Friday, July 27, 2007

China's human rights a charade

A brilliant piece by Tung Chen-yuan, vice chairman of the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council.

Taiwan Journal: Publication Date:07/27/2007 Section:Commentary
Since 1991, China's State Council has issued eight human-rights reports, and, in 1998, China became a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, though its parliament, the National People's Congress, has yet to ratify the signing. Most recently, in November 2006, the Chinese government held an "Exhibition on Human Rights in China" in Beijing and, in March 2007, issued for the eighth consecutive year a report on the "Human Rights Record of the United States," which criticizes the U.S. government for serious violations of human rights.

Unlike other governments, Beijing is unique in its unceasing efforts to prove to the international community that the "Chinese Communist Party is a strong advocate for human rights, and the Chinese people enjoy human rights." While this represents progress of a sort, it also exhibits the hypocrisy of the Chinese government in its persecution of human rights. Former President Jiang Zemin said, "Keeping 1.3 billion people well fed and warmly clothed is one of the greatest human-rights achievements in China."

Indeed, China has significantly improved its people's lives, but the nation's wealth is concentrated in the hands of a minority of people, many of whom are high-ranking party cadres and government officials. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences calculated that China's Gini coefficient has now worsened to 0.496, far surpassing the international warning line of 0.4 and representing an increase of 0.26 points over the same period in 2005. Official surveys in China indicate that there are 3,220 people with personal assets exceeding US$13.2 million, but 2,932 of these are children of high-ranking CCP cadres and government officials. In comparison, at the end of 2004, nearly 200 million farmers had lost their land due to Chinese authorities' unjust expropriation.

These problems arise from the unrestricted privileges party cadres and officials enjoy while insufficient political protection is given to the rights and interests of the general public. China's Constitution stipulates that citizens aged 18 or above have the right to vote and stand for election. At present, however, the Chinese people are only allowed to cast a direct vote in elections for village heads and neighborhood committee chairpersons.

Of more than 70 million members of party and government agencies, only 32,000 non-CCP members hold political positions at or above county-chief level. Moreover, only 19 non-party members hold positions in the central government, and the great majority of these are in positions without administrative power. This demonstrates the that CCP's monopoly of political power is the fundamental reason for China's extremely unfair distribution of wealth and officials' unbridled abuse of power and privileges.

In addition to its power in the real world, the CCP tries to control the people's spiritual world. Chinese laws contain clear provisions protecting religious freedom, yet over 40 million people have been persecuted in China due to their participation in what the government brands "underground churches" and "evil cults." Currently, at least 17 bishops belonging to Catholic underground churches are missing, or have been arrested or forced into living under segregation. In 2006, at least 650 pastors of house churches were arrested and many churches were demolished. Since July 1999, the Chinese government has cruelly persecuted several hundred thousand Falun Gong practitioners, and several thousand have died in police custody.

Chinese people are also deprived of the right to freedom of speech. Reporters Without Borders has indicated there are at least 31 journalists and 51 online authors currently serving prison sentences in China. The Ministry of Public Security has over 30,000 Internet police officers censoring online communications of Chinese citizens. Under coercion by the Chinese government, major Internet companies Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Cisco Systems have blocked access to and self-filtered Chinese networks and Web sites, and have provided Web users' personal data to the authorities. The Chinese government also stipulated that release of news and information in China by foreign news agencies must undergo a review and ratification process by the Chinese authorities.

Without democracy, freedom of religion and speech, there will be no true human rights in China. With regard to China's publication of human-rights white papers and holding of exhibitions, these represent nothing but its hypocrisy over human-rights persecution. Beijing's criticism of the human-rights situation in the United States only further highlights its guilty conscience and absurdity in this regard. In February 2007, the U.S. magazine Parade published a list of the "World's 10 Worst Dictators" based on reports by global human-rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the U.S. Department of State. Chinese President Hu Jintao ranked fourth on its list, up two places from 2006. As Hu's ranking rises on the list, the human-rights situation in China worsens.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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