Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forced labour and organ harvesting

MWC / by David Matas

(Remarks prepared for a Parliamentary Forum on Human Rights in China 27 May 2009, Ottawa)

China engages systematically in forced labour in all forms of detention facilities - prisons which house sentenced criminals, administrative detention for those not yet charged, and re-education through labour camps. A 1998 declaration of the International Labour Organization (ILO) commits all member states, including China, to eliminate forced labour. The Government of China reported to the ILO that its constitution prohibits forced labour and that there is a national policy of eliminating all forms of forced labour.

China is not a country with an independent judiciary and the rule of law. There is no means in China of enforcing the promises in the Constitution. What the Constitution of China says is not a reliable indicator of what is happening in China.

The Constitution of China provides:

"Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration"[1].

"Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.

No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion"[2].

Yet, these freedoms do not exist in China.

So, when the Government of China says that there is a constitutional provision, its statements may be and often are smokescreens, exercises in hypocrisy. That is true of its statements to the ILO on forced labour.

The same can be said about policy. China has many policies which diverge from reality. Indeed, the Government of China refers so often to the state constitution and Government policies when the reality is the opposite that the very Government reference to these standards should be an indicator that something improper is happening in China.

A policy area with which I am familiar is organ harvesting, the killing of prisoners for their organs to be used for transplants. David Kilgour and I have written a report that some of those prisoners are Falun Gong practitioners detained for their innocent beliefs[3].

The Government of China denies the conclusion of our report and says that those who are in prison merely because they are Falun Gong practitioners are not killed for their organs. Yet the Government does not deny that some prisoners are killed for their organs and that these prisoners are the primary source of organs for transplants in China.

Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu, speaking at a conference of surgeons in the southern city of Guangzhou in mid November 2006, acknowledged that executed prisoners sentenced to death are a source of organ transplants. He said:

"Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners."

The dispute David Kilgour and I have with the Government of China is which sort of prisoners are killed for their organs. The Government of China says that the prisoners killed for their organs are all prisoners sentenced to death. Why we disagree with the Government of China, why we conclude that prisoners sentenced to death are not the only prison source of organs for transplants in China, I put to one side for now. I invite you to read our report to see how we came to our conclusions.

The point I want to make here is that the Government of China, at the same time as it admits sourcing organs from prisoners, has a policy of not sourcing organs from prisoners. In a news release dated 5 October 2007 the World Medical Association announced at the annual General Assembly in Copenhagen that the Chinese Medical Association agreed that organs of prisoners and other individuals in custody must not be used for transplantation except for members of their immediate family.

Liu Zhi of the Chinese Medical Association's international department said that the agreement with the World Medical Association has no legal effect. He nonetheless expressed the hope that the agreement would influence Chinese 500,000 doctors and government decisions, a hollow wish as long as China does not have an organ donor system or a law sourcing organs from the brain dead cardiac alive.

Chinese government hypocrisy on forced labour could not be more blatant. Forced labour in detention is not an abuse of Chinese law. It is the law. The Chinese Law on Prisons stipulates that prisons may punish a prisoner who is able‑bodied but refuses to work[4].

The United States signed a memorandum of understanding with China in 1992 committing the Government of China to ensure that prison labour products are not exported to the United States. The US in 1994 signed a statement of cooperation which in principle allowed US officials to gain access to Chinese production facilities suspected of exporting prison labour products. The US China Economic and Security Review Commission in its report to Congress for 2008 wrote that

"the Chinese government has not complied with its commitments" under the 1992 and 1994 agreement "making it impossible for U.S. officials to conduct complete and useful investigations of such allegations".

Speaking to US journalists in November 1993, in answer to a question about the desire by rights groups to inspect prisons, then Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen said, "I believe that if the Red Cross does put forward such a request..., we would give positive consideration to that request." The Red Cross did put forward such a request, and there was no positive consideration.

Persons are routinely detained in China without charge or for long periods before a charge is laid. Forced labour occurs in administrative detention and the euphemestically labelled re-education camps as well in prisons where sentenced criminals are kept.

Once the practice of Falun Gong was banned in 1999, hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners travelled to Beijing to protest or to unfold banners calling for the group's legalization. People came almost daily. Author Jennifer Zeng, formerly of Beijing and now living in Australia, writes that by the end of April 2001 there had been approximately 830,000 arrests in Beijing of Falun Gong adherents who had been identified.

Those who revealed their identities to their captors were shipped back to their home localities. Their families were implicated in their Falun Gong activities and pressured to join in the effort to get the practitioners to renounce Falun Gong. Their workplace leaders, their co‑workers, their local government leaders were held responsible and penalized for the fact that these individuals had gone to Beijing to appeal or protest.

To protect their families and avoid the hostility of the people in their locality, many detained Falun Gong declined to identify themselves. The result was a large Falun Gong prison population whose identities the authorities did not know. As well, no one who knew them knew where they were.

There are no statistics available of practitioners who were arrested but refused to self identify. From our interviews with released Falun Gong practitioners, we know that the number of those who did not self identify is large. But we do not know how large.

Arrested Falun Gong practitioners were initially sent to administrative detention centres. Those who recanted were released. Those who did not recant were tortured. Those who recanted after torture were released. Those who did not recant after torture disappeared into the re-education through labour camps. The US State Department's 2005 country report on China[5] indicates that its police run hundreds of detention centres, with the 340 re‑education‑through‑labour ones alone having a holding capacity of about 300,000 persons. The Department of State's Country Reports for 2008 state:

"Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in the country's reeducation‑through‑labour camps...."[6]

An extremely large group of people subject to the exercise of the whims and power of the state, without recourse to any form of protection of their rights, provides a potential source for organ harvesting of the unwilling. These detention facilities are not just forced labour camps. They are also potential forced organ donor banks.

The investigations which led to the report David Kilgour and I wrote had many chilling moments. One of the most disturbing was the discovery of a massive prison/detention/labour camp population of the unidentified. Practitioner after practitioner who eventually was released from detention told us about this population. A collection of some of their statements is set out in our report.

What these practitioners told us was that they personally met the unidentified in detention in significant numbers. We have met many Falun Gong practitioners who were released from Chinese detention. Yet, except for those detained during the early days of Falun Gong repression, we have yet to meet or hear of, despite their large numbers, a practitioner released from detention who refused to self identify in detention from the beginning to the end of the detention period. What happened to these many practitioners? Where are they?

I went to Geneva in November 2008 to meet with the United Nations Committee against Torture about the report of Government of China on compliance the Convention against Torture. The Committee, in its November 2008 concluding observations, wrote:

"While noting the State party's information about the 2006 Temporary Regulation on Human Organ Transplants and the 2007 Human Organ Transplant Ordinance, the Committee takes cognizance of the allegations presented to the Special Rapporteur on Torture who has noted that an increase in organ transplant operations coincides with "the beginning of the persecution of [Falun Gong practitioners]" and who asked for "a full explanation of the source of organ transplants" which could clarify the discrepancy and disprove the allegation of organ harvesting (A/HRC/7/3/Add.1). The Committee is further concerned with information received that Falun Gong practitioners have been extensively subjected to torture and ill‑treatment in prisons and that some of them have been used for organ transplants (arts. 12 and 16).

The State party should immediately conduct or commission an independent investigation of the claims that some Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture and used for organ transplants and take measures, as appropriate, to ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished[7]."

We are independent from the Government of China and the Falun Gong community. The Committee against Torture did not mean to suggest anything different. What they were proposing was an investigation independent from the Government of China with which the Government of China would nonetheless cooperate by giving access to Chinese territory, documents, places of detention and witnesses in China without fear of intimidation or reprisals.

The reaction of the Government of China to these concluding observations was this:

"some biased committee members, in drafting the observations, chose to ignore the substantial materials provided by the Chinese Government, quote and even fabricated some unverified information. Running counter to the ethics of justice and objectiveness, they attempted to politicize the review by squeezing some unreal and stigmatized comments into the concluding observations, which China firmly opposes[8]."

The Chinese Government reaction, by referring to "some biased committee members" suggests that some members of the Committee were biased and others were not. Yet, the Committee recommendations were unanimous. Either all the Committee members were biased or none were.

The Government of China as well makes wild general accusations. It accuses the Committee of fabricating information without indicating what that information is which was supposedly fabricated. Nor does it indicate what are the comments in the Committee's concluding observations the Government considers unreal and stigmatized.

Despite the vagueness of the reaction, it is apparent that the Government of China did not accept the concluding observations of the Committee in their entirety. When it came to the Universal Periodic Review, a procedure of the UN Human Rights Council in which the human rights record of every UN member state is reviewed periodically, the Government of China was a lot more specific.

I went to Geneva again, in January, this year and lobbied governments to raise the violations identified in our organ harvesting report when China's turn came up at UN Universal Periodic Review Working Group. At the very least, I asked states to request China's compliance with foundational rights, the respect for which would have made the violations we identified impossible. Many delegates did speak out for these foundational rights during the two hours of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group allocated to these speeches, but to no avail. The Government of China rejected virtually all these rights.

The Universal Periodic Review Working Group came out with a report tabulating the recommendations of states which spoke during debate. The Government of China reaction, which followed immediately upon release of the report, gave us a clear idea of what its earlier words had meant. It accepted some recommendations, mostly from other gross violator states which commended the Government of China for its efforts and encouraged it to keep on doing what it was doing. It added that it would consider other recommendations. There was also a long list of recommendations the Government of China rejected out of hand.

At the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, Canada recommended that China implement the recommendations of the Committee against Torture. The Government of China explicitly, in writing, rejected this recommendation.

Canada, the United Kingdom, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Sweden and New Zealand recommended that China abolish all forms of arbitrary detention, including re-education through labour camps. The Government of China said no to this recommendation.

Forced labour is an abuse of the rights of those in detention in China. It also harms workers around the world by undercutting the prices of products free workers produce for wages, contributing to global unemployment in a time of economic downturn. And it sets the stage for organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.

Allowing outsider access to Chinese places in detention is not an end in itself. It is rather a means to an end, to assess compliance with international standards, to ensure that abuses in detention are not occurring.

Something similar can be said of forced labour. Ending forced labour is an end of itself. But it is also a means to an end. Ending forced labour and allowing independent investigators to visit places of detention would be important steps towards ending abusive organ sourcing from Falun Gong practitioners.

Canada should have legislation banning the importation of goods produced through forced labour. The Government of Canada should negotiate an agreement with the Government of China committing the Government of China to ensure that prison labour products are not exported to Canada. The agreement should allow Canadian officials to gain access to Chinese production facilities suspected of exporting forced labour products.

The fact that China has not respected similar agreements with the United States is no reason to abandon the effort to stop the export of forced labour products from China. Where the efforts of one country, the US, have failed, the efforts of many countries may succeed. In any case, at the end of the day, when it comes to promoting respect for human rights, we can never rest content with no as an answer.

David Matas is a Winnipeg based international human rights lawyer.

[1] Article 35

[2] Article 36

[3] Bloody Harvest: Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China at

[4] Article 58

[5] U.S. Department of State 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - China, March 8, 2006. (

[6] 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom: China

[7] Concluding observations of the UN Committee against Torture on China UN Document number CAT/C/CHN/CO/4, 21 November 2008 paragraph 18(C).

[8] Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang's Remarks on Concluding Observations of United Nations Committee against Torture on China's Compliance with the Convention against Torture

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Global crisis 'hits human rights'

Three children in a shanty town outside Nairobi, Kenya (Image: Amnesty International)
Governments are ignoring the poorest people's basic needs, Amnesty says

BBC: The global economic crisis is exacerbating human rights abuses, Amnesty International has warned.

In its annual report, the group said the downturn had distracted attention from abuses and created new problems.

Rising prices meant millions were struggling to meet basic needs in Africa and Asia, it said, and protests were being met with repression.

Political conflict meant people were suffering in DR Congo, North Korea, Gaza and Darfur, among others, it said.


The 400-page report, compiled in 157 countries, said that human rights were being relegated to the back seat in pursuit of global economic recovery.

The world's poorest people were bearing the brunt of the economic downturn, Amnesty said, and millions of people were facing insecurity and indignity.

Migrant workers in China, indigenous groups in Latin America and those who struggled to meet basic needs in Africa had all been hit hard, it said.


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Where people had tried to protest, their actions had in many cases been met with repression and violence.

The group warned that rising poverty could lead to instability and mass violence.

"The underlying global economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis: a combination of social, economic and political problems has created a time-bomb of human rights abuses," said Amnesty's Secretary General, Irene Khan.

The group is launching a new campaign called Demand Dignity aimed at tackling the marginalisation of millions through poverty.

World leaders should set an example and invest in human rights as purposefully as they invest in economic growth, Ms Khan said.

"Economic recovery will be neither sustainable nor equitable if governments fail to tackle abuses that drive and deepen poverty, or armed conflicts that generate new violations," she said.

See below for highlights of the report by region


Amnesty says the economic crisis has had a direct impact on human rights abuses on the continent.

"People came into the streets to protest against the high cost of living," Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty's Africa programme director, told the BBC's Network Africa programme.


"The reaction we saw from the authorities was very repressive. For example, in Cameroon about 100 people were killed in February last year."

But the bulk of Amnesty's report concentrated on the continent's three main conflict zones: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan.

In DR Congo, the focus was on the east where it said civilians had suffered terribly at the hands of government soldiers and rebel groups. The Hutu FDLR movement, for example, was accused of raping women and burning people alive in their homes.

Amnesty said it was also the civilians in Somalia who bore the brunt of conflict, with tens of thousands fleeing violence and hundreds killed by ferocious fighting in the capital, Mogadishu. It also highlighted the killing and abduction of journalists and aid workers.

In Sudan, Amnesty catalogued a series of abuses including the sentencing to death of members of a rebel group, a clampdown on human rights activists and the expulsion of several aid groups following the issuing of an international arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir.

A number of countries, including Zimbabwe and Ethiopia, were criticised for intimidating and imprisoning members of the opposition.

And Nigeria came under fire for the forced evictions of thousands of people in the eastern city of Port Harcourt.


Across the region, millions fell further into poverty as the cost of basic necessities rose, Amnesty said.

In Burma, the military government rejected international aid in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis and punished those who tried to help victims of the disaster. It continued campaigns against minority groups which involved forced labour, torture and murder, Amnesty said.

In North Korea, millions are said to have experienced hunger not seen in a decade and thousands tried to flee, only to be caught and returned to detention, forced labour and torture. In both North Korea and Burma, freedom of expression was non-existent.

In China, the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games was marred by a clamp-down on activists and journalists, and the forcible evictions of thousands from their homes, the report said. Ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet continued to suffer from systematic discrimination, witnessing unrest followed by government suppression.

Millions of Afghans faced persistent insecurity at the hands of Taliban militants. The Afghan government failed to maintain the rule of law or to provide basic services to many. Girls and women particularly suffered a lack of access to health and education services.

In Sri Lanka, the government prevented international aid workers or journalists from reaching the conflict zone to assist or witness the plight of those caught up in fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.


Israel's military operation in Gaza in December 2008 caused a disproportionate number of civilian casualties, Amnesty said. Its blockade of the territory "exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, health and sanitation problems, poverty and malnutrition for the 1.5 million residents", according to the report.

On the Palestinian side, both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were accused of repressing dissent and detaining political opponents.

The death penalty was used extensively in Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Across the region, women faced discrimination both under the law and in practice, Amnesty said, and many faced violence at the hands of spouses or male relatives.

Governments that included Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are said to have used often sweeping counter-terrorism laws to clamp down on their political opponents and to stifle legitimate criticism.


Indigenous communities across Central and South America were disproportionately affected by poverty while their land rights are ignored, Amnesty said. Development projects on indigenous land were often accompanied by harassment and violence.

Women and girls faced violence and sexual abuse, particularly in Haiti and Nicaragua. The stigma associated with the abuse condemned many to silence, the report said, while laws in some nations meant that abortion was not available to those who became pregnant as a result of abuse or assault.

Gang violence worsened in some nations; in Guatemala and Brazil evidence emerged of police involvement in the killings of suspected criminals, the report found.

America continued to employ the death penalty, the report noted, and concern persisted over foreign nationals held at America's Guantanamo Bay detention centre, although the report acknowledged the commitment by US President Barack Obama to close it down.


Civilians paid a high price for last year's conflict between Russia and Georgia, Amnesty said. Hundreds of people died and 200,000 were displaced. In many cases, civilians' homes and lives were devastated.

Many nations continued to deny fair treatment to asylum seekers, with some deporting individuals or groups to countries where they faced the possibility of harm.

Roma (gypsies) faced systematic discrimination across the region and were largely excluded from public life in all countries.

Freedom of expression remained poor in countries such as Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other Central Asian nations.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

The risks of a crime-fighting pact

By Chiang Huang-chih 姜皇池

Monday, May 04, 2009, Page 8

Taipei Times: For many years, the cross-strait situation has allowed fugitives to remain in China. But following protracted negotiations, Taiwan and China have finally signed an agreement to cooperate on crime-fighting and judicial matters. Much of the public will welcome the development in the belief that suspects wanted for serious crimes — economic and otherwise — will be repatriated to face trial if authorities ask for the help of their Chinese counterparts.

This would improve crime fighting efforts, but certain undemocratic aspects of the deal deserve scrutiny.

Article 4, clause 3 stipulates that in cases where one side considers a person a criminal suspect and the other does not, but that involve considerable “harm” to society, the two sides should deal with the matter on a case-by-case basis based on mutual consent. It may be that this regulation was included to cover all eventualities and that it leaves room for interpretation. Although well-meant, such a broad clause could have serious consequences.

Taiwan is a refuge for many Chinese democracy campaigners who reject authoritarian rule.

In China, these people cried out for democracy and rule of law, challenging the Chinese Communist Party and thereby committing “crimes” in the eyes of Beijing.

There are also many Taiwanese who advocate independence. From China’s perspective, they are “splittists” and are considered criminals.

Taiwan is also home to Falun Gong practitioners whose calls for religious freedom are anathema to Beijing. China considers their criticism a source of social unrest and they could therefore fall within the definition of activities that harm society.

Our government may think these worries unfounded, but the weaker signatory to an agreement is more vulnerable to political pressure. Making the content of agreements as precise as possible could help avoid controversy later on. Otherwise, when a dispute arises, the stronger party will try to dodge its responsibilities, while the weaker party will be pressured into honoring the terms of the clause.

Taiwan is becoming increasingly dependent on China economically. In a position of weakness, it may one day find it hard to refuse objectionable extradition requests from Beijing.

If China demands people be repatriated, will our government be able to refuse?

For Taiwanese, activities that Beijing sees as a threat — such as exercising freedom of speech and religion — are part and parcel of democracy. Would our government turn its back on these fundamental values?

Another cause for concern is Article 24, which states that the agreement will take effect once each side has completed the necessary preparations, no more than 60 days after the deal was signed.

It is true that not all international agreements need to be scrutinized by legislative bodies, and there are international examples of agreements taking effect without legislative review.

However, this applies without exception to non-controversial technical agreements where there is no major conflict of interest.

The crime-fighting agreement does not fit this description in either form or substance.

According to constitutional interpretation No. 329 of the Council of Grand Justices, if an agreement signed by government authorities “involves important issues of the nation or rights and duties of the people and its legality is sustained ... [it] should be sent to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation.”

This agreement has a bearing on the rights and duties of all citizens. It will have a strong impact on the nation’s democracy and basic values. How could the government agree to implement this deal within 60 days?

The agreement was formulated and signed without any public participation and the legislature was deprived of its right to scrutinize it. It is an assault on democratic values and the way it has been processed is unconstitutional.

Executive and legislative agencies as well as the public should not let this slip through without further debate.

Chiang Huang-chih is an associate professor in the College of Law at National Taiwan University.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The CCP continues to see ghosts

Taipei Times /By Sushil Seth
Thursday, May 28, 2009, Page 8

With the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan rebellion of 1959 still fresh in the memory, Beijing now has to confront the 20th anniversary of the student-led democracy movement that was crushed in Tiananmen Square.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken all the necessary steps to prevent — and crush, if necessary — any protests that might take place next week.

In 1989, students seeking political reforms were met with tanks as the regime feared being toppled by a ragtag movement seeking a more open political system with transparency and accountability.

That system was, and still is, racked with corruption.

Was there any serious danger to the CCP from the student movement? Then-CCP general secretary Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽) didn’t think so and was toppled by the ruling clique led by Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平).

In secret tapes recorded by Zhao during his 16 years in house arrest until his death, he raised some pertinent questions.

“It was determined [by the leading CCP group] that the student movement was a planned conspiracy of anti-party, anti-socialist elements with leadership,” Zhao said.

“So now we must ask, who were these leaders? What was the plan? What was the conspiracy? What evidence exists to support this?” he wrote. “It was also said that that there were black hands within the party. Who were they?”

“It was said that this event was aimed at overthrowing the People’s Republic and the CCP. Where is the evidence?” Zhao said.

His conclusion was that there were no such elements conspiring to overthrow the CCP.

“I had said at the time that most people were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system,” he said.

One might think that having crushed the last perceived organized threat to its monopoly on power, the CCP would feel at ease. But the paranoia persists.

The system remains alert to any organized sign of resistance that might emerge.

After all, the Falun Gong movement emerged out of nowhere and managed to hold a large public protest in 1999. Soon afterwards, the movement was banned and declared an evil cult, with thousands of followers arrested and tortured.

The persecution continues.

Falun Gong was never a threat to the CCP’s rule. But overkill is still the mark of the ruling oligarchy.

The fact is that China’s rulers do not want to take any chances with unruly masses, believing they need the perpetual control and guidance of the CCP to prevent the country from plunging into chaos.

This is the CCP’s self-serving mythology that has been parroted ever since. In the absence of any kind of popular endorsement of its rule, the CCP has had to create the illusion of impending disaster if the party is not around.

This makes the party and the country indistinguishable. In other words, a Chinese citizen ceases to be “patriotic” if he or she seeks political change.

If a group meets regularly to talk of democracy as a political alternative for the country, soon enough its members will find themselves behind bars.

Zhao, though, favored the democratic alternative. He reportedly said that: “It is the Western parliamentary system that has demonstrated the most vitality … [and] meets the demands of a modern society.”

But the CCP is unlikely to follow this route to commit political suicide. Indeed, it actively works to destroy any challenge (real or imagined) to its political monopoly.

The government freely uses charges of subversion and leaking of “state secrets” as justification to throw people in jail.

Other no-go topics are Tibet, Taiwan and Uighur separatism in Xinjiang.

In other words, the country’s communist rulers have multiple grounds to throw people into jail.

The Internet, though, is posing problems. Despite a panoply of firewalls built by the Chinese government to deny people access to certain types of information, those determined enough do manage to keep themselves informed through alternative sites.

Most Chinese, however, live on a diet of government-fed information that provides a filtered view of their country and the world.

With the economy slowing, however, social unrest has been increasing.

Even with growth rates of more than 10 percent, China has been unable to provide jobs for many of its teeming millions.

The rural economy is so depressed that young men and women from the countryside flocked to urban industrial centers for jobs.

There have been an estimated 140 million migrant rural workers in cities. With the closure of urban factories, about 20 million have already gone back to their homes and farms.

If the process of rural workers trekking back to the countryside continues, it will aggravate social unrest.

There are no jobs for them back home and their families’ farms can hardly feed more mouths. With progressively reduced remittances back home, the rural families will have an even harder time.

Already, there is a three-fold gap between rural and urban incomes. Any widening of this gap is likely to create further tensions.

There is a sense that the Chinese government is aware of the grim social reality of even harder times in rural areas. It is, therefore, diverting resources to the rural sector as part of the overall stimulus package.

Jonathan Fenby, China director at Trusted Sources, said Chinese in rural areas “aren’t benefiting much from the US$1 trillion sloshing out in China in fiscal and monetary stimulus.”

That is because: “That money is going mainly to big urban-based firms, while the drop in remittances from migrant workers in coastal export zones is hitting village income, deflation is reducing income from sales of food, farm input costs have risen and mechanization is uneconomic in many places, given the small size of plots allowed under the land ownership system.”

At the same time, in the cities, the middle class finds itself with fewer economic opportunities. Young graduates coming into the job market find it increasingly difficult to find jobs.

Therefore, even if China’s economy continues to grow (but at nearly half the growth rate reported in the last decade) things are pretty grim.

As economic difficulties create more social tensions and unrest, China’s paranoid leadership will start seeing ghosts of political challenge, which might lead to greater repression.

This is not to suggest that the CCP’s grip on power is in any immediate danger. The suggestion, though, is that an increasing aggregation of social tensions could create an explosive situation in the short or medium term.

Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

China Said to Threaten Licenses of Rights Lawyers

NYT- BEIJING — Chinese legal authorities have threatened to delay or deny the renewal of legal licenses for 18 top civil rights lawyers, escalating use of a tactic they have used to put pressure on attorneys they consider troublesome, two human-rights advocacy groups have charged.

Many of the lawyers have taken on cases, involving such issues as Tibetan political activism and police brutality, that gained national and even international attention. The advocacy groups, Human Rights Watch and Chinese Human Rights Defenders, called the actions by the legal authorities part of an effort to intimidate the lawyers and their law firms into avoiding sensitive cases.

“It is unprecedented to have so many prominent lawyers facing difficulties with their license renewal,” Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “This is a sort of backhand retaliation by judicial authorities in Beijing to warn the firms that employ these lawyers that there might be consequences to their business if they don’t keep their distance.”

The authorities in China have frequently sought to silence or intimidate activist lawyers by holding up the annual renewal of their licenses to practice law. But the widespread use of the bureaucratic technique against top lawyers in the capital is rare.

With China entering the four-day Dragon Boat Festival national holiday weekend, Beijing judicial officials were unavailable for comment on the charges on Wednesday. The Associated Press reported that its request for comment, faxed to the city’s Justice Bureau, had not been answered by evening. Mr. Bequelin said that in four cases, Beijing judicial authorities had told the heads of law firms that a civil-rights lawyer in their practice faced difficulties in renewing a license.

In some cases, the law firms were told that they could avoid difficulties by giving the lawyers failing grades in their annual performance evaluations, a move that would give the authorities ammunition in any move to permanently disbar them.

In other cases, the warning was delivered either directly to the lawyers or to officials in the city bar association, which is effectively government-controlled. In turn, the bar association has told the lawyers that the renewals of their association memberships are problematic.

Two other civil-rights lawyers who practice outside Beijing have also been warned that their licenses are in peril, the two advocacy groups stated in press releases.

The 20 lawyers listed by the two groups have pursued a broad range of cases in the last year that either challenged the government directly or threatened to cause embarrassment. Among other causes, they have represented the families of schoolchildren killed during last May’s Sichuan earthquake; the families of children injured after drinking milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine; Tibetans arrested during the March 2008 anti-government protests; and members of the Falun Gong sect, which the Chinese government has labeled a dangerous religious cult.

Some of those threatened have been attacked and beaten as well.

Cheng Hai, a lawyer, was beaten last month in Chengdu, in southwestern Sichuan Province, while investigating the case of a student and Falun Gong practitioner who had been imprisoned on charges of “publicizing an evil cult.” Two others, Zhang Kai and Li Chunfu, were arrested and beaten by police officers this month while investigating the case of a man who had died during his sentence in a Chinese camp for re-education through labor.

Government pressure on activist lawyers appears to be increasing this year, Chinese Human Rights Defenders stated, as Chinese officials seek to guarantee public order during a stretch of politically sensitive dates, including the twentieth anniversary of the bloody assault on Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrators on June 4.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

How Pelosi can aid China's human rights

China Post: The visit to China this week by the U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, one of the strongest critics of Beijing's human rights record in the last two decades, has spurred speculation as to what she might do during the trip, the official purpose of which is to discuss climate change.

Ms. Pelosi declined at a briefing to say whether she planned to discuss human rights, saying only that she wanted to secure support for a global pact on reducing carbon emissions, in advance of a major international gathering on climate change scheduled for December in Copenhagen.

The lawmaker condemned the Tiananmen Square military crackdown of 1989 and angered the Chinese government in 1991 when she visited Beijing and, together with two other members of Congress, unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square that said, “To those who died for democracy in China.”

Since then, she has remained a vocal critic of China and, last year, urged President George W. Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.

This trip is reminiscent of the visit to Beijing in February by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said that human rights “can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.” It is 20 years since the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and the Chinese government is still not ready to talk about the event, despite the publication of the secret memoirs of Zhao Ziyang, the former party leader who was put under house arrest from 1989 until his death in 2005 for having sympathized with the students.

However, this does not mean that there has been no progress on human rights during the intervening years. China has acceded to quite a few human rights covenants, which means that it has accepted the right of the international community to take an interest in the human rights situation in the country.

This year, for the first time, it issued a human rights action plan for 2009 and 2010. The steps taken may be small but they do reflect genuine progress.

The Obama administration needs to decide on its China human rights policy. Bill Clinton began by linking China's trade status and human rights, then uncoupled them and sought to condemn China in the United Nations, an effort that was a spectacular failure.

The George W. Bush administration was particularly strong on religious freedom. But, as Bush rightly pointed out in his last major speech in August: “Ultimately, only China can decide what course it will follow.... Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and its own traditions.”

In the long run, there is little doubt that China will adopt political reforms and greater respect for human rights. But that does not mean that there is nothing for the rest of the world to do in the mean time.

In fact, there is something that Ms. Pelosi in particular can do, on this trip. She can quietly put pressure on China to release some of its political prisoners, such as Liu Xiaobo, a principal drafter of Charter 08, a document signed by thousands of people in China that calls for an end to the Communist Party's monopoly on power. Mr. Liu has been detained without trial since December.

But an even more urgent case is that of the rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been “disappeared” since February. Mr. Gao's lawyer's license was revoked and he himself was tortured for 59 days in 2007 after he criticized the government's persecution of members of the Falun Gong. One reason given by his tormentors for his treatment was that he had written to the United States Congress.

Mr. Gao's wife, Geng He, and their two children fled China secretly and were given political asylum in the United States in March. Last month, she wrote an open letter to the United States Congress expressing gratitude to the American government and appealing for help.

“Honorable members of the United States Congress,” she wrote, “I entreat you to go a step further in helping our family by putting an end to the Chinese government's persecution of my husband, lawyer Gao Zhisheng.”

It would be entirely appropriate for Ms. Pelosi, the Speaker of the Congress, to respond to such an appeal. If she can, through private diplomacy, obtain the release of this man, it will go a long way towards justifying the Obama administration's low-key attitude towards human rights in China.

Frank Ching can be reached at

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Tiananmen Massacre and labour camps case studies

Party-State In China Mocks Universal Declaration of Human Rights

-Tiananmen Massacre and labour camps case studies
by Hon. David Kilgour
Forum on Human Rights in China
214 Wellington Building, Parliament Buildings

May 27, 2009


As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre and 10 full years since the merciless persecution of Falun Gong began, I feel compelled to use my limited time today on these issues, despite those who say any criticism of China's party-state should be muted during the present world economic crisis. Both, including the use of mostly Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in forced labour camps, are haunting testimonials against a totalitarian political system, which has over the past two decades also encouraged "anything goes" economics.

Tiananmen Massacre

In the spring of 1989, hundreds of thousands of Beijing residents, led by university students, took their complaints against corruption by officials to the streets following the sudden death of reform-minded former Party Secretary Hu Yaobang. Taking advantage of the presence of foreign journalists covering the visit to China's capital by then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, the demonstrators demanded political reforms towards democracy and the rule of law. Their raw courage inspired demonstrations across the country unprecedented since Mao seized power in 1949. Almost a hundred million Chinese participated in one way or another (1.). The protests continued even after the Party declared martial law and brought in thousands of armed soldiers.

Children of the Dragon, published in 1990 by the NGO Human Rights in China, captures many realities of the period well because most of the voices in it are survivours. For example, Cao Xinyuan, then a sculptor in Beijing: "We kept trying to tell the soldiers that no-one wanted to overthrow the government. We only wanted to get rid of corruption. We wanted political reforms."

Deng Xiaoping characterized the events as a "counterrevolutionary riot", but ordinary citizens offered more accurate perspectives. Wuer Kaixi, one of the protest leaders, noted, "We repeatedly communicated to senior levels of the government that if they wished the students to withdraw they had to 'give them a ladder to stand down', so to speak,or else they would not go."

Ousting Zhao Ziyang

Literary critic Su Wei wrote: "...Li Peng and the other elders had a premeditated plan. They were plotting to oust (liberal Party Secretary) Zhao Ziyang and undo a decade of reforms. As the government continued to provoke the students, it therefore became more and more difficult to ask the young people to behave rationally." Zhao lost his job as martial law was declared and lived nearly 16 years under house arrest until his death in January 2005.

Hu Ping, leader of the 1980 student movement, remarked: "The spectacular pro-democracy movement in 1989 showed eloquently that the Chinese people will pursue democracy and freedom with compassion and self-sacrifice."

A resident today of Ottawa, who witnessed the events, remembers: "We shouted, we argued, we begged, we bribed the soldiers, pleading with them not to raise their arms against the defenceless people. However, the government was not to be deterred from its plans for 'restoring stability' at any cost... Among the victims were my colleagues, students, classmates and a former boyfriend. My heart ached and raged with anger when I saw stacks of bodies, many crushed in half, in the hospitals in the days that followed." China's rulers had sent in tanks and machine guns for a bloody massacre of fellow citizens.

The two days that traumatized much of the world were consistent with a forty-year record of brutality against their own people.

The preface of Quelling The People (1992) by Timothy Brook, a Canadian academic, captures the essence of what then occurred: "On the night of June, 3 1989, tens of thousands of soldiers armed with assault rifles forced their way into the city of Beijing and drove unarmed student protesters from the central square at Tiananmen. When hundreds of thousands of citizens and students blocked their paths, the soldiers opened fire. On the morning of June 4, thousands lay dead and dying in the streets, the hospitals and the homes of Beijing."

'Retired Emperors' Decision

According to the respected journalist, Liu Binyan, those who made the decision were "largely controlled by eight senile 'retired emperors', all over eighty years, who did not hold formal office in the Party or government but who prop up their rule through brute force and lies...To Deng as to Mao, people are nothing more than instruments: in wartime, they serve as soldiers; in peacetime, they are hands for production..." Liu was twice expelled from the Communist Party, repeatedly persecuted and died in exile for speaking the truth.

To divert the ensuing international outcry and re-assert its claim to legitimacy, which was effectively nullified worldwide by the massacre, the Party turned its attention towards economic growth. In short order, China was refashioned into the world's factory, churning out low-cost, often unsafe, consumer items made by women and men enjoying minimal work safety and virtually no social programs, pensions or environmental standards. This included prisoners of conscience who toil without any pay in forced labour camps.

The Tiananmen Massacre and forced labour camps are examples of the party-state's oppression of one fifth of the world's population and its continuing failure to honour basic human rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

China's Gulag

Forced labour as a consequence of human trafficking is all too common in many parts of the world today, but only the party-state of China uses it to punish and suppress Chinese citizens for political dissent or religious beliefs. Any Chinese national can be sent to a camp without any form of trial for up to four years upon committal by a simple police signature. No appeal is possible. Mao closely duplicated the work camp model set up in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, which in China alone continues today.

In China, only Falun Gong inmates in the camps are used as a live organ bank to be pillaged for sales to foreigners. Medical testing is required before organs can be matched with recipients, but only Falun Gong prisoners in the camp populations are tested medically on a regular basis.

Since the 1950s, a vast network of labour camps has existed. In the estimated 340 camps across China as of 2005, up to 300,000 "workers" toil in inhuman conditions for up to sixteen hours daily without pay, producing a wide range of consumer products, mostly for export in violation of World Trade Organization rules.

For example, Montreal resident Ms. Guizhi Chen, 62, was subject to four years of forced labour without pay in two different labour camps camp. Among the products, some for export, she made were purses and sweaters, worked on for an average of twelve hours daily. In the first facility she occupied, located near the outskirts of Beijing, about half of the other 700 female labourers were Falun Gong practitioners. In the second, located far from the capital, there were about 300 women labourers, again with approximately half being Falun Gong. Only the Falun Gong practitioners in both, she says, were examined medically with blood tests and x-rays.

Mocking Universal Human Rights Declaration

Such practices anticipated the Party's intransigence against calls to improve human rights. They are fully consistent with Beijing's rejection of the recommendations advanced by a number of governments, including Canada's, in a recent Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Commission.

Among the recommendations rejected by the government of China: ending all forms of arbitrary detention, including labour camps; guaranteeing freedom of belief and the right to worship in private; implementing the recommendations of the UN Committee Against Torture, which included references to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and organ pillaging from them; and ensuring that lawyers can defend their clients without fear or harassment.

Trade with China, where no media freedom exists, has been a costly proposition for many. In the words of Phelim Kine who pinpointed the consequence of unfree media there: "The truths of corruption, public health scandals, environmental crises and abusive local authorities may be inconvenient...( but to) smother the reporting of these truths has contributed measurably to other global debacles, including recall of tainted food and toys."

These and a host of other violations of normal international trading practices contributed to Canada's bilateral trade deficit rising in China's favour from $3.9 billion in 1997 to $26.8 billion in 2006, while costing many manufacturing livelihoods across Canada.

Fighting spirit of the people

The Chinese government continues to deprive the people of China of basic human rights and the rule of law. While the world closed ranks and collectively condemned the Tiananmen killings, much of the international community today have averted their attention from the forced labour camps, which continue to operate as instruments of oppression and vehicles for illegal trade practices.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of Beijing's June 4 bloody crackdown of the student-led democratic movement, the regime has intensified its crackdown against human rights activists, according to Roseann Rife, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Deputy Director. “Most worrying is the complete disregard for national laws and the obstructions thrown in front of lawyers trying to do their jobs.”

It is clear that there has been no substantive improvement on human rights in China over the past twenty years. As John Delury of Malaysia's New Strait Times writes: "Sure enough, urban development, investment, and gross domestic product growth accelerated throughout the 1990s, but so did the gap between urban winners and rural losers." Such discrepancies and the consistent oppression of dissenting groups and ordinary citizens have led to more than 80,000 mass disturbances across the country last year, by Bejing's own admission, a sign that the regime has not been successful in crushing the fighting spirit of the Chinese people.


As the world experiences the economic crisis and seeks China's cooperation in dealing with its challenges, it is tempting to overlook Beijing's human rights record. We must remind our leaders that to equivocate on China's record is a departure from Canada's own values of human dignity and rule of law. We must caution them that trade with China at any price is costly both for the people of China and the peoples of the world. We must remember the sacrifices of victims of the massacre and other abuses. We must demand that, instead of mocking the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, China should honour its provisions.

Thank you.


1-Source: Zhang Liang and The Tiananmen Papers, 2001, p x1

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008