China Human Rights Fact Sheet

Human rights violations in the People's Republic of China (PRC) remain systematic and widespread. The Chinese government continues to suppress dissenting opinions and maintains political control over the legal system, resulting in an arbitrary and sometimes abusive judicial regime. The lack of accountability of the government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) means that abuses by officials often go unchecked. This fact sheet identifies the most common types of abuses, including arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association and violations specific to women.

  1. Controls on Expressions and Associations
  2. Torture and Ill-Treatment of Prisoners
  3. Lackof Judicial Independance and Due Process
  4. Death Penalty
  5. Tibet
  6. Women
  7. Resource List

Controls on Expressions and Associations

The PRC detains individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of association, freedom of religion and freedom of expression, including the right to impart and receive information, and other basic rights. The total number of persons in China detained without charge, sentenced administratively to reeducation or reform camps, or held by other means, solely for peacefully exercising these rights is unknown. However, that figure is estimated to be far in excess of the approximately 3,000 individuals that the PRC currently acknowledges imprisoning for "counter-revolutionary" or political crimes. Many of those detained are held under circumstances that constitute clear violations of due process. Such violations include lengthy detention without charge or trial and depriving defendants of access to legal counsel.

Restrictions on Independent Organizing: Although the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of association and assembly, national regulations severely limit association and give the authorities absolute discretion to deny applications for public gatherings or demonstrations. In practice, only organizations that are approved by the authorities are permitted to exist, and any organization that is not registered is considered "illegal." In this manner, independent advocacy on labor, human rights, environmental, development or political issues is effectively outlawed. The CCP-controlled labor union and women and youth organizations are the only permitted avenues for organizing in these areas. Unofficial labor groups have been a particular target for suppression. In December 1994, the Beijing Intermediate People's Court imposed severe sentences of between 15 and 20 years' imprisonment on three prisoners of conscience, convicted of "leading counter-revolutionary organizations." The sentences, based on the defendants' alleged formation of non-government-approved organizations, were the harshest delivered to political dissidents in recent years.

On 4 June, 1994, the fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, China promulgated new implementing regulations for the 1993 State Security Law. The repressive new measures threaten the few legal means of operation left to democracy and human rights activists, independent religious adherents and other independent voices, by criminalizing: contact with and funding from foreign organizations defined as "hostile"; the publication or dissemination of "written or verbal speeches" or "using religion" to carry out activities "which endanger state security;" and the creation of "national disputes." The regulations also give state security officials virtually unlimited power to detain individuals, confiscate property and determine what constitutes a "hostile" organization.

Restrictions on Free Speech and the Media: Although the PRC's 1982 Constitution guarantees citizens freedom of expression and of the press, its preamble mandates adherence to "four basic principles"-- the CCP's leadership, socialism, dictatorship of the proletariat and Marxism-Leninism Mao Zedong Thought. In practice, the PRC employs a wide range of controls that violate the right to free expression and interfere with independent media. These include severe restrictions on contact between foreign news media and Chinese viewed by the government as critical of the regime. An extensive censorship bureaucracy licenses all media outlets and publishing houses and must approve all books before publication.

The primary mechanism of control over the news media and publishing is self-censorship. Chinese journalists, editors and publishers are expected to make the information they disseminate conform to CCP Propaganda Department guidelines. For example, news coverage is required to be "80% positive and 20% negative." Sanctions for infringements range from official criticism of the coverage to the demotion, firing or imprisonment of the individuals responsible and the closing or banning of the offending publication.

Dissidents who make their opinions known to the foreign media are often subject to threats, detention, harassment, intensive surveillance or imprisonment. During 1994, at least 20 Chinese writers, journalists, editors and publishers were persecuted in connection with their work. Also during the year, foreign correspondents from the British Broadcasting Corporation, Newsweek, Reuters, United Press International, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, U.S. television networks (NBC, CBS) and other foreign media outfits were detained and interrogated by PRC police regarding their work as journalists, including the interviewing of Chinese dissidents and students and filming in Tiananmen Square. Police also banned broadcasts of CNN in Beijing hotels for five days surrounding the fifth anniversary of the 4 June 1989 military crackdown on democracy demonstrators.

Suppression of Religious Freedom: The PRC prohibits all religious activities outside establishments registered under the official branches of four state-recognized religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam), established by the PRC government during the 1950s, through which Chinese and Tibetan religious adherents are required to practice their faith. Individuals conducting or participating in public worship without government authorization, including Catholics loyal to the Vatican and Protestants who worship in house churches, have been arrested, detained, placed under close police surveillance or internal exile, fined and, in some cases, tortured. PRC police have also confiscated religious literature and church property, and human rights organizations have documented the closure of hundreds of house churches since 1989.

China's laws restricting contact with foreign coreligionists, prohibiting parents from exposing children under the age of 18 to religion, and outlawing nongovernment-controlled churches violate the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In January 1994, the PRC government increased restrictions on religious practice by foreigners in China through State Council Decrees 144 and 145. Decree 144 states that foreign nationals may bring in religious materials only "for their own use," and bans materials deemed "harmful to the public interest." The decree also prohibits evangelizing, establishing religious schools and other missionary activities. Decree 145 gives authorities substantial leeway in restricting religious activities deemed harmful to "national unity" or "social stability," and limits the practice of religion by foreign nationals to state-sanctioned places of worship.

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Torture and Ill-Treatment of Prisoners

Torture of detainees is endemic in Chinese detention centers and prisons. Although China became party to the UN Convention Against Torture in 1988, the government has not taken effective measures to diminish the risk of prisoners being tortured or ill-treated. Despite strong evidence of torture in several cases of death in custody, state prosecutors have refused to release autopsy results to families or to initiate investigations. In many detention centers, beatings, inadequate food and poor hygiene appear to be a routine part of the process of eliciting confessions and compliance from detainees. Such treatment is applied to ordinary prisoners as well as political detainees.

According to prisoner reports, methods commonly used by guards include: beatings using electric batons; rubber truncheons on hands and feet; long periods in handcuffs and/or leg irons, often tightened so as to cause pain; restriction of food to starvation levels; and long periods in solitary confinement. Furthermore, corrupt authorities at detention centers, prisons and labor camps have extorted large sums of money from families of detainees for the state's provision of "daily supplies" and "medical expenses."

Despite continuing efforts by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations, PRC officials have not agreed to allow open and unannounced visits to prisoners. PRC authorities acknowledge that there are some 1.2 million prisoners and detainees in China.

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Lack of Judicial Independance and Due Process

Few legal safeguards exist in China to ensure fair trials, and the judicial system is controlled at every level by CCP political-legal committees that may determine the outcome of cases before the court hears evidence presented at trial. Legal scholars within China have called for an end to this widespread practice of "verdict first, trial second." With the political-legal committees exercising extensive control, detainees are highly unlikely to receive fair, impartial hearings that are free from official manipulation.

China's Criminal Procedure Law provides for detainees to have access to lawyers no later than one week before trial. However, even this minimal protection is not always observed. Prisoners typically cannot call witnesses for the defense or question witnesses against them. In politically sensitive cases, lawyers have been instructed that they may enter a not-guilty plea only if they get approval from the judicial administration. Even in death-penalty cases, appeals are usually cursory, and defendants may have only several days to file an appeal.

Arbitrary Detention: In addition to judicial convictions, PRC authorities consistently use administrative procedures to detain hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Tibetans each year.

Individuals sentenced administratively by police are not charged or brought before a judge, thereby denying them access to a lawyer and the right to defend themselves. The majority of these individuals are ordinary people, but democracy and human rights activists, independent religious adherents and worker-rights advocates are also frequently detained in this way.

The most common forms of administrative detention are:

1) "reeducation through labor," under which police, without trial, can send individuals to labor camps for up to four years; and

2) "shelter and investigation," under which police can detain people without charge or trial for up to three months, a time limit that is routinely ignored.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that the practice of "reeducation through labor" is "inherently arbitrary" when intended for "political and cultural rehabilitation." According to PRC government sources, 100,000 people are sent to "reeducation through labor" camps and one million are "sheltered" each year.

Conditional Releases with Continued Deprivation of Rights: The PRC infrequently has released political prisoners of conscience before the completion of their sentences, predominantly as a result of international pressure. However, those released have been forced into exile, subjected to continuing police surveillance and harassment or, in some cases, detained again for alleged violations of the restrictive conditions of parole or new "crimes" of free expression. Many former prisoners of conscience are not granted the identity cards necessary to gain employment or travel without express official permission.

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Death Penalty

During the past two years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of the death penalty in China. This growth in the number of death sentences and executions is partly due to anti-crime campaigns launched by the government. Defendants can be put to death for criminal offenses, including nonviolent property crimes such as theft, embezzlement and forgery. In 1993, 77% of all executions worldwide were carried out in China. On a single day, 9 January 1993, 356 death sentences were handed down by Chinese courts; 62 executions took place that day. During that year alone, 2,564 people were sentenced to death. At least 1,419 of them are known to have been executed. The total number of death sentences and executions is believed to be higher. Defendants do not always have access to lawyers, and when a lawyer is available, he or she usually has no more than one or two days to prepare a defense. Death sentences have been imposed based on forced confessions and are often decided in advance of the trial by "adjudication committees," thereby circumventing defendants' rights to a fair and public hearing and presumption of innocence.

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In Tibet, hundreds of Tibetans have been incarcerated for peacefully expressing their political and religious beliefs. Conditions in prisons are reported to be dismal, with numerous accounts of torture and ill-treatment. In particular, PRC law enforcement officials have perpetrated violent acts against Tibetan women in detention centers and prisons. Buddhist nuns and lay women have been subject to torture or violent, degrading and inhuman treatment, including assault, rape and sexual abuse. In June 1994, one Tibetan nun died while in custody, reportedly as a result of a beating by guards. PRC authorities also have severely restricted religious practice; out of the 6,000 Buddhist monasteries that were destroyed by the PRC since its 1949 invasion of Tibet, only a few hundred have been rebuilt.

PRC policies, including population transfers of hundreds of thousands of Chinese into Tibet, threaten to make Tibetans a minority in their own land and to destroy Tibetans' distinct national, religious and cultural identity.

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The Chinese Constitution and other laws provide equal rights for men and women in all spheres of life, including ownership of property, inheritance and educational opportunities. Equality between the sexes has been a part of the CCP's agenda from its early days, and women's rights are perceived to be in a separate category from human rights. Therefore, women's organizations in China, even though they remain under CCP control, are able to advocate effectively on some issues involving abuses of women's human rights. However, when women's rights or interests conflict with Party or government policy, the latter takes precedence. This means, for example, that abuses related to the family planning policy are not reported in the media or discussed publicly. Information about other issues, such as the extent of domestic violence, trafficking in women or abuses directed at lesbians, is effectively prevented by the CCP's injunction that most news should be positive. Thus, the controls on freedom of expression and association, which so affect democracy and human rights activists, have a strong impact on women's human rights as well.

Violence Against Women: According to some researchers, spousal abuse is far too common and, in many parts of the country, still socially acceptable. However, comprehensive statistics about the extent of domestic violence are not available or have not been made public. The official All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) has been studying this problem and seeking solutions.

Few battered women have the opportunity to escape abuse, because shelters and other resources are not available. Women are under considerable social pressure to keep families together regardless of the circumstances. Legal action is not taken against batterers unless the victim initiates it, and if she withdraws her testimony, the proceedings are ended.

Abduction and Trafficking of Women: Trafficking and sale of women as brides or into prostitution is a serious problem in certain parts of China, and Chinese women have been sold into brothels in Southeast Asia. The PRC government has enacted various laws to combat the sale of women, but the statistics released by the government do not reliably indicate the scale of the problem. PRC officials stated that there were 15,000 cases of kidnapping and trafficking in women and children in 1993. Yet according to one estimate, 10,000 women were abducted and sold in 1992 in Sichuan Province alone.

Until recently, the authorities have not prosecuted men who purchase women as wives; thus, the trade has continued unabated. Official action to rescue victims of trafficking is generally initiated only if a complaint is made by the woman or her family. Local officials often turn a blind eye, even formally registering marriages into which the woman has been sold.

Discrimination in Employment and Education: The PRC ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1980 and enacted the Law on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests in 1992. However, open discrimination against women in China has continued to grow during the period of reform of the last 15 years.

According to PRC government surveys, women's salaries have been found to average 77% of men's, and most women employed in industry work in low-skill and low-paying jobs. An estimated 70 to 80% of workers laid off as a result of downsizing in factories have been women, and, although women make up 38% of the work force, they are 60% of the unemployed. At job fairs, employers openly advertise positions for men only, and university campus recruiters often state that they will not hire women. Employers justify such discrimination by saying that they cannot afford the benefits they are required to provide for pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants.

The proportion of women to men declines at each educational tier, with women comprising some 25% of undergraduates in universities. Institutions of higher education that have a large proportion of female applicants, such as foreign language institutes, have been known to require higher entrance exam grades from women.

Although China has a law mandating compulsory primary education, increasing numbers of rural girls are not being sent to school. Rural parents often do not want to "waste" money on school fees for girls who will "belong" to another family when they marry. According to official statistics, about 70% of illiterates in China are female.

Violations Resulting from Family Planning Policy: The Chinese Constitution mandates the duty of couples to practice family planning. Since 1979, the central government has attempted to implement a family planning policy in China and Tibet that the government states is "intended to control population quantity and improve its quality." Central to this initiative is the "one child per couple" policy. Central authorities have verbally condemned the use of physical force in implementing the one-child policy; however, its implementation is left to local laws and regulations.

To enforce compliance, local authorities employ incentives such as medical, educational and housing benefits, and punishments including fines, confiscation of property, salary cuts or even dismissal. Officials also may refuse to issue residence cards to "out of plan" children, thereby denying them education and other state benefits.

Methods employed to ensure compliance have also included the forced use of contraceptives, primarily the I.U.D., and forced abortion for pregnant women who already have one child. In Zheijang Province, for example, the family planning ordinance states that "fertile couples must use reliable birth control according to the provisions. In case of pregnancies in default of the plan, measures must be taken to terminate them." As an official "minority", Tibetans are legally allowed to have more than one child. However, there have been reports of forced abortions and sterilizations of Tibetan women who have had only one child. There are also reports of widespread sterilization of certain categories of women, including those suffering from mental illness, retardation and communicable or hereditary diseases. Under previous local regulations superseded by the 1994 Maternal and Infant Health Care Law, such sterilization was mandatory in certain provinces. Under the new law, certain categories of people still may be prevented from bearing children.

Violations Against Female Children: The one-child policy, in conjunction with the traditional preference for male children, has led to a resurgence of practices like female infanticide, concealment of female births and abandonment of female infants. Female children whose births are not registered do not have any legal existence and therefore may have difficulty going to school or receiving medical care or other state services. The overwhelming majority of children in orphanages are female and/or mentally or physically handicapped.

The one-child policy has also contributed to the practice of prenatal sex identification resulting in the abortion of female fetuses. Although the government has outlawed the use of ultrasound machines for this purpose, physicians continue the practice, especially in rural areas. Thus, while the average worldwide ratio of male to female newborns is 105/100, Chinese government statistics show that the ratio in the PRC is 114/100 and may be higher in some areas.

Human Rights...in China....

(New York, April 17, 2008) – With fewer than four months remaining until the start of the Beijing Games, corporate sponsors of the Olympics risk lasting damage to their brands if they do not live up to their professed standards of corporate social responsibility by speaking out about the deteriorating human rights situation in China, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Shareholders and consumers who care about human rights should not let Olympic corporate sponsors off the hook,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of Human Rights Watch’s Business and Human Rights Program. “Their silence on abuses in the run-up to the Beijing Games makes their claims to support human rights especially disingenuous.”

The 12 highest-level corporate benefactors of the Beijing Games, known as the TOP sponsors (“The Olympic Partner”), are: Atos Origin, Coca-Cola, General Electric (GE), Manulife (parent company of John Hancock), Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Lenovo, McDonald’s, Omega (Swatch Group), Panasonic (Matsushita), Samsung, and Visa.

GE is in an especially prominent position as a TOP Sponsor and the parent company of NBC, which is the US broadcaster of the Games. According to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) most recent quadrennial review, corporate sponsorships and broadcast fees accounted for 87 percent of IOC revenue from 2001-2004, and the TOP sponsors have paid at least $866 million total for the 2005-2008 period.

In advance of the Beijing Olympics, Human Rights Watch has documented an increase in human rights abuses directly related to preparations for the Games. Those include ongoing violations of media freedom and an intensifying persecution of Chinese human rights defenders who speak out publicly about the Games, as well as the ongoing crackdown in Tibetan areas.

The TOP sponsors have remained largely silent about these developments, despite their widely publicized commitments to the principles of corporate social responsibility and human rights. The Coca-Cola Company and General Electric, for example, are members of the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights (BLIHR), a group of companies that pledge to apply human rights principles in their businesses and urge other companies to do the same. General Electric’s own human rights policy states, “GE seeks to advance human rights by leading by example – through our interactions with customers and suppliers, the products we offer and our relationships with communities and governments.”

Since September 2007, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly corresponded with all of the TOP Sponsors and other sponsors (sample letters below), and has met with Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Lenovo, as well as Microsoft, which is an Olympics supplier. A meeting is scheduled with Visa.

“World leaders and even the IOC have belatedly started to speak out against rights abuses in China around the Games, but the companies are notably silent,” said Ganesan. “The Olympics are a key test for putting pledges of corporate social responsibility into action. To date, even companies with strong policies have failed that test.”

Despite their varying policies on corporate social responsibility, the sponsors are uniform in their eagerness to excuse themselves from saying anything about the deteriorating human rights situation in China. Several Olympic sponsors claim erroneously that human rights concerns are “political,” when in fact human rights provide the foundation on which legitimate political activity can take place.

“Human rights should be fundamental to any lawful society and serve as the bedrock principles of Olympism,” said Ganesan. “Particularly when abuses are a direct result of the Olympics, companies should never stay silent or try to dismiss the abuses as peripheral. The payment of tens of millions of dollars to sponsor the Olympic should increase the duty to speak out, rather than provide an excuse for cowardly silence.”

Human Rights Watch wrote to TOP sponsors in the fall of 2007 and again in March and April 2008 to ask companies to define their corporate policies and any action taken to address the deteriorating human rights climate in China. Human Rights Watch has urged the corporate sponsors to take six specific steps in line with their commitment to corporate social responsibility:

  • Make a public statement of support for the human rights dimensions of the Olympic Charter, which seeks to promote the “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” (first Fundamental Principle) and cites the “preservation of human dignity” as a major goal of Olympism (second Fundamental Principle);
  • Publicly certify that their operations in China do not entail labor abuses or other rights violations;
  • Urge the Chinese authorities to fulfill their human rights commitments made when the Games were awarded, in particular with regard to media freedom;
  • Urge the immediate release of courageous advocates who have been harassed, detained, and jailed due to Olympic-related criticisms;
  • Press the International Olympic Committee to establish a standing committee or mechanism to address human rights abuses in host countries; and,
  • Urge the Chinese government to allow an independent investigation of the recent crackdown in Tibet. The Olympic Torch should not pass through Tibetan areas in May and June 2008 unless there is such an investigation and foreign and Chinese journalists are permitted free access to these areas, in line with Beijing’s media freedom pledges. This recommendation was directed in particular toward the three sponsors of the Torch Relay, Coca-Cola, Lenovo and Samsung.

None of the Olympic sponsors has acted on any of these recommendations, to the knowledge of Human Rights Watch.

“Companies are quite literally paying for these Games, so they can’t argue that they don’t have any responsibility to address abuses that taint the Olympics,” said Ganesan. “If companies aren’t going to act on their own human rights policies in the face of gross abuses, why have those policies at all?”

To view excerpts from TOP Sponsors’ corporate social responsibility policies, and their recent statements on human rights and the Olympics, please see:

To read samples of the letters from Human Rights Watch received by all TOP Sponsors, please see:

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Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's denunciations of China have been diluted by disclosures that her husband, Bill's charitable foundation received a donation from a Chinese internet company accused of aiding the crackdown in Tibet.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Bill Clinton, the former president, had been involved with Alibaba Incorporated, which manages Yahoo China.

Last month, according to The Telegraph, the company posted a government-issued "most wanted" warning on the website's homepage, urging customers to provide information on Tibetan activists suspected of causing riots in the disputed Himalayan territory.

In 2005, Alibaba arranged for Bill Clinton to speak at a conference of Internet executives in Hangzhou, but instead of receiving a fee, which can range from 100,000 dollars to 400,000 dollars, he accepted an undisclosed donation to the William J Clinton Foundation.

A spokesman for the foundation confirmed that a donation had been received from Alibaba

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China: Olympic Flame Turns Up Heat on Sponsors
Corporate Social Responsibility Rhetoric Does Not Match Reality
With fewer than four months remaining until the start of the Beijing Games, corporate sponsors of the Olympics risk lasting damage to their brands if they do not live up to their professed standards of corporate social responsibility by speaking out about the deteriorating human rights situation in China, Human Rights Watch said today.
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Olympic Corporate Sponsors: Rhetoric and Reality
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This essay is an extended version of "How Famine Changed North Korea," an oped published on the Washington Post on February 28, 2008. Its Korean translation was published on the April 2008 edition of Korea Development Institute’s monthly magazine, Review of North Korea Economy.
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China: Educate Children of North Korean Women
Policies Marginalize Children, Force Family Breakups
Many children of North Korean women living in China are denied legal identity and access to education, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. To comply with international standards and its own laws, China should ensure all children can go to school, without preconditions such as requiring them to show household registration papers. China should also stop arresting and summarily repatriating North Korean women who have had children with Chinese men.
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Denied Status, Denied Education
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This 23-page report documents how such children live without legal identity or access to elementary education. These children live in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in eastern Jilin Province, northeast China (near its border with North Korea). Some are from North Korea while others were born in China and have Chinese fathers and North Korean mothers.

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In welcoming the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay outside 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is sending the Chinese government exactly the wrong message on its ongoing crackdown in Tibet and on human rights advocates in China, Human Rights Watch said today.
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China: Activist’s Jailing Spotlights Olympics’ Negative Effect on Rights
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China: International Olympic Committee Operating in Moral Void
The Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should articulate human rights standards for host countries to end the moral void in which it operates, Human Rights Watch said in a letter released today. The IOC, which is scheduled to hold meetings in Beijing from April 1 to April 12, has refused to publicly articulate concerns about the human rights situation in China.
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China: Letter to Ethics Commission of International Olympic Committee
On April 10, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will meet in Beijing. The meeting will take place less than four months before the scheduled opening of the Games in China, and amidst growing international alarm over China’s human rights record, particularly after the recent events in Tibet. There is also broad concern about the jailing of dissidents who publicly linked human rights and the Olympics, and other abuses directly related to preparations for the Games.
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UN: Rights Council Chooses Consensus Over Victims
Council Fails to Act on Tibet and Remains Timid on Darfur
The UN Human Rights Council showed little resolve to take on states responsible for serious human rights violations in its session ending today, Human Rights Watch said. Although the council took action on Burma and Somalia, it ignored other human rights crises such as Tibet, and adopted a disturbingly weak resolution on Darfur.
March 28, 2008 Press Release
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Nepal: Fears for Safety of Tibetans in Kathmandu
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The government of Nepal should end arbitrary detention, threats and harassment against peaceful Tibetan protesters, Human Rights Watch said today. Government forces are pre-emptively arresting Tibetans in Kathmandu as they attempt to move around the city on foot, in taxis, or on buses. The police have directly threatened several individuals in detention with deportation to China.
March 26, 2008 Press Release
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UN: Rights Council Should Address Tibet Crisis
The Human Rights Council should actively engage on serious human rights abuses wherever they occur, including the current crisis in Tibet, Human Rights Watch said today. In the council’s session yesterday, states and nongovernmental organizations raising the situation in Tibet were continually interrupted by China and other states, and discussion was eventually curtailed by procedural motions.
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A "human rights disaster" in China

Keep up human rights pressure on China in the run-up to 2008 Olympics
Ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα - 27-11-2007 - 11:11
With next year's Olympic Games in Beijing just around the corner, the world must keep up the pressure on China over its human rights record, a hearing of the European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee attended by over 200 people was told on Monday. Several NGOs, including a Chinese dissident speaking live via internet telephone conference, described the widespread human rights violations still being perpetrated by the authorities.

Opening the hearing, subcommittee chair Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), pointed out that it was taking place two days ahead of the 10th EU-China summit. She regretted the absence from the hearing of a representative from the Chinese embassy.

A "human rights disaster" in China

The first guest speaker was cyber-dissident Hu Jia, who with his wife Zeng Jinyan was one of the candidates for the EP's Sakharov Prize this year (see link below). Speaking from house arrest in Beijing on a webphone link via an interpreter, Hu Jia told the hearing that "a human rights disaster" was taking place in his country. A million people had been persecuted for fighting for human rights, many being detained in camps or mental hospitals. He highlighted the "irony" that the head of China's Olympic Games body was also head of the National Security Bureau, which he likened to "the mafia being in charge of the games". There was a conflict between the West's hope that holding the games in China "would foster democracy and openness" and the Chinese authorities' hope that the games would legitimise their rule. He urged Europe to "stand firm" and in particular not sell arms to China.

Hu Jia was unable to answer questions from Ana Gomes (PES, PT), who asked whether it was true that a senior party official had called for the authorities to "come clean on Tiananmen Square" and how many people were still detained in prisons or hospitals because of those events.

IOC must not duck the issue

Former Olympic fencing champion Pál Schmitt (EPP-ED, HU), who is now an MEP but spoke on Monday in his capacity as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), initially insisted that the IOC "does not take the lead in human rights and political matters" and is "not in a position to pressure China on issues outside the Games". The IOC's view was that it was best "to hold open a new door to China". This view was questioned by Hélène Flautre and openly challenged by Edward McMillan-Scott (EPP-ED, UK), who said "Article 1 of the Olympic Charter refers to fundamental ethical principles, so the IOC does have a mandate to look at these matters". Moreover, the IOC had once banned South Africa from the games because of apartheid, thus showing that "it can take political positions". Indeed, Mr McMillan-Scott argued "it is time for the IOC to make a political statement" on the situation in China. Mr Schmitt subsequently agreed to this, saying he would speak to the IOC board, which he admitted "cannot close its ears" to these demands any longer.

Phelim Kine (Human Rights Watch, Hong Kong) focused on the issue of media freedom, pointing out that in order to be awarded the 2008 games, China had promised that the media would be able to operate freely. But, he said, "the IOC is failing to ensure that China lives up to its promises" and is "turning a deaf ear" to Human Rights Watch's reports.

Mr McMillan-Scott read out a speech on behalf of Hong Bing Yuan, a Chinese human rights defender now resident in Australia who was unable to travel to Monday's hearing. According to this statement, "people are still being imprisoned and murdered", the treatment of Falun Gong is a "human rights disaster", "90 million people are working as slave labour" and overall the situation will "bring shame and disgrace to the Olympic spirit".

"The struggle for human rights in China is a marathon"

Sharon Hom (of the New York based NGO Human Rights in China) spoke of the authorities having a "blacklist of 42 categories of banned individuals", which she described as "a chilling tool for social control and intimidation". This, she said, "should be of concern to the IOC". She also said the government was "having trouble maintaining domestic control while presenting an open image to the world" and urged the EU to maintain the pressure in bilateral meetings with China. "The struggle for human rights is a marathon", she said, but if successful it would be "good for China and the world".

The final speaker was Vincent Metten (International Campaign for Tibet), who highlighted the clampdown on Buddhism, the "demographic colonisation" and environmental deterioration of the region and the socio-economic marginalisation of Tibetans.

F-U-C-K CHINA... Σκληρές φωτογραφίες...

Graphic photos of dead bodies from Kirti monatery in Ngawa, Sichuan, Tibet


For background, please read our earlier press releases.

For further information please contact Matt Whitticase at matt@freetibet.org
Or call on +44 (0) 207 324 4605/+44 (0)7515 788456

Olympic Torch relay protests

Olympic Torch relay protests

Our thanks and congratulations to all those Tibet supporters who came to London on Sunday 6th April to make the Olympic torch relay a huge day of protest for Tibet.
Free Tibet Campaign was overwhelmed by the number of protesters who turned out from all over the UK and Europe. It was a fantastic day of peaceful protests as we made our voices heard all along the route from Wembley to the O2 Arena in Greenwich. There's hardly a shot of the London Olympic Torch Relay that doesn't have a Tibetan flag in the background!

As the torch continues on to Paris and San Francisco, the protests have followed, turning China's propaganda of a "Journey of Harmony" into a PR nightmare. Meanwhile questions are being asked both in London and Paris about the role of the Chinese security guards surrounding the torch, described by Lord Coe as "thugs". Australian authorities have already refused to allow them to participate in the Canberra leg of the torch relay.
Even IOC President Jacques Rogge has finally been forced to state "The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and called for a rapid, peaceful resolution of Tibet".

Unfortunately people in China will not being seeing the full scale of the protests in London and Paris which Chinese officials have condemned as "vile behaviour" from "a tiny number of Tibet independence elements". Official estimates of that "tiny number" are over 3000 people!
You can see a round-up of events from the day in the photos and videos below including the wonderful Tibetan Torch rally at Argyle Square. Our sincere thanks to Joanna Lumley and to all those who took part in this event.

Photos and video footage of protests during the torch's journey

San Francisco, 7th April 2008

Protesters scale Golden Gate Bridge
Photo: SFT

SFT Golden Gate protest

Paris, 7th April 2008

Paris disruptions

BBC reports

SFT Paris bridge banner

London, 6th April

Photos: Richard Campbell

China's reaction and attempts to douse flame

Protesters in Trafalgar Square & BBC report

Crowds at Downing Street & Sky report

CNN report & Whitehall protests

Fleet Street and Fox report

Freedom torch rally parts 1 & 2

Freedom torch rally 3 & BBC report

Edinburgh protest & Francesca Martinez's protest

Earlier protests

Westmnister Bridge & Greece protests: SFT

CNN: Torch ceremony in Greece

Please go here for news from Tibet, April 2008.
Please go here for background, pictures and information on the protests in Tibet in March 2008.