January 23, 2010 Leave a comment
China: 2009, a black year for human rights and democracy in China
-Human Rights Watch releases a damning report. Beijing increased its persecution of dissidents and activists last year. The West instead toned down its criticism and its defence of human rights.
Thursday, January 21, 2010By Asia News
Beijing (AsiaNews/HRW) – Human rights protection in China faced significant setbacks in 2009 as the Chinese government, emboldened by increasingly weak international criticism of its rights record, failed to reform the legal system and instead pursued politically-motivated attacks, including long-term prison sentences, against dissidents, human rights defenders, civil society advocates, Tibetans and Uyghurs as well as ordinary people with complaints, Human Rights Watch said in its annual World Report, released yesterday.
Just in December of last year, the Chinese government showed how much it disregarded human rights, both at home and abroad.
On 19 December, as a result of its pressure on the Cambodian government, Beijing received 20 Uighur asylum seekers forcibly repatriated. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees voiced deep concern because of the high risk of torture, disappearance, and arbitrary detention they faced upon return.
On 25 December, the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court sentenced veteran dissident Liu Xiaobo (pictured) to an 11- year prison term for “incitement to subvert state power” because of his contribution to the drafting of “Charter 08,” a political manifesto that calls for human rights and the rule of law in China. Liu has been in prison since 8 December 2008.
On 28 December, the Xining Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Tibetan filmmaker Dhongdup Wangchen to six years behind bars on charges of “inciting separatism” for producing a documentary film, Leaving Fear Behind, which criticised Chinese government policies in Tibet. Police arrested Wangchen in March 2008 and judicial authorities arbitrarily replaced his attorney, Li Dunyong, with a government-appointed lawyer. Wangchen was allowed to meet with Li only once, in July 2009, who reported that his client had been tortured.
On 31 December, a Sichuan court sentenced Phurbu Tsering, a senior Tibetan cleric, to an eight-year prison term on politically motivated charges of illegal weapons possession. Phurbu stated in court that his confession was extorted whilst in prison—police interrogated him continuously for four days and nights, and threatened to arrest his wife and son. Despite Phurbu’s statement, the court admitted the confession without making any inquiry.
In February 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that human rights “shouldn’t interfere” in the US-China relationship. Similarly, President Barack Obama decided not to meet the Dalai Lama prior to his November visit to Beijing. Whilst in China, Obama raised human rights broadly in his public statements but did not directly engage pressing issues of freedom of expression, religious minorities, the disbarment of civil rights lawyers, or ongoing crackdowns in Xinjiang and Tibet.
The European Union gave in to Chinese pressure and limited NGO participation in an EU-China Human Rights Seminar”.
“That the Chinese government this year released a national action plan on human rights is ironic, as its real plan seems to entail steadily curtailing—not protecting—rights,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
In the meantime, the list of abuses gets longer by the day. On 25 December, a court in Jiangsu sentenced in a closed hearing dissident Guo Quan to ten years in prison on subversion charges because he organised a political party in Xinmin.
The Shanghai Intermediate Court upheld the “light” sentence of one and half year inflicted on activist Duan Chunfang for “obstructing official business” after police alleged she attacked an officer. Her lawyer said instead that the conviction stems from efforts by officials to punish her for persistent petitioning and organising other petitioners to defend their rights.
On 17 December, the Fujian Provincial Department of Justice suspended lawyer Lin Hongnan’s licence to practice for a year. He had defended many pro-rights activists and had been repeatedly threatened.