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Chairman Brown and Cochairman Smith Statement on 2014 Annual Report, October 9, 2014

Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China announce bipartisan Hong Kong legislation & in letter to President and Congressional leaders, identify an action agenda for the next year.

October 9, 2014

Congressional-Executive Commission on China |

October 9, 2014

Chairs announce bipartisan Hong Kong legislation & in letter to President and Congressional leaders, identify an action agenda for the next year.

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)— Chairman U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Cochair U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) issued today the 2014 Annual Report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).  The report provides detailed analysis on 19 human rights and rule of law issue areas and offers specific bipartisan recommendations on ways to address these issues in the U.S.-China relationship.

The Chairs also announced bipartisan legislation to update the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, to renew the annual reporting on U.S. interests in Hong Kong as provided for in Section 301 of the Act.

“This year’s report shows that human rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law deteriorated in China, while China’s compliance with international trade rules remained poor. On issue after issue, President Xi Jinping’s government showed more interest in consolidating power, gaming the system, and denying rights than being a responsible global power,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, CECC Chair. “China’s commitment to human rights and rule of law affects the safety of our food, the health of our economy, and stability in the Pacific.”

“It has been another horrific year for human rights in China, no one should still believe that President Xi Jinping will be a new type of Chinese leader, more open to reform and rights protections.  This report, like last year’s, details the pervasiveness of China’s brutal population control policies and shows clearly that women continue to face surveillance, shame, and violence, including forced abortions and sterilizations this year,” said Chris Smith , CECC Cochair.  “Because of China’s coercive population policies, there are tens of millions of missing daughters in China today, leading to a severe gender imbalance making China ground zero for human trafficking in Asia.  Hundreds of courageous rights defenders, such as Gao Zhisheng and Liu Xiaobo, remain detained and there are new and troubling concerns about religious freedom, as dozens of churches were destroyed in the past year and the peaceful religious activities of Christians, Falun Gong, Uyghur Muslims, and Tibetan Buddhists continue to be viewed as potential threats to Communist Party leadership.”

In a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders, the Chairs cited the unique bipartisan structure of the CECC, with Commissioners from Congress and the Administration, and identified 10 areas for more focused legislative and executive action, including, among other things, worker rights and prison labor, commercial rule of law, food safety, press and Internet freedom, and efforts to reform China’s coercive population planning policies

The letter from Senator Brown and Representative Smith to President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi transmitting the 2014 Annual Report can be found below:
October 9, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama
The President
The White House
Washington, DC  20050

Dear Mr. President:

The United States’ relationship with the People’s Republic of China is one of the most important of our time. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by Congress in 2000 to monitor and report on two key aspects of this relationship: human rights and the development of the rule of law in China. Concrete progress on these issues will directly benefit both countries. China’s compliance with international human rights standards and international and domestic rules on trade, labor, and the environment will level the playing field, and increase the freedoms, protections, and safety of people on both sides of the Pacific. It will also promote greater trust and cooperation between our two countries. Human rights and rule of law should remain a cornerstone of our policy toward China.

The Commission plays a unique role in formulating U.S. policy toward China. The Commission’s structure, consisting of a bipartisan group of Senators, House Members, and senior-level Administration officials, is intended to foster cooperation between the legislative and executive branches and to promote bipartisan attention to human rights and rule of law with China. By legislative mandate, the Commission produces and publishes a comprehensive annual report on these issues every October that includes recommendations for legislative or executive action.

Overall, the Commission’s 2014 Annual Report found that human rights and rule of law conditions in China did not improve and declined in some areas. Based on developments this past year, the report identifies the following areas that we believe Congress and the Administration should focus on in the coming year:

Rights Advocates. This year’s report highlights the Chinese government’s harsh crackdown on rights advocates, many of whom have called for moderate reforms, in a troubling sign that China’s leaders have become even less tolerant of dissent. The Commission held a hearing on “Understanding China’s Crackdown on Rights Advocates: Personal Accounts and Perspectives” in April 2014 to draw attention to the crackdown. Chinese officials’ treatment of these advocates reflects a broader and systematic lack of respect for the rule of law.

Among the advocates detained or sentenced, many in criminal proceedings that failed to meet the basic requirements of due process, include rights advocate Xu Zhiyong, public interest lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, and pastor Zhang Shaojie. On this issue, the report recommends, among other things, greater public recognition for the work of Chinese rights advocates in promoting human rights and rule of law, more frequently raising political prisoner cases with China, ensuring that Chinese rights advocates have freedom of movement and are allowed to participate in international forums and dialogues, and urging China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Worker Rights. This year’s report shows that Chinese workers still lack the basic right to form independent trade unions, that the Chinese government still fails to effectively enforce its own labor laws in many cases, and that child labor and the use of prison labor in the manufacture of products for export remain serious problems. Given the high percentage of goods the United States imports from China, it is likely that products made with child or prison labor or manufactured under poor working conditions continue to enter our country. The report recommends that the United States, as the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, ensure effective implementation of Executive Orders 13126 and 13267 which are intended to combat forced or indentured child labor, or trafficked labor in federal procurement and federal contracts. The report also recommends considering closing loopholes such as the consumptive demand exemption in Section 1307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and increasing supply chain transparency so that governments, businesses, and consumers can better trace the origin of products.

Hong Kong. As noted in this year’s report, China took actions that threatened Hong Kong’s democratic development and freedoms in the lead-up to Hong Kong’s first election of its Chief Executive by universal suffrage in 2017. The Commission highlighted these concerns at a roundtable on “Prospects for Democracy and Press Freedom in Hong Kong,” in April 2014. Given the important economic and social interests the U.S. has in Hong Kong, and China’s international commitments on the issue, the Commission’s report recommends that Congress and the Administration renew the reporting requirements of Section 301 of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and express support for Hong Kong democracy by visiting the city and raising the issue in meetings with Chinese central government officials.

Press Freedom. The Commission held a roundtable in December 2013 on “China’s Treatment of Foreign Journalists,” highlighting China’s delays and denials of visas to dozens of foreign journalists and China’s blocking of foreign media Web sites and noted that this is both a freedom of expression and market access issue. Foreign journalists report some of the worst conditions in years, in stark contrast to the situation of Chinese journalists in the United States. The report recommends greater public expression, including at the highest levels of U.S. government, to the issue of press freedom in China and an assessment as to whether China’s treatments of foreign journalists and censorship of foreign Web sites constitutes a violation of China’s World Trade Organization obligations.

Food Safety. The Commission held a hearing in July 2014 on “Pet Treats and Processed Chicken from China: Concerns for American Consumers and Pets” which highlighted ongoing concerns regarding the safety of imported foods from China and the effectiveness of the current country-of-origin labeling system in notifying consumers when a product has been made in China. In response to a question for the record submitted to FDA for the hearing, the Commission learned that China continues to delay the granting of visas for additional FDA inspectors, despite reports that China had earlier agreed to begin granting visas. The Commission recommends greater action to secure these visas and to improve our inspection capabilities in China.

Commercial Rule of Law. The report notes little progress in China’s compliance with international trading obligations. China continues to control its currency, to subsidize and give preferential treatment to state-owned enterprises and domestic companies at the expense of American businesses and workers, to aid or abet intellectual property theft through cyber and other means, and to provide little transparency regarding Chinese companies, state subsidies, and commercial laws and regulations. There were reports of growing concern that foreign companies were being unfairly targeted, especially for antimonopoly investigations. The Commission held a hearing in January 2014 on “China’s Compliance with the World Trade Organization and International Trade Rules.” The report recommends ensuring that China makes concrete improvements in ending currency controls, subsidies for state-owned enterprises, and other policies that violate China’s existing international trading obligations, as a condition for progress in any U.S.-trade related negotiations with China. The report also recommends that the U.S. government more comprehensively track and make publicly accessible China’s trade commitments under the World Trade Organization, the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, and U.S. efforts to secure China’s compliance with those commitments.

Population Planning. The report notes that despite a slight modification in the country’s coercive population planning policy to allow a couple to have a second child if one of the parents was a single child, the Chinese government failed to abolish a policy that itself violates international standards and leads to egregious abuses by officials including forced abortions and forced sterilizations.  The report recommends abolishing all birth restrictions on Chinese families and urges proactive discussions, within bilateral security dialogues, on the potential for social, humanitarian, and regional trafficking problems if China fails to address imbalanced sex-ratios exacerbated by its coercive population policies.   

Religious Freedom. The report notes government campaigns against church buildings and religious symbols apparently prompted by growing concern over the popularity of Christianity in China. The report also notes harassment of Catholic clergy, lawyers attempting to assist unlawfully detained Falun Gong practitioners, and bans on Uyghur Muslims’ observance of Ramadan. The report recommends that the U.S. urge China to implement in good faith the recommendations it accepted from the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of China held in October 2013, including taking necessary measures to ensure that rights to freedom of religion, as well as religious culture and expression, are fully observed and protected.

Ethnic Minorities. The report notes deteriorating conditions in ethnic minority areas, from increased violence in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to harsher security measures in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, where some local governments have introduced measures imposing collective punishment intended to deter Tibetans from self-immolating. The report urges the Administration to address issues of human rights, security, and stability at bilateral security dialogues and any exchanges with Chinese military or police officials by sharing best practices on ways to balance civil rights and national security and to differentiate between peaceful dissent and acts of violence. The report recommends that the Chinese government can promote regional stability by respecting ethnic minorities’ right to maintain their language and culture, and to freely practice their religion, as provided for in China’s Constitution and laws. The report also recommends that Congress and the Administration urge China to allow the free flow of information regarding incidents of violence in ethnic minority regions and to allow journalists and international observers access to those areas in line with international standards.

Areas of Potential Progress. The report recommends that Congress and the Administration acknowledge and further inquire with Chinese officials about areas of potential progress noted in the report, including the announced abolition of the reeducation through labor system, potential reforms to the household registration system that could lessen the rural-urban divide, efforts to curb wrongful convictions and increase protections for criminal defendants, amendments to the PRC Trademark Law which increase statutory damages for infringement, revision to the Environmental Protection Law which include provisions that could improve transparency, and efforts to strengthen protections for person with disabilities and victims of domestic violence.

The report contains numerous other recommendations which we also urge you to consider. The Commission and its staff stand ready to assist Congress and the Administration in any way to carry out these recommendations. We look forward to working together on issues of such great importance to our nation.

Sherrod Brown                                                                                   Christopher H. Smith
Chairman                                                                                             Cochairman

To view the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, "Annual Report 2014," (October 9, 2014), click here.