Wherever you may be, we wish you and those close to you the very best Year of the Rabbit.
Congressional Research Service, “Human Rights in China: Trends and Policy Implications,” June 12, 2009
Human rights has been a principal area of U.S. concern in its relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), particularly since the violent government crackdown on the Tiananmen democracy movement in 1989. Some policy makers contend that the U.S. policy of engagement with China, especially since granting the PRC permanent normal trade relations status in 2000, has failed to produce meaningful political reform. Others argue that U.S. engagement has helped to accelerate economic and social change and build social and legal foundations for democracy and human rights in the PRC. This report analyzes China’s mixed record on human rights – major human rights problems, new human rights legislation, and the development of civil society, legal awareness, and social and political activism. This report discusses major areas of interest but does not provide an exhaustive account of all human rights abuses or related incidents.
Fear of social unrest, especially during times of economic uncertainty, appears to motivate the PRC government’s resistance toward major political reform. The PRC government has attempted to respond to public grievances and popular calls for redress while subduing activists who attempt to organize mass protests and dissidents who openly call for fundamental change. This approach has both produced incremental improvements in human rights conditions and allowed for continued, serious abuses. Major, ongoing problems include excessive use of violence by security forces, unlawful detention, torture, arbitrary use of state security laws against political dissidents, coercive family planning policies, state control of information, and religious and ethnic persecution. Tibetans, ethnic Uighur (Uygur) Muslims, and Falun Gong adherents have been singled out for especially harsh treatment.
China’s leadership has addressed rising public expectations through a combination of economic growth policies and carrot-and-stick political tactics. In so doing, it has planted seeds of potential change. China’s developing legal system, while plagued by corruption and political interference, has provided activists with new ways of defending rights. Although generally supportive of the status quo, the urban middle class has begun to engage in narrowly targeted protests against local government policies, following over a decade of social unrest among wage laborers and farmers. Despite a massive censorship effort, the Internet and other communications technologies have made it impossible for the government to clamp down on information as fully as before.
In December 2008, over 300 PRC citizens signed and posted online a document entitled “Charter ’08” calling for fundamental changes in China’s political system. An additional 8,000 people signed the manifesto before the PRC government shut down the Charter’s website. One of its drafters, democratic activist Liu Xiaobo, remained in detention at the time of this writing.
The U.S. government’s multifaceted efforts to promote human rights in China have included open or formal criticisms and assessments of the PRC government’s human rights policies, official bilateral dialogue, sanctions, and congressionally sponsored legislation, hearings, and investigations. Some Members of the 111th Congress have called for the release of political prisoners and introduced resolutions supporting human rights in China. In March 2009, the House passed H.Res. 226, a resolution recognizing the plight of the Tibetan people. In June 2009, the House and Senate passed H.Res. 489 and S.Res. 171, respectively, commemorating those who demonstrated for democracy or died in the military crackdown in 1989 in Beijing and expressing continued support for human rights and democracy activists in China. The U.S. government also provides funding for rule of law, civil society development, participatory government, labor rights, Tibetan culture, Internet access, and other programs in the PRC.
A food safety factory shutdown has Americans hunting for baby formula. Readying themselves for a covid-19 lockdown, Chinese in Beijing emptied store shelves. Emerging from lockdown, some in Shanghai are visiting well-provisioned markets. U.S.-China agricultural trade is booming, but many are still being left hungry. Food security, sustainability and safety remain issues.