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U.S. Department Of State, 2014 Human Rights In China

This report is produced annually by the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

January 1, 2014

U.S. reports on human rights in China
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Chinese government reports on human rights in the United States
2017 | 2016 | 2015 2014 2013 20122011 | 2010 2009 2008 | 2007

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the paramount authority. CCP members hold almost all top government and security apparatus positions. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its seven-member Standing Committee. China completed its once-in-a-decade leadership transition in March 2013, and Xi Jinping held the three most powerful positions as CCP general secretary, state president, and chairman of the Central Military Commission. Civilian authorities maintained control of the military and internal security forces.
Repression and coercion were routine, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest issues, ethnic minorities, and law firms that took on sensitive cases. Officials continued to employ harassment, intimidation, and prosecution of family members and associates to retaliate against rights advocates and defenders. Individuals and groups regarded as politically sensitive by authorities continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. Authorities resorted to extralegal measures such as enforced disappearance and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent public expression of independent opinions. Authorities continued to censor and tightly control public discourse on the internet. Public-interest law firms continued to face harassment, disbarment of legal staff, and closure. There was severe official repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and assembly of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and of Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas. These minorities also faced severe restrictions on movement. Following incidents of violence throughout China, authorities enforced additional restrictions on religious and cultural expression for Uighurs, especially within the XUAR. Officials also approved expedited judicial procedures and in some cases mass trials for Uighur terrorism suspects in the XUAR. Rights abuses peaked around high-profile events, such as the visit of foreign officials, national meetings, and commemorations.
As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to change their government, and citizens had limited forms of redress against official abuse. Other human rights problems during the year included alleged 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 lawyers, journalists, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to exercise peacefully 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 freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel; failure to protect refugees and asylum seekers; pressure on other countries to return PRC citizens forcibly; widespread corruption; intense scrutiny of and restrictions on NGOs; discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities; a coercive birth-limitation policy that in some cases resulted in forced abortion (sometimes at advanced stages of pregnancy) or forced sterilization; trafficking in persons; prohibitions on independent unions; lack of protection for workers’ right to strike; forced and child labor; and poor enforcement of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health laws.
Although authorities prosecuted a number of abuses of power through the court system, particularly with regard to corruption, in most cases the CCP first investigated and punished officials using opaque and selectively applied internal party disciplinary procedures. In many of these cases, the information uncovered by party proceedings was turned over to courts, which “validated” the decisions. Citizens who promoted independent efforts to combat abuses of power were themselves prosecuted. For example, throughout the year the government convicted at least 10 persons associated with the New Citizens Movement on charges stemming from activities to promote transparency and good governance.
The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures (TAPs) and counties in other provinces to be a part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee oversees Tibet policies. As in other predominantly minority areas of the PRC, ethnic Han CCP members held almost all top party, government, police, and military positions in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Central Committee Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP and its seven-member Standing Committee in Beijing. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
During the year the government’s respect for, and protection of, human rights in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained poor. Under the professed objectives of controlling border areas, maintaining social stability, and combating separatism, the government engaged in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of China’s Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement. The government routinely vilified the Dalai Lama and blamed the “Dalai [Lama] Clique” and “other outside forces” for instigating instability.
Other serious human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial detentions. There was a perception among many Tibetans that authorities systemically targeted them for political repression, economic marginalization, and cultural assimilation, as well as educational and employment discrimination. The presence of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and other security forces remained at high levels in many communities on the Tibetan Plateau, particularly in the TAR. Repression was severe throughout the year but increased in the periods before and during politically and religiously sensitive anniversaries and events. Authorities detained individuals in Tibetan areas after they reportedly demanded freedom and human rights and expressed their support for the Dalai Lama.
The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and many Tibetan areas outside the TAR, making it difficult to determine accurately the scope of human rights abuses. The Chinese government severely restricted travel by foreign journalists to Tibetan areas. Additionally, the Chinese government harassed or detained Tibetans who spoke to foreign reporters, attempted to provide information to persons abroad, or communicated information regarding protests or other expressions of discontent through cell phones, e-mail, or the internet. The Chinese government also denied multiple requests by foreign diplomats for permission to visit the TAR. Because of these restrictions, many of the incidents and cases mentioned in this report could not be verified independently.
Disciplinary procedures were opaque, and it was not clear that security personnel or other authorities were punished for behavior defined under Chinese laws and regulations as abuses of power and authority.
Tibetan Self-Immolations
At least 11 Tibetans reportedly self-immolated during the year, including laypersons and Tibetan Buddhist clergy, which was significantly fewer than the 27 self-immolations reported in 2013 and the 83 self-immolations reported in 2012.
Self-immolators reportedly continued to see their acts as protests against political and religious oppression. The Chinese government implemented policies that punished friends, relatives, and associates of self-immolators. The Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Prosecutor’s Office, and the Ministry of Public Security’s joint 2012 “Opinion on Handling Cases of Self-Immolation in Tibetan Areas According to Law” criminalizes various activities associated with self-immolation, including “organizing, plotting, inciting, compelling, luring, instigating, or helping others to commit self-immolation,” each of which may be prosecuted as “intentional homicide.” According to the Opinion, the motive of self-immolators was “generally to split the country,” and the act constituted criminal behavior, since it posed a threat to public safety and public order. The opinion stated that “ringleaders” would be targeted for “major punishment.” In addition, Chinese government officials in some Tibetan areas withheld public benefits from the family members of self-immolators and ordered friends and monastic personnel to refrain from participating in burial or mourning activities for self-immolators.
According to an August report by International Campaign for Tibet, since 2012 at least 11 Tibetans were sentenced to prison terms or death on “intentional homicide” charges for allegedly “aiding” or “inciting” others to self-immolate. The report also listed 98 Tibetans punished since 2010 due to alleged association with a self-immolation.
Hong Kong 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 the SAR will enjoy a high degree of autonomy except in matters of defense and foreign affairs. In 2012 a Chief Executive Election Committee composed of 1,193 members selected C.Y. Leung as the SAR’s third chief executive (CE). The Legislative Council (LegCo) was elected in September 2012 from a combination of directly elected seats and limited franchise or “small circle” functional constituencies that generally supported the Central Government. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Beginning in late September, students and prodemocracy activists held large-scale demonstrations in opposition to the Central Government’s framework for implementing universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive in 2017, with protests focused on the framework’s limitations on choice of candidates.
The most important human rights problems reported were the limited ability of citizens to participate in and change their government through the right to vote in free and fair elections, limitations on freedom of the press and incidents of violence against the media, and a legislature with limited powers in which certain sectors of society wielded disproportionate political influence.
Other human rights problems included denial of visas for political reasons, trafficking in persons, reports of arbitrary arrest or detention, and other aggressive police tactics hampering the freedom of assembly, and societal prejudice against certain ethnic minorities.
The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses.
Macau 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). A 400-member Election Committee re-elected Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on in August. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Prominent human rights problems reported during the year were limits on citizens’ ability to change their government, constraints on press and academic freedom, and failure to enforce fully laws regarding workers’ rights.
Trafficking in persons remained a problem, although authorities were building capacity to pursue trafficking cases. While there were continuing concerns national security legislation passed in accordance with article 23 of the Basic Law in 2009 could compromise various civil liberties, by year’s end prosecutors had filed no cases based on the legislation.
The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses.
To view the full report, click here.