Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

China rejects Amnesty claim of continued abuse

Rights group insists PRC has not mended human rights violations

China rejects Amnesty claim of continued abuse

China has failed to live up to promises to improve human rights for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing despite death penalty reforms and increased freedoms for foreign reporters, Amnesty International said.
In a report released yesterday, the group cataloged a wide range of continuing human rights abuses, including extensive use of detention-without-trial by police, persecution of civil-rights activists, and the use of new methods to rein in the domestic media and censor the Internet.
The London-based group said the referring of all death sentences to China's Supreme Court since the start of the year and new rules for foreign journalists were welcome changes.
"Disappointingly, they have been matched by moves to expand detention without trial and house arrest of activists, and by a tightening of controls over domestic media and the Internet," Catherine Baber, deputy Asia-Pacific director of Amnesty International, said in a statement.
China's Foreign Ministry in a statement yesterday rejected the report, saying the government was improving its legal system and promoting democracy.
"We are conscientiously fulfilling our promise for the Olympics. ... The progress China has achieved in human rights cannot be slandered by a report from an individual organization with political prejudice," the statement said.
The report called on the International Olympic Committee to push Beijing more to improve its human rights record, especially on issues relating to the Olympics.
The human factor
"The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted with human rights abuses - whether families forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for sports arenas or growing numbers of peaceful activists held under house arrest," Baber said.
The report said if private discussions were not working, the "IOC should consider making these concerns public, especially with the Olympics little more than a year away."
Many of the ills cited by the group have been endemic for years in China, but in bidding for the games back in 2001, Chinese leaders promised IOC members that the Olympics would lead to an improved climate for human rights and media freedoms.
IOC members have said they expect Beijing to keep its word. The organization, whose top officials just returned from two weeks of meetings with the Chinese government in Beijing, said they needed more time before commenting on the Amnesty report.
Andrew J. Nathan, political science department chairman at Columbia University, said it wasn't a surprise that China hadn't lived up to its commitments since winning the bid.
"Those who have been tracking China's implementation of commitments to improve its human rights record know it hasn't been improving," said Nathan.
'Cosmetic' cover-up
He said the government had made a few "cosmetic changes," including loosening restrictions on foreign media, but generally they've been "tightening rather than liberalizing" rights restrictions.
"We still have a year to go, so it is extremely important that Amnesty International join other organizations looking at this to say what they've found," Nathan said.
China tightened the rules for the application of the death penalty following a series of high-profile cases involving wrongful convictions and torture. Starting January 1, lower courts were prohibited from approving executions on their own.
Amnesty International put the recorded number of executions in 2006 at more than 1,000 people. But it said the true figure is believed to be as high as 8,000.
Last December China announced new regulations for foreign journalists which temporarily abolish decades-old rules requiring foreign reporters to obtain government approval for all travel and interviews. Under the new rules, in place until mid-October 2008, only the consent of the person to be interviewed is needed.
But the change was announced at the same time a Beijing court took five minutes to reject an appeal by Zhao Yan, a New York Times researcher, of a three-year prison sentence. Zhao was convicted of fraud, but press-advocacy groups saw his case as a political vendetta for his pre-Times career as a crusading investigative reporter and as a warning to Chinese reporters.
Double take
The different signals underscore China's schizophrenic treatment of the media. The Communist government hopes the Olympics will burnish China's international image and knows positive foreign reports will help. At the same time, it has clamped down on domestic media and Internet essayists, fearing unfettered reporting would weaken the Communist Party's authority.
"The failure to ensure equal rights and freedoms for both foreign and domestic journalists smacks of double standards - China has yet to meet its promise to ensure 'complete media freedom' for the Olympics," Baber said.
The report was critical of the continued use of the "re-education through labor" system. In place in since 1957, it allows police to jail a crime suspect for up to four years without a trial. Critics say it is misused to detain political or religious activists, and violates suspects' rights.
"Fears remain that these abusive systems are being used to detain petty criminals, vagrants, drug addicts and others in order to 'clean up' Beijing ahead of the Olympics," the report said.
Beijing's push to build modern sporting venues and transportation facilities and remake run-down neighborhoods has contributed to civil rights abuses, Amnesty International said. It cited the case of Ye Guozhu, a Beijing resident serving four years in jail for protesting alleged forced evictions tied to Olympic preparations.
The report said he had reportedly been beaten with electroshock batons by guards and in February was assigned a period of "discipline" apparently because of his attempts to appeal his conviction.


Updated : 2021-07-28 23:18 GMT+08:00