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Human Rights in China: Trends and Policy Implications - US Congressional Researh Service - Junio 2009

Human Rights in China: Trends and Policy Implications - US Congressional Researh Service - Junio 2009

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CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Human Rights in China: Trends and PolicyImplications
Thomas Lum
Specialist in Asian Affairs
Hannah Fischer
Information Research Specialist June 12, 2009
Congressional Research Service
7-5700www.crs.govRL34729
 
 Human Rights in China: Trends and Policy ImplicationsCongressional Research Service
Summary
Human rights has been a principal area of U.S. concern in its relations with the People’s Republicof China (PRC), particularly since the violent government crackdown on the Tiananmendemocracy movement in 1989. Some policy makers contend that the U.S. policy of engagementwith China, particularly since granting the PRC permanent normal trade relations status in 2000,has failed to produce meaningful political reform. Others argue that U.S. engagement has helpedto accelerate economic and social change and build social and legal foundations for democracyand human rights in the PRC. This report analyzes China’s mixed record on human rights – majorhuman rights problems, new human rights legislation, and the development of civil society, legalawareness, and social and political activism. This report discusses major areas of interest but doesnot provide an exhaustive account of all human rights abuses or related incidents.Fear of social unrest, particularly during times of economic uncertainty, appears to motivate thePRC government’s resistance toward major political reform. The PRC government has attemptedto respond to public grievances and popular calls for redress while subduing activists who attemptto organize mass protests and dissidents who openly call for fundamental change. This approachhas both produced incremental improvements in human rights conditions and allowed forcontinued, serious abuses. Major, ongoing problems include excessive use of violence by securityforces, unlawful detention, torture, arbitrary use of state security laws against political dissidents,coercive family planning policies, state control of information, and religious and ethnicpersecution. Tibetans, ethnic Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong adherents have been singled outfor especially harsh treatment.China’s leadership has addressed rising public expectations through a combination of economicgrowth policies and carrot-and-stick political tactics. In so doing, it has planted seeds of potentialchange. China’s developing legal system, while plagued by corruption and political interference,has provided activists with new ways of defending rights. Although generally supportive of thestatus quo, the urban middle class has begun to engage in narrowly targeted protests against localgovernment policies, following over a decade of social unrest among wage laborers and farmers.Despite a massive censorship effort, the Internet and other communications technologies havemade it impossible for the government to clamp down on information as fully as before.In December 2008, over 300 PRC citizens signed and posted online a document entitled “Charter’08” calling for fundamental changes in China’s political system. An additional 8,000 peoplesigned the manifesto before the PRC government shut down the Charter’s website. One of itsdrafters, democratic activist Liu Xiaobo, remained in detention at the time of this writing.The U.S. government’s multifaceted efforts to promote human rights in China have included openor formal criticisms and assessments of the PRC government’s human rights policies, officialbilateral dialogue, sanctions, and congressionally sponsored legislation, hearings, andinvestigations. Some Members of the 111
th
Congress have called for the release of politicalprisoners and introduced resolutions supporting human rights in China. In March 2009, the Housepassed H.Res. 226, a resolution recognizing the plight of the Tibetan people. In June 2009, theHouse and Senate passed H.Res. 489 and S.Res. 171, respectively, commemorating those whodemonstrated for democracy or died in the military crackdown in 1989 in Beijing and expressingcontinued support for human rights and democracy activists in China. The U.S. government alsoprovides funding for rule of law, civil society development, participatory government, laborrights, Tibetan culture, Internet access, and other programs in the PRC.
 
 Human Rights in China: Trends and Policy ImplicationsCongressional Research Service
Contents
Overview....................................................................................................................................1
 
A Mixed Picture..........................................................................................................................2
 
Selected Highlights from the State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2008...................3
 
The Birth of Civil Society.....................................................................................................4
 
Non-Governmental Organizations...................................................................................4
 
Human Rights Legislation.....................................................................................................5
 
Other Policy Developments...................................................................................................7
 
Re-education through Labor............................................................................................7
 
In the Provinces: Renewed Talk of Reform......................................................................7
 
China Human Rights Action Plan....................................................................................8
 
Olympic Hopes and Disappointments....................................................................................8
 
17
th
Party Congress.........................................................................................................8
 
Pre-Olympics Crackdown...............................................................................................8
 
The Sichuan Earthquake and the Response of Civil Society...................................................9
 
The Twentieth Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Crackdown..........................................9
 
Selected Human Rights Issue Areas...........................................................................................10
 
Persecution of Political Dissent...........................................................................................10
 
State Control of the Press....................................................................................................11
 
Religious and Ethnic Issues.................................................................................................13
 
Christians in China........................................................................................................13
 
Tibetan Protests.............................................................................................................15
 
Uighur Muslims............................................................................................................16
 
Falun Gong...................................................................................................................17
 
Variables of Change..................................................................................................................17
 
Central vs. Local Governments...........................................................................................18
 
Rights Awareness and Legal Activism.................................................................................18
 
Social Unrest......................................................................................................................20
 
Mainstream Protests......................................................................................................21
 
New Agents of Change?......................................................................................................22
 
Charter ‘08....................................................................................................................23
 
New Communications Technologies....................................................................................24
 
U.S. Efforts to Advance Human Rights in China.......................................................................26
 
Openly Criticizing China.....................................................................................................27
 
Human Rights Dialogue......................................................................................................28
 
Rule of Law and Civil Society Programs.............................................................................28
 
Public Diplomacy...............................................................................................................29
 
Internet Freedom.................................................................................................................30
 
Sanctions............................................................................................................................31
 
Labor Rights.......................................................................................................................31
 
Congressional-Executive Commission on China..................................................................31
 
U.N. Human Rights Council................................................................................................32
 

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