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U.S. Department of State, 2016 Human Rights in China, March 3 2017

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

March 3, 2017
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CHINA

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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 CCP Central Committee’s 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) and its seven-member Standing Committee. Xi Jinping continued to hold 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 of organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy as well as in public interest and ethnic minority issues remained severe. As in previous years, citizens did not have the right to choose their government and elections were restricted to the lowest local levels of governance. Authorities prevented independent candidates from running in those elections, such as delegates to local people’s congresses. Citizens had limited forms of redress against official abuse. Other serious human rights abuses included arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life, executions without due process, illegal detentions at unofficial holding facilities known as “black jails,” torture and coerced confessions of prisoners, and detention and harassment of journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others whose actions the authorities deemed unacceptable. There was also a lack of due process in judicial proceedings, political control of courts and judges, closed trials, the use of administrative detention, failure to protect refugees and asylum seekers, extrajudicial disappearances of citizens, restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. The government imposed a coercive birth-limitation policy that, despite lifting one-child-per-family restrictions, denied women the right to decide the number of their children and in some cases resulted in forced abortions (sometimes at advanced stages of pregnancy). Severe labor restrictions continued, and trafficking in persons was a problem.

Although most of the more than 300 lawyers and human rights activists detained in 2015 were released, 16 remained in pretrial detention without access to attorneys or family members at year’s end. Four others were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three years to seven and one-half years in trials that foreign governments and international human rights organizations said lacked basic due process. Wang Yu, one of the most prominent lawyers detained during the crackdown, was released after her televised confession, which circumstances suggest was likely coerced. Many others remained under various restrictions, including continuous residential surveillance at undisclosed locations. Public security officials continued to harass, intimidate, and take punitive measures against the family members of rights defenders and lawyers in retaliation for their work.

A new Law on the Management of Foreign NGO Activities inside Mainland China placed foreign NGOs under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Security, a move that indicated foreign NGOs were considered a “national security” threat. Although the law was not scheduled to go into effect until January 1, 2017, many foreign NGOs and their domestic partners began to curtail operations before the year’s end, citing concerns over the law’s vaguely worded provisions. As a result, an already limited space for civil society was further constrained. Individuals and groups regarded as politically sensitive by authorities faced tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel both within China and overseas. Authorities used extralegal measures, such as enforced disappearances and strict house arrest, to prevent public expression of critical opinions. Authorities continued to censor and tightly control public discourse on the internet, and in print and other media. There was at least one widely reported extraterritorial disappearance that occurred during the year.

Official repression of the freedoms of speech, religion, movement, association, and assembly of Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas and of Uighurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) continued and were more severe than in other areas of the country. In the XUAR officials sometimes subjected individuals engaged in peaceful expression of political and religious views to arbitrary arrest, harassment, and expedited judicial procedures without due process in the name of combatting terrorism.

Authorities prosecuted a number of abuses of power through the court system, particularly with regard to corruption, but in most cases the CCP first investigated and punished officials using opaque internal party disciplinary procedures. The CCP continued to dominate the judiciary and controlled the appointment of all judges and in certain cases directly dictated the court’s ruling. Authorities targeted citizens who promoted independent efforts to combat abuses of power.

TIBET

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures (TAPs) and counties in Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Gansu 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 Chinese CCP members held the overwhelming majority of top party, government, police, and military positions in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Ultimate authority rests with the 25-member Political Bureau (Politburo) of the CCP Central Committee and its seven-member Standing Committee in Beijing, neither of which has any Tibetan members.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces.

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, combating separatism, and extracting natural resources, 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 the 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 detentions, disappearances, and torture. Many Tibetans and other observers believed that authorities systemically targeted Tibetans for political repression, economic marginalization, and cultural assimilation, as well as educational and employment discrimination. The presence of the paramilitary 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 protested against government or business actions or expressed their support for the Dalai Lama.

The government strictly controlled information about, and access to, the TAR and some key Tibetan areas outside the TAR, making it difficult to determine fully the scope of human rights problems. The Chinese government severely restricted free travel by foreign journalists to Tibetan areas. In addition, 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 few visits to the TAR by diplomats and journalists that were allowed were tightly controlled by local authorities. Because of these restrictions, many of the incidents and cases mentioned in this report could not be verified independently.

Disciplinary procedures were opaque, and there was no publicly available information to indicate that security personnel or other authorities were punished for behavior defined under PRC laws and regulations as abuses of power and authority.

HONG KONG

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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 (also known as the Basic Law), specify that the SAR will enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework except in matters of defense and foreign affairs. In September, Hong Kong residents elected the 70 representatives who comprise the SAR’s Legislative Council (LegCo). In accordance with the Basic Law, voters directly elected 40 representatives, while limited franchise functional constituencies that generally supported the government in Beijing elected the remaining 30.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most important human rights problem reported was the central government’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) on November 7 issued an unnecessary and unsolicited interpretation of the Basic Law that preempted the ability of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary to rule on the matter. It marked the first time it had issued such an interpretation while a Hong Kong judge was deliberating the case in question and the second time it had done so in the absence of a request from Hong Kong authorities. As a result, Hong Kong’s courts subsequently disqualified two opposition legislators-elect, who used their oath-swearing ceremony as an occasion to make proindependence gestures, and on December 2, the Hong Kong government filed a similar legal challenge to the legitimacy of four additional opposition legislators over the manner in which they took their oaths of office. Media outlets and local observers raised concerns that the government had attempted to curtail residents’ right to run for office. Hong Kong residents also remain concerned by the breach of Hong Kong’s autonomy that occurred in the late 2015 disappearances of five publishers of books critical of the Communist Party leadership and the continued lack of transparency regarding their cases. Although the 2016 elections were largely conducted in a free and fair manner, Hong Kong’s system of government limits the ability of Hong Kong voters to choose their government.

Other human rights problems included trafficking in persons, and societal prejudice against certain ethnic minorities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses.

MACAU

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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 reelected Chief Executive, Fernando Chui Sai-On, in 2014.

Civilian 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 concerns regarding extradition of criminals to jurisdictions with harsher criminal punishments.

Trafficking in persons remained a problem, although authorities were building capacity to pursue trafficking cases. While there were continuing concerns that national security legislation passed in accordance with article 23 of the Basic Law in 2009 could compromise various civil liberties, from July 2015-June, the Macao SAR Government filed no cases against individuals or organizations in relation to this article.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses.

 

 

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