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Human Rights in China: Improving or Deteriorationg Conditions?

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Location: Washington, DC


HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA: IMPROVING OR DETERIORATING CONDITIONS? -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 26, 2006)

* Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, on April 19, the day before Chinese President Hu Jintao's official visit to President George Bush, I held a hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations to examine China's human rights record. The hearing focused on such areas as China's censorship of the internet, implementation of the right of Chinese citizens to worship freely, protection of minority rights, compliance with international labor standards, China's barbaric practice of organ harvesting, and the destructive effects on Chinese society--especially on women--of its government's coercive one-child policy.

* Over the years, I have held more than 25 hearings on human rights abuses in China. While China's economy has improved somewhat, the human rights situation remains abysmal. So-called economic reform has utterly failed to result in the protection of freedom of speech, expression, or assembly.

* President Hu Jintao' visit to the United States provided the U.S. Congress and people an opportunity to bring to the attention of U.S. policy makers and the world community the terrible human rights situation as it exists in China today. It also helped provide the vital context for any relationship we should have with China. And it conveyed our unshakeable regard and commitment to press Beijing for serious, measurable and durable reform. The people of China deserve no less. It is our moral duty to stand with the oppressed, not with the oppressor.

* State Department human rights reports and the consistent reporting from very reputable NGOs indicate that Chinese government repression of its citizens continues. In fact, the current Chinese regime is one of the very worst violators of human rights in the world, and continues to commit every single day egregious crimes against its own citizens. China was first named a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) by the State Department in 1999 for ongoing, egregious and systemic violations of religious freedom, and has been a CPC every year since. Few if any nations can even begin to match China's unseemly record, from the systematic denial of political freedom and use of torture to interference in the most private matters of family and conscience. At a rough count, the most recent State Department Human Rights Report for China ran to about 45,000 words. Before it even gets down to details, the report lists 22 major human rights problems:

Denial of the right to change the government;

Physical abuse resulting in deaths in custody;

Torture and coerced confessions of prisoners;

Harassment, detention, and imprisonment of those perceived as threatening to party and government authority;

Arbitrary arrest and detention, including nonjudicial administrative detention, reeducation-through-labor, psychiatric detention, and extended or incommunicado pretrial detention;

A politically controlled judiciary and a lack of due process in certain cases, especially those involving dissidents;

Detention of political prisoners, including those convicted of disclosing state secrets and subversion, those convicted under the now-abolished crime of counterrevolution, and those jailed in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations;

House arrest and other non-judicially approved surveillance and detention of dissidents;

Monitoring of citizens' mail, telephone and electronic communications;

Use of a coercive birth limitation policy, in some cases resulting in forced abortion and sterilization;

Increased restrictions on freedom of speech and the press; closure of newspapers and journals; banning of politically sensitive books, periodicals, and films; and jamming of some broadcast signals;

Restrictions on the freedom of assembly, including detention and abuse of demonstrators and petitioners;

Restrictions on religious freedom, control of religious groups, and harassment and detention of unregistered religious groups;

Restrictions on the freedom of travel, especially for politically sensitive and underground religious figures;

Forcible repatriation of North Koreans and inadequate protection of many refugees;

Severe government corruption;

Increased scrutiny, harassment and restrictions on independent domestic and foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO) operations;

Trafficking in women and children;

Societal discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities;

Cultural and religious repression of minorities in Tibetan areas and Muslim areas of Xinjiang;

Restriction of labor rights, including freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and worker health and safety; and Forced labor, including prison labor).

* Beijing has increasingly viewed the information available on the internet as a potential threat to the Party's ability to control the population and monopolize political power. It has turned China into one of the most internet restrictive countries in the world. It is important to note that the freedoms that we enjoy in America allow individuals to publish information and news on the Web unfiltered. Those freedoms do not exist in China. Individuals who attempt to speak freely are imprisoned and even tortured. At the very least, U.S. corporations should not be aiding and abetting that process. Yet at a February hearing I chaired on the Internet in China, we learned in greater--and disturbing--detail, how some of the biggest corporations in America have partnered with the much-hated Chinese secret police to find, apprehend, convict and jail religious believers and pro-democracy advocates.

* Yahoo told us at the hearing how profoundly they regret sending Shi Tao to prison for 10 years but they couldn't tell us--and didn't seem to know--how many others were condemned to jail and torture because of Yahoo's complicity with the secret police. When I asked under what terms and conditions--court order, police demand, a fishing trip--Yahoo surrenders emails and address files, Yahoo told us that they couldn't reveal this information to us because it would break Chinese law.

* Google, for its part, created an exclusively Chinese search engine that only a Joseph Goebbels could love. Type in any number of vile words like human rights, or Tian An Men Square massacre, or Falun Gong, and you will get rerouted to government propaganda--much of it heavily anti-American and anti- President George Bush, and filled with hate, especially for the Falun Gong. How did Google respond to our deep concern about their enabling a dictatorship to expand its hate message? According to the New York Times report of late March, they hired big-time Washington lobbying firms like Podesta-Mattoon and the DCI group to put a good face on it all--and presumably kill my pending legislation, the Global Online Freedom Act of 2006,

* Amazingly, Cisco showed no seller's remorse whatsoever that its technology--especially ``Policenet''--a tool for good in the hands of honest cops and legitimate law enforcement, but a tool of repression in the hands of Chinese police has now effectively linked and exponentially expanded the capabilities of the Chinese police.

* Microsoft also censors and shuts down blogs that ``Big Brother objects to. You can be sure that no serious discussion on human rights was on the agenda at President Hu visit with Bill Gates at Microsoft.

* China's continued repression of religion is among the most despotic in the world. In February, the BBC reported that China had warned Hong Kong's newly-appointed Cardinal, Joseph Zen, a well-known critic of China's suppression of religious freedoms, to remain quiet on political issues. Citizens practicing a faith other than officially sanctioned religions are often subjected to torture, imprisonment, and death, at which time prisoner organs are frequently harvested to meet demand. Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Muslim Uyghurs are all being persecuted for their faith. Today, numerous underground Roman Catholic priests and bishops and Protestant pastors languish in the Lao Gai, China's infamous concentration camps, simply proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

* In the early 90's I meet with Bishop Su Zhimin of Baoding Province--a gentle and kind man who celebrated Mass for our small delegation. I was deeply inspired by his faith (he had recently been let out of jail) and by his compassion for those who had jailed and mistreated him. He had no animosity for them--only compassion and forgiveness. What kind of regime incarcerates a truly noble man like this? Soon after our visit, he was re-arrested on false charges, released, and re-arrested and jailed again. He has now spent at least 27 years of his life in jail--for loving God. What kind of barbaric regime hurts a man like this?

* And then there is the special hate Beijing pours out on the Falun Gong. Nearly seven years ago the Chinese government began its brutal campaign to completely eradicate Falun Gong through whatever means necessary. Many Party Members and Army officials had begun to practice Falun Gong. Like all dictators and totalitarian terror systems, the PRC fears and hates what it cannot control. So it decided to destroy and intimidate those who practice Falun Gong. We see before us a Stalinist nightmare revived for the 21st century--hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead as a result of torture; tens of thousands jailed without trial, held in labor camps, prisons, and mental hospitals, where they are forced to endure torture brainwashing sessions.

* Just over a year ago Beijing finally released the renowned human rights activist, Rebiya Kadeer, from prison, where she had been held for years on trumped up charges for defending the rights of her fellow Uyghur Muslims in China. We had hoped this signaled some sort of genuine improvement in Beijing's treatment of human rights, but now we know better: since Rebiya, who is now living in America, has continued to campaign for the recognition of the legitimate rights of her fellow Uyghurs, her relatives and business associates still in China are being subjected to renewed harassment by the authorities. Rebiya is with us here today to testify about China's continuing campaign against her peoples.

* Coercive family-planning policy in China has slaughtered more innocent children than any war in human history. Coercive family planning has wounded Chinese women by the millions and the physical consequence is that 500 women commit suicide every day. China's one-child per couple policy, decreed in 1979, has killed hundreds of millions of babies by imposing Draconian fines--up to ten times annual salaries--on their parents to force them to abort. In China today brothers and sisters are illegal. Sex selection abortions--a direct consequence of allowing only one baby per couple, has led to gendercide--approximately 100 million girls are missing--in China. One Chinese demographer has admitted that by 2020, forty million Chinese men won't be able to find wives because Beijing's weapon of mass destruction--population control--destroyed the girls.

* There is no recourse for millions of Chinese laborers trapped in poor working conditions. Those who protest unjust wage and labor practices outside of the government-controlled labor union are arrested and imprisoned. Chinese citizens are often persecuted just for going to court to secure rights which even current Chinese law, as restrictive as it is, guarantees them. And the lawyers who seek to help them are threatened, harassed, beaten, disbarred and jailed for doing their simple duty. They join countless prisoners of conscience in China's modern day concentration camps. These are found everywhere in China--more than 1,100 by one count.

* Finally, we heard testimony about China's barbaric policy of harvesting human organs for sale and transplant. China admits it does this. According to China's Ministry of Health, since 1993, there have been over 65,000 transplant procedures performed in China. China's Deputy Health Minister recently stated that 95 percent of the organs for organ transplants performed in China are from executed Chinese prisoners. Of course it claims it only harvests the organs of executed prisoners, and only if they or their families consent. But what value can such a statement have in a country where the death penalty is virtually an assembly line process? Where according to the Department of State's Human Rights Report for 2005, foreign experts estimate between five and twelve thousand people are executed every year? Chinese courts hand down the death sentence for an ever-expanding range of crimes, including nonviolent and political crimes. Appeals are conducted hastily, if at all. In an effort to boost profits, it is reported that some provincial or local officials in China have begun to allow mobile medical vans at execution sites to facilitate the ease and efficiency with which prisoners' organs may be harvested. We have all heard the recent horrific stories that China is now targeting the thousands of innocent Falun Gong prisoners it holds for organ harvesting, and perhaps not even waiting until they are dead. The State Department and the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Manfred Nowak, have been investigating. They must get to the truth of these blood-curdling stories, and do everything to stop this shameful practice.

* Human rights are everyone's rights. Governments are instituted to secure, protect and safeguard those rights. Human rights aren't privileges. Human rights are worth fighting for, even when they are costly, and even when it is inconvenient. Our witnesses, Mr. Ethan Gutmann, author of Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal; Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, Human Rights Activist, Former Political Prisoner, and President of the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation; Mr. Joseph Kung, Director, Cardinal Kung Foundation; Ms. Thea Lee, Director of Public Policy, AFL-CIO; Mr. Steven Mosher, President Population Research Institute; Mr. Harry Wu; Executive Director, Laogai Research Foundation; and Mr. Lu Decheng, 1989 Tiananmen Square Protestor, who spent 9 years in jail, all provided vitally useful testimony today.

http://thomas.loc.gov

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