Will Hong Kong continue to be a vital global business hub?
U.S. Department of State, 2010 Human Rights in China, April 8, 2011
This report is produced annually by the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
The People's Republic of China (PRC), with a population of approximately 1.3 billion, is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitutionally is the paramount authority. Party members hold almost all top government, police, and military positions. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its nine-member Standing Committee. Hu Jintao holds the three most powerful positions as CCP general secretary, president, and chairman of the Central Military Commission. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
A negative trend in key areas of the country's human rights record continued, as the government took additional steps to rein in civil society, particularly organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, and increased attempts to limit freedom of speech and to control the press, the Internet, and Internet access. Efforts to silence political activists and public interest lawyers were stepped up, and increasingly the government resorted to extralegal measures including enforced disappearance, "soft detention," and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions. Public interest law firms that took on sensitive cases also continued to face harassment, disbarment of legal staff, and closure.
Individuals and groups, especially those seen as politically sensitive by the government, continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. The government continued its severe cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Tibetan areas. Abuses peaked around high-profile events, such as the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to democracy activist Liu Xiaobo and sensitive anniversaries.
As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government. Principal human rights problems during the year included: extrajudicial killings, including executions without due process; enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, including prolonged illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as "black jails"; torture and coerced confessions of prisoners; detention and harassment of journalists, writers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to peacefully exercise their rights under the law; a lack of due process in judicial proceedings, political control of courts and judges; closed trials; the use of administrative detention; restrictions on freedoms to assemble, practice religion, and travel; failure to protect refugees and asylum-seekers; pressure on other countries to forcibly return citizens to China; intense scrutiny of, and restrictions on, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth limitation policy, which in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization; trafficking in persons; prohibitions on independent unions and a lack of protection for workers' right to strike; and the use of forced labor, including prison labor. Corruption remained endemic.
The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in other provinces to be a part of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Tibetan population within the TAR was approximately 2.7 million and outside the TAR was an estimated 2.9 million. The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and Tibetan areas outside the TAR, making it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses.
There was severe repression of freedoms of speech, religion, association, and movement. The intensified controls applied following the March 2008 riots and unrest in Tibetan areas eased somewhat after the second anniversary of the unrest and its suppression. Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial detention, and house arrest. The preservation and development of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage remained a concern.
The fallout from the March 2008 protests continued to affect the human rights situation in Tibetan regions of the PRC. A number of Tibetans, especially monks, remained incarcerated for their role in the 2008 protests and riots. People's Armed Police (PAP) presence remained at historically high levels in many communities across the Tibetan Plateau. In March all major monasteries in Lhasa were guarded by security forces. On March 14, many shops in the city closed to mark the anniversary of the demonstrations and the police crackdown. Students in many areas protested; in southern Gansu Province, students reportedly protested for freedom, human rights, and in support of the Dalai Lama.
Hong Kong, with a population of approximately seven million, is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong and the SAR's charter, the Basic Law of the SAR (the Basic Law), specify that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy except in matters of defense and foreign affairs. The Fourth Term Legislative Council (LegCo) was elected from a combination of geographic and functional constituencies in 2008 elections that were generally free and fair. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.
There were few reports of serious human rights abuses, but the following human rights problems were reported: limited ability of citizens to participate in and change their government, press self-censorship, limited power of the legislature to introduce or amend legislation and inability to approve executive appointments, disproportionate political influence of certain sectors of society in LegCo, and societal prejudice against certain ethnic minorities.
Macau, with a population of approximately 544,600, is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and enjoys a high degree of autonomy, except in defense and foreign affairs, under the SAR's constitution (the Basic Law). Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, who took office in December 2009, headed the government after being elected in July 2009 by a 300-member commission. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.
The following human rights problems were reported: limits on citizens' ability to change their government and lack of progress in prosecuting cases of trafficking in persons. National security legislation, passed in 2009 in accordance with article 23 of the Basic Law, remained a source of concern, but by year's end no cases had been brought under the law.
Mahtani and McLaughlin were on the ground in Hong Kong and provide this history of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement centered around a cast of core activists, culminating in the 2019 mass protests and Beijing's crackdown.
IOKIBE Kaoru (University of Tokyo) will focus on U.S.-Japan relations in historical and contemporary contexts.