure to honor its commitment to provide appropriate housing for residents displaced by a real estate project.
Labor activists also continued to be targeted. In one prominent case, Li Wangyang, imprisoned from 1989 to 2000 for labor activism, was sentenced in September to a new ten-year prison term after petitioning for compensation for mistreatment suffered while serving the prior term. Li's sister received a three-year administrative sentence on June 7 for publicizing her brother's case.
In October 2001, authorities passed a new Trade Union Law requiring enterprises with more than twenty-five workers to establish a union and prohibiting management personnel from holding important union positions, but only government-affiliated unions were mentioned in the law and the right to strike was not guaranteed. Also in October, authorities revised residential regulations to allow rural residents to apply for residence in some small cities and towns so long as they could first find jobs and homes. In most cities, however, continuance of the existing permit system left migrants open to abuses by their employers, the police, and private security guards. Most migrant parents, even if legally registered, could not afford school fees for regular city schools, forcing them to send their children back to the countryside, keep them out of school, or send them to inferior "migrant" schools. Before the start of classes in September, officials closed fifty migrant schools in one Beijing district.
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