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U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, "Annual Report 2009," October 10, 2009

The Commission Chair is Senator Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) and the Cochairman is Representative Sander M. Levin (D-MI). The report includes a list of 1,279 political prisoners in China.
October 10, 2009

Annual Reports from Other Years:
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The Chinese Government has made economic development a priority, and lifted millions of people out of poverty, but Chinese Government policies and practices continue to violate the rights of Chinese citizens, and fall far short of meeting international standards.  The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which formally was established in 2000 by the legislation that granted China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) as China prepared to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO), is mandated by law to monitor human rights, worker rights, and the development of the rule of law in China, as well as to maintain a database of information on Chinese political prisoners—individuals who have been imprisoned for exercising their civil and political rights protected under China’s Constitution and laws or under China’s international human rights obligations.  When China entered the WTO in 2001, the Chinese Government made commitments that were important not only for China’s commercial development in the international marketplace, but also for the development of the rule of law at home. These commitments require that the Chinese Government ensure nondiscrimination in the administration of measures that are trade related, and publish promptly all laws, regulations, judicial decisions, and administrative rulings relating to trade. WTO accession and the Chinese Government’s years of preparation for accession provided the impetus for many changes to China’s legal system over the past two decades.  Those changes, some of which have been significant, still have not produced a national legal system that is consistently and reliably transparent, accessible, and predictable. The Communist Party rejects the notion that the imperative to uphold the rule of law should preempt the Party’s role in guiding the functions of the state. As this report shows, the Chinese Government’s repressive tendencies at home undermine the credibility of its stated international commitments to create a more open society that provides greater respect for human rights, worker rights, transparency, and the rule of law.

The development of a stable China firmly committed to the rule of law and citizens’ fundamental rights is in the national interest of the United States. Those rights include the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, religion, and other rights protected under China’s Constitution and laws or under China’s international human rights obligations. To ensure a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive U.S.-China relationship, China’s leaders must demonstrate genuine commitment, not just in words but in deeds, to promoting the development of the rule of law, human rights, and transparency in no less measure than they have prioritized economic development.  The imperative to uphold the rule of law, human rights, and transparency could not be more relevant than it is with respect to planned expansion of bilateral cooperation on climate change recently announced by the United States and China. The United States and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on July 28 that elevates cooperation on climate change in the relationship between the two countries and expands bilateral cooperation to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon global economy. In the pursuit of such a goal, the integrity of scientific data and technical information must be preserved, free from censorship or manipulation for political or other purposes. Researchers, engineers, and scientists engaged in international collaborative projects must be free from concern about whether the information they share with a research partner today will be declared a state secret tomorrow, and whether they will face prosecution as criminals as a result. To maximize the potential for progress on climate change, Chinese officials must engage as allies, and not repress, environmental whistleblowers, a vigilant press, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and human rights lawyers. Recently announced goals for U.S.-China cooperation and top-level business collaboration on clean technology can only be achieved if accompanied by reliable and consistent enforcement of intellectual property rights in China. 

This report documents, in each of its sections, the challenges and opportunities that exist for China to create a more open society with greater respect for human rights, transparency, and the rule of law. The report also demonstrates the importance of the Commission’s  Political Prisoner Database, a unique, powerful, and publicly available resource on which the Commission relies for advocacy and research work, including the preparation of this Annual Report. The human rights issues underlying political imprisonment and detention are numerous. Instances of human rights violations and resulting imprisonment form a pattern of systematic repression— the Chinese Government should demonstrate its commitment to international standards by reversing this pattern. The Commission intends that the detailed contents of this report may serve as a roadmap for progress. By documenting human rights violations in this report and in the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database, by advocating in meetings with Chinese officials on behalf of political prisoners, by raising public awareness of human rights and rule of law issues, and by placing these issues on the agendas of bilateral and multilateral meetings, the United States Government establishes a baseline for measuring progress. Some of those who supported establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China in 2000 believed that PNTR would improve the prospects that the Chinese Government would fulfill its commitments to international human rights standards—but the Chinese Government has yet to live up to those commitments.  Holding the Chinese Government accountable to its international commitments and to its own laws, when those laws meet international standards, is an essential element of the roadmap for progress.

As the United States and China engage in bilateral and multilateral dialogues, the Commission urges Members of the U.S. Congress and Administration officials to monitor carefully Chinese Government positions and actions on issues critical to developing the rule of law, promoting transparency, and protecting human rights. The Chinese Government, for example, issued a National Human Rights Action Plan in 2009 that uses the language of human rights to cast an ambitious program for promoting the rights of its citizens. In meetings with Chinese officials, Members of the U.S. Congress and Administration officials should inquire about the Chinese Government’s progress in translating words into action and securing genuine improvements for its citizens as set forth in the plan. To that end, this Annual Report and the information available on the Commission’s Web site,, provide an abundance of resources.

To view the whole report in pdf format, please click on the link here.