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The Current Situation of Human Rights in China

By Wei Jingsheng, China Scope
September 23, 2008

In June 2008, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders published its 2007 World Human Rights Report. A collaborative project between the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) and the Geneva-based World Organization Against Torture, the Report is one of the most important human rights reports in the world. The 2007 report enumerated how the Chinese government further repressed dissidents and arrested protesters before the Olympics. Mr. Wei Jingsheng wrote the preface for the China section of the 2007 International Human Rights Report. [1] The following is the translation of the preface.

The Current Situation of Human Rights in China

The Power of Death Penalty Review Taken Back by the Supreme Court

In the most recent two to three years, China’s human rights made a great leap backward with minor improvements in certain aspects. The minor improvements manifested in the return of the authority to review the death penalty to the Supreme Court. Starting from Deng Xiaoping’s era, the authority to approve the death penalty, as stipulated in Criminal Law, was given to the provincial level, and even the local level. As a result, there was a plethora of executions. A great number of local officials applied the death penalty to a wide range of criminals, for political motives or personal vengeance; moreover, they even created false or unjust charges to achieve private goals. The executions in China have therefore constituted more than three fourths of those for the entire world.

Under international and domestic pressure, and especially harsh criticism from human rights organizations in other countries, the Chinese government was forced to do something on this issue. From last year, the authority to review the death penalty was finally returned to the Supreme Court, in accordance with the Criminal Law. Judicial organizations privately estimated that the number of death penalties will drop dramatically over the next several years. It will be much more difficult for local officials to unjustly frame people or create false cases. This is a great achievement of international human rights effort.

However, other than that, China’s human rights situation took a great leap backward. The two major regressions lie in two aspects.

Freedom of Speech Regressed Dramatically

The Chinese Communist authorities impose censorship and punishment on all media. They force media professionals to edit the news according to the requirements of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Freedom of the press has dropped to the lowest level in the whole world. Opinion articles have greatly decreased; those left from censorship have had to closely follow the party line. Especially for electronic (Internet) media, in addition to imposing self-censorship on these online media, the authorities have applied the most powerful Internet censorship and blockage in the world. All statements not in accordance with the CCP’s propaganda requirements cannot even reach Internet users in China.

Those who have attempted to break through the censorship, including journalists, editors and freelance writers, have often encountered ruthless repression: their jobs taken away, they themselves personally assaulted by the mafia, or sent to prison. It is especially noteworthy that when the CCP’s special agents search for those dissident media professionals and impose Internet censorship, some western enterprises have given them a helping hand, causing many innocent people jailed.

Human Rights Defendants Are Brutally Persecuted

The Chinese people’s movement to defend their basic rights has been growing rapidly. During this period, the number and scale of such movements has multiplied every year, producing many human rights lawyers and group leaders. With their leadership and advice, the human rights defending movements have become more effective. It is a unique phenomenon in today’s China: the government does not take responsibility to protect its people, and more and more officials have become accomplices of the evil force. The Chinese people are forced to become organized, defend their rights, and come up with their own leaders.

To repress the human rights defending movement, the CCP went from its traditional, random suppression, to well-planned, systematic suppression with a clear agenda. On the one hand, additional 200,000 troops of People’s Armed Police are equipped with the most modern weapons, collaborating with local military police force to construct a powerful state machinery to suppress people’s rights movement. On the other hand, the regime tried to exterminate all group leaders and human rights defenders. The human rights defendants were routinely physically tortured and mentally devastated; many political prisoners lost the ability to take care of their own daily lives.

Especially in the past year, in order to make sure all voices suppressed during the Olympics, the government escalated its persecution, and expanded its target to include western athletes, media and tourists. In a handful of western countries, western politicians even collaborated with such suppression. For example, Belgium, Great Britain and New Zealand attempted to stop their athletes from voicing their political views during the Olympic Games.

We have sound reason to believe that the victims of this suppression are not just the Chinese people; the suppression has extended to every corner around the globe.

[1] Beijing Spring, September 2008
Beijing Spring is a Chinese-language monthly magazine dedicated to the promotion of human rights, democracy and social justice in China. Founded in June 1993, it is published in New York and distributed throughout the world.

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