Human Rights Watch World Report 1994 - China and Tibet

Events of 1993

Human Rights Developments

The Chinese government continued to arrest, detain and torture peaceful critics and to interfere with freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion. International concern over these abuses led to the failure of China's bid for the 2000 Olympic games. Releases of dissidents were carefully timed to manipulate world opinion, as exemplified by the release days before the Olympic decision in September of writer and editor Wei Jingshengafter over fourteen years of solitary confinement. Foreign Minister Qian Qichen's statement on November 9, just before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, that China would be "willing to consider" access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Chinese prisons was encouraging; it remained to be seen whether negotiations with ICRC would begin in earnest.

China's efforts to restrict freedom of expression reached beyond its borders. In May, it successfully prevented dissident-in-exile Shen Tong from holding a press conference at the United Nations, and in June, at the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, it tried to ban the Dalai Lama from speaking.

Within China, dissidents were sentenced for peaceful expression of political views. Plans to distribute handbills in Shanghai calling for the gradual introduction of democracy and political freedom to accompany economic reform led to the arrest of three Guangdong men, Li Guoheng, Liang Weiman and Wu Songfa, on April 6. Wang Miaogen, a former leader of the Shanghai Workers Autonomous Federation, was sent to a police-run psychiatric facility on April 27 to ensure no disruption of the East Asian Games in May. Members of the banned Shanghai Workers Autonomous Federation were arrested in May on charges of forming a "counter-revolutionary organization." Fu Shenqi, detained on June 26 to prevent him from speaking to journalists during the visit of Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, was administratively sentenced on July 4 to three years in a "re-education through labor" camp for "inciting trouble" among Shanghai's dissidents and for speaking to foreign reporters. Two workers, Yao Kaiwen and Gao Xiaoliang, arrested in May, were secretly tried on September 24, the day following the Olympic decision, on charges of "forming a counter-revolutionary clique." Their activities allegedly included attempting to mark the fourth anniversary of the June 4 crackdown in Beijing. In October, in Hubei Province, Yu Zhuo, a graduate student in Wuhan Polytechnic's department of economic management, was sentenced to a two-year prison term for putting up more than thirty posters commemorating the events of June 4, 1989; he had been held incommunicado ever since September 3, 1992.

Nineteen dissidents, arrested in 1992 for their alleged involvement in underground dissident groups, were indicted in September 1993 in a move that indicated trials were imminent.

The State Security Law passed on February 22 had a particularly deleterious effect on journalists. Wu Shishen, an editor in the domestic news department of the official news agency Xinhua, was sentenced to life in prison for selling a Hong Kong reporter an advance copy of a speech by Party Secretary Jiang Zemin. An alleged accomplice, Ma Tao, an editor at the magazine China Health Education News, received a six-year sentence. In May, Bai Weiji and his wife, Zhao Lei, accused of "illegally providing national secrets to a foreigner," received ten- and six-year terms. Two friends, one a former journalist, were sentenced with them. Gao Yu, former deputy chief editor-in-chief of the now banned Economics Weekly, was charged on October 13, eleven days after her detention, with "leaking state secrets abroad." She was detained on October 2 as she was scheduled to leave China to take up a visiting scholarship at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York. OnSeptember 27, a Hong Kong reporter, Xi Yang, and a "co-conspirator" were arrested in Beijing for "stealing and spying on financial secrets of the state."

Press freedom was further curtailed by reprisals for "illegal publishing." Li Minqi, a former student who served a two-year sentence for pro-democracy activities, was detained briefly in June for printing an underground magazine. For selling pornography and trading in publishing quotas, Wang Shuxiang was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve and his assets were confiscated. Li Dasheng received a twelve-year term for a similar offense, and in March, Wan Jianguo received a four-year prison term for re-printing some 60,000 copies of Golden Lotus, a 400-year-old Chinese erotic classic. The book, banned from public sale, is available to the Communist Party leadership under a system of restricted circulation.

Free expression restrictions extended to film, to "illegal" fax machines and private satellite dishes. "Farewell, My Concubine," co-winner of the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, could not be cleared for general release until substantial cuts were made. At the first Shanghai International Film Festival, works by China's independent filmmakers were banned without exception.

Wang Juntao, Bao Tong and Ren Wanding, all prominent dissidents, were denied release on medical parole despite serious problems. Ren was in danger of losing his eyesight from untreated retinal and cataract problems. Bao showed symptoms of colon cancer; a request by his family to allow him to see his own doctor was denied.

Those released from prison, either on parole or at the completion of their terms, continued to be harassed; many were without jobs, housing and medical benefits. Others were denied access to educational opportunities. Li Guiren, an editor and publisher from Xi'an, was critically ill when he left prison. Fired from his job and denied welfare benefits, he could not afford desperately needed hospitalization. Wang Xizhe, a prominent Democracy Wall activist who served almost twelve years, was prohibited from talking to the press or starting a private business.

Torture continued despite an upsurge in prosecutions of police and prison officials. Liu Gang, a student leader in Tiananmen Square, smuggled out accounts of his torture in a labor camp in Liaoning Province. Li Guoheng, from Guangdong, reportedly was so badly beaten in detention that he asked his family for painkillers. And in Lianjiang county, Guangdong province, an accused chicken thief died after he was strung up in a police station window for three hours.

Freedom to leave and enter one's own country remained restricted. While some dissidents were granted passports, most notably Hou Xiaotian, wife of political prisoner Wang Juntao, others, such as Yu Haocheng, a sixty-five-year-old legal scholar, were not. Yu was considered a security risk because of his work as director of the Public Security Department's Masses (Qunzhong) publishing house.

On August 13, a day after he returned to China on a valid Chinese passport, Han Dongfang, a founder of the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation, was seized in Guangzhou by the Public Security Bureau, roughed up and forced back across the border to Hong Kong. On August 21, Chinese officials invalidated his passport on ordersfrom "concerned government departments." He effectively was rendered stateless.

Prison-made products continued to be exported in 1993. Xu Yiruo, a student detained three times between June 1989 and February 1993, reported that just before he left the Shandong No.1 Labor Re-education Center, he was mining flint clay for export to the U.S. and other markets.

Religious repression in China intensified throughout 1993 with the Protestant house-church movement coming under particular severe attack. In one case, Lai Manping died from injuries sustained when public security officers broke into a religious gathering on March 27 in Shaanxi Province. In July, six Catholics were detained in Fujian Province after a raid on a house in which 250 youths were attending a class on religion and human quality. During interrogation, Public Security Bureau officials used guns and electric prods to beat some of the participants.

Catholic bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo was detained in April to prevent him from saying an anniversary mass for the late Bishop Fan Xueyan. Eight others were detained with him.

Heightened concern with so-called "splittism" resulted in an upsurge in arrests in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. Between January and mid-August alone, there were some 119 political arrests in Tibet, almost half from rural areas and most involving peaceful protest. Two Tibetans, Gendun Rinchen and Lobsang Yonten, arrested in mid-May by state security officials, were still being held incommunicado at the end of the year for planning to inform a visiting European Community delegation of human rights violations. Farmers outside Lhasa, arrested for peacefully demonstrating in 1992, were sentenced in 1993 to terms ranging up to eighteen years. A mass demonstration in Lhasa on May 24 and 25 resulted in the arrests of at least thirty-five people by July; some were tortured. A Tibetan businesswoman, Damchoe Pema, twenty weeks pregnant when she was arrested in May, miscarried after police forced her to remain standing for over twelve hours and beat her with electric batons.

In Inner Mongolia, a Mongolian literature professor named Delger and a relative were detained for protesting the suppression of Mongol culture and formally charged with "counter-revolutionary propaganda" in January 1993.

In September, army troops were sent to the ethnically Uighur area of Kashgar, Xinjiang province, after a series of bombings and reported attacks on Chinese attributed to the East Turkestan Party, a separatist organization. On October 7, the official Chinese news agency reported that armed police "crushed" a protest by more than 10,000 Muslims in Xining, Qinghai over a children's book titled Braintwisters, which showed a pig next to a praying Muslim.

The Right to Monitor

No independent human rights organizations were allowed in China. Individual activists risked lengthy prison terms for disseminating information about prisoners, ex-prisoners, prison conditions and other human rights violations. One of the charges against Fu Shenqi, the Shanghai dissident sentenced in July to three years in a re-education camp, was that he mounted a letter-writing campaignon behalf of Wang Miaogen, a former leader of the Shanghai Workers Autonomous Federation who was sent to a police-run psychiatric facility on April 27 to ensure he not disrupt the East Asian Games.

In Shanghai, members of the Study Group on Human Rights in China were harassed and in some cases briefly detained. In June, at least one member was forbidden to leave his apartment; another was threatened with incarceration in a mental facility if he persisted in a hunger strike. Other members were under surveillance. Another Shanghai group, with an overlapping membership, the Human Rights Association, applied in March to local authorities to register as an organization. Its petition was ignored.

No international human rights organizations were permitted to conduct fact-finding missions in China, but on September 18, five days before the site for the 2000 Olympics was named, the International Federation for Human Rights, based in France, was invited to send a delegation to China by the head of the Chinese Olympic Committee and former mayor of Beijing, Chen Xitong.

U.S. Policy

For the first half of the year, administration policy seemed focused less on improving human rights in China than on reaching an accommodation with Congress to prevent a bruising battle over China's Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status, which is reviewed annually every June. The latter part of the year saw the initiation of a high-level review of China policy in response to growing concern within the administration and outside it over the poor state of U.S.-China relations.

The annual debate on MFN in Congress started early. Through March, Secretary of State Christopher made only vague references to the need to use MFN to improve China's human rights performance. No one in the administration specified even in general terms what improvements would be sought before MFN was extended for another year nor what other governments such as Japan might do to help bring those improvements about.

Congress then took the initiative. On April 22, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate detailing specific human rights conditions, as well as provisions dealing with trade and proliferation, for renewal of MFN in June 1994. Failure to meet the conditions would mean revocation of MFN for all goods produced or marketed by Chinese state-owned enterprises. (Similar legislation had been passed by large marjorities in both houses in 1992 but had been vetoed by President Bush.) Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. George Mitchell, the lead sponsors, emphasized that the bill was intended to give Clinton leverage in dealing with China, and voiced their hope that the president would attach conditions himself when renewing MFN. China's trade surplus of $18.2 billion in 1992 helped fuel Congressional concern.

On May 12, the American business community weighed in with an unprecedented letter to Clinton, signed by over 200 leaders of major U.S. corporations and business associations, arguing against conditions on MFN that might "lead the Chinese to engage in retaliatory actions."

By the time Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord traveled to Beijing on May 12, it was clear that a compromise was beingdeveloped. The president would take the MFN issue out of Congress's hands and grant MFN for another year unconditionally, but the administration would craft its own conditions that would be broad enough to avoid provoking a strong counter-reaction from either the Chinese or from U.S. business. Some corporate representatives, aware of this compromise in progress, quietly urged moderation in Beijing. (Lord's visit was later credited for bringing about the release of a few prominent political prisoners, such as Xu Wenli, a Democracy Wall activist imprisoned for nearly twelve years. In addition, China issued passports and exit permits for others seeking to come to the U.S., such as Hou Xiaotian.)

On May 28, the president extended MFN for one year without conditions, noting the progress of economic reform in China and expressing hope that it would lead to "greater political freedom." At the same time, Clinton expressed "clear disapproval of [China's] repressive policies" and issued an executive order stipulating that to receive MFN in June 1994, China would need to make certain human rights improvements. Only two conditions were binding and absolute – promoting freedom of emigration under the Jackson-Vanik provision and abiding by the August 1992 bilateral agreement on prison labor exports – and these pertained to commitments China had already made. Otherwise, the secretary of state was to advise the president whether "overall, significant progress" had been made with respect to humane treatment of prisoners; protection of Tibet's cultural and religious heritage; release and full accounting of political prisoners; and unhindered television and radio broadcasts into China. Official reaction in China was muted, and Chinese leaders were said to be relieved that the executive order was not stronger.

Democratic Congressional leaders closed ranks behind the president and gave the administration a grace period of one year to try to bring about substantive progress. (A resolution revoking MFN in 1993 was soundly rejected by the House on July 21 by a vote of 318 to 105.) In August, nearly a dozen Congressional delegations visited China, echoing the administration's message that without real progress, MFN would be withdrawn next year.

To add teeth to the executive order, Asia Watch recommended that the administration give Congress a progress report after six months on China's compliance with the Order. Representative Sam Gibbons, chairman of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, at a hearing on June 8, endorsed this recommendation and announced that he would hold hearings early in 1994 at which the administration and human rights groups would be asked to testify. The State Department, to its credit, used this Congressional requirement in its bilateral contacts to increase the pressure on China.

The U.S. also reacted vigorously to defend the right of the dissident, Han Dongfang, to return to China. On August 16 the State Department said it "deplored" the expulsion of Han and complained publicly when his passport was revoked.

A decision, as required by law, on August 25 to ban exports of satellites and related equipment to China in response to its sale of M-11 ballistic missile technology to Pakistan, complicated the administration's human rights policy. The impact of these sanctions on U.S.-China relations was increased when an inspectionof a Chinese merchant ship, the Yinhe, suspected by the U.S. of carrying chemical weapons to Iran, came up empty. The Chinese accused the administration of bullying and retaliated by holding up a visit to Beijing by John Shattuck, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. The purpose of the visit, orginally planned for August, was to resume an official dialogue on human rights cut off by China in October 1992, and to spell out, more precisely, what was meant in the executive order by "overall progress." The administration seemed ill-prepared for the inevitable testing period in relations between the new president and Beijing.

China also resented a bipartisan Congressional campaign to prevent Beijing from being chosen to host the summmer Olympics in the year 2000. On August 9, sixty members of the Senate, led by Sen. Bill Bradley, wrote to the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declaring that awarding the games would "confer upon China's leaders a stamp of approval...they clearly do not deserve." On July 26, the House passed a resolution with a similar message by a huge margin (287-99), echoed on September 15 by a resolution in the European Parliament. The administration distanced itself from this campaign, while supporting, in a letter to Congress, the general principle that "a country's human rights performance should be an important factor" in the Olympic site selection. On September 23 the IOC voted to award the games to Sydney, Australia, despite a massive pro-Beijing lobbying effort. The release of China's most prominent dissident, Wei Jingsheng, just prior to the decision, was welcomed by the U.S. at the same time it called upon China "to release all persons like Wei imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their poltiical views."

On the prison labor issue, the administration frankly told Congress on September 9 that it was "regrettably at an impasse with the Chinese." The new comissioner of customs, George Weise, analyzing China's compliance with the August 1992 Memorandum of Understanding on prison labor, at a hearing on September 9, said China had responded to only sixteen of thirty-one requests for investigations of suspected prison labor sites, and had granted only one of five requests to allow U.S. customs officials to inspect facilities.

Congress took the lead in urging the administration to use the leverage of World Bank loans to China on behalf of human rights. The fiscal year 1994 foreign aid appropriations bill report called on the U.S. to "actively seek support among our allied for a policy of restricting loans to China until and unless there are fundamental human rights improvements" and requested a report back to Congress. From January to June, the U.S. voted to approve most loans to China but abstained on eight and voted against three major infrastructure projects. In fiscal year 1993, the World Bank's loans to China reached an all-time high of nearly $3.2 billion. Once again, China received more funds than any other country.

At the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the U.S. co-sponsored and actively organized support for a relatively mild resolution condemning human rights abuses in China. It was defeated.

A high-level policy review initiated in September led the administration to use carrots as well as sticks to encourage the Chinese to be more cooperative on human rights. Resumption of high-level exchanges was one tactic. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck visited China and Tibet from October 10 to 17, but only after the administration agreed to a meeting between President and Party Secretary Jiang Zemin and President Clinton at the summit meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC) on November 19 and 20 in Seattle and planned visits to Beijing by Treasury Secretary Bensten, Agricultural Secretary Mike Espey and others. Resumption of military exchanges, suspended after the Tiananmen massacre, began with a trip to China by Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Freeman in November.

On September 29, President Clinton announced his national export strategy, including significant liberalization of controls on the export of supercomputers, which opened the door to the possible transfer of highly sensitive dual-use technology to China.

The Work of Asia Watch

China remained a key focus for Asia Watch, with work divided among Hong Kong, Washington and New York. The aim was to try to hold the new U.S. administration to its campaign position on China and to ensure that the international community did not lose sight of human rights abuses in China as it became awed by the country's growing economic might.

The Hong Kong office uncovered important new evidence on a range of human rights abuses, including confidential Chinese government documents sanctioning the use of executed prisoners' organs for medical transplants; fresh evidence of continued exports by Chinese authorities of prison-made goods; and evidence of forcible detention of political dissidents in asylums for the criminally insane.

The director of Asia Watch's Hong Kong office met frequently with government officials visiting Hong Kong to brief them on the human rights situation in China. He also maintained regular contact with the Beijing- and Hong Kong-based press corps. The Hong Kong office also continued to act as a liaison center for information on Chinese prisoners.

Recognizing the high stakes involved in Beijing's bid to host the 2000 Olympics, Human Rights Watch and Asia Watch launched an eight-month campaign to make human rights a factor in the International Olympic Committee's site selection process, focus attention on China's ongoing violations and oppose Beijing's bid.

Human Rights Watch initiated a correspondence with the IOC president and raised its concerns with the sports press. It also wrote the chief executive officers of sixteen major Olympic corporate sponsors – many of whom were believed to be supporting Beijing's bid – pointing out that their corporate image could suffer by an Olympiad tarnished by human rights abuses and urging them to use their influence on behalf of human rights.

Working with members of the European Parliament, Human Rights Watch helped generate an appeal to the IOC to reject Beijing's bid in a resolution condemning abuses in Tibet. This was followed by a separate letter from the European Parliament to the IOC President.In Monte Carlo, where the IOC voted, the Human Rights Watch representative distributed information to the press and helped ensure that human rights dominated the IOC decision-making process.

Asia Watch testified in Congress four times during the year: on May 20, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on human rights and U.S. policy toward China; on June 8, before the House Committee on Ways and Means, on human rights and MFN for China; on July 15, before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Aviation, on human rights, China and the 2000 Olympiad; and on September 9, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on prison labor and U.S. policy toward China.

Asia Watch published two shorter reports on prisoners, "Economic Reform, Political Repression: Arrests of Dissidents in China since Mid-1992" and "Democracy Wall Prisoners." In June, Asia Watch published Continuing Religious Repression in China, updating its January 1992 report. For the Human Rights Watch Global Report on Prisons, Asia Watch researched and analyzed conditions in Chinese prisons, labor camps, detention centers and police lockups in several cities and provinces. Asia Watch also maintained a data base of all Chinese and Tibetan prisoners and ex-prisoners known to Asia Watch, and issued a comprehensive, detailed list of prisoners in November 1993.

Asia Watch continued to work closely with the Tibet Information Network to raise individual cases of Tibetan prisoners in various fora.

Asia Watch named Liu Gang, one of the leaders of the emerging student democracy movement in the mid-1980s, and imprisoned since 1989, as one of the international human rights monitors to be honored in 1993 by Human Rights Watch in observance of Human Rights Day, December 10.

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