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.—2009-a-black-year-for-human-rights-and-democracy-in-China

Periods of East Turkestan Independence

The First Period

The period up to 206 B.C.

The Second Period

Local Administration under the Turkish Hun Khanate, 206-108 B.C.

The Third Period

Local Administration under the Turkish Hun Khanate 86-60 B.C.

The Fourth Period

Local Administration Under the Turkish Hun Khanate, 10 B.C.-73 A.D.

The Fifth Period

Complete Independence, 74-554 A.D.

The Sixth period

Local Administration Under the Gokturk Khanate, 555-639 A.D.

The Seventh period

Local Administration Under the Gokturk Khanate, 650-660 A.D.

The Eighth Period

Local Administration under the Turgis Turkish Khanate, 699-738 A.D.

The Ninth Period

Complete Independence, 751-1216 A.D.

The Tenth Period

Local Administration Under the Mughal Empire, 1217-1351 A.D.

The Eleventh Period

Complete Independence, 1351-1678 A.D.

The Twelfth Period

Local Administration Under the Kalmuck state, 1679-1752 A.D.

The Thirteenth Period

Complete Independence, 1756-1759

Complete Independence 1929-1935

Complete Independence 1939-1950

Periods of Chinese Occupation of East Turkestan

The First Period

108-86 B.C., Limited to the South of the Country

The Second Period

60-10 B.C., Limited to the South of the Country

The Third Period

74-103 A.D., Limited to the South of the Country

The Fourth Period

640-649 A.D., All of the Country

The Fifth Period

660-699 A.D., All of the Country

The Sixth Period

738-751 A.D., All of the Country and Part of West Turkestan

The Seventh Period

1753-1756, All of the Country

The Eighth Period

1759-1861, All of the Country

The Ninth period

1879-1929, All of the Country

The Tenth Period


The Eleventh Period

From 1950 antil Today

As can be seen from the table, East Turkestan has been under Chinese occupation only a total of 560 years during its 2,200-year history. (Isa Yusuf Alptekin, Unutulan Vatan Dogu Turkistan (East Turkestan, the Forgotten Country), Seha Nesriyat, Istanbul, 1999, pp. 90-91)

Germany urges China to respect for minority rights

-German FM urged China to show more respect for human rights but said differences of opinion on this issue should not hinder trade ties.

Friday, 15 January 2010 22:50

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged China to show more respect for human rights on Friday but said differences of opinion on this issue should not hinder trade ties between the world’s two biggest exporters.

Westerwelle, on his first trip to China since taking office last October, said he had addressed Germany’s concerns about China’s position on freedom of opinion, human rights and the protection of minorities in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

“The German government’s engagement for human rights and civil rights is not abstract but very concrete,” he said. “Tibet and the protection of cultural minorities were also topics we discussed, and over which we had differences of opinion.”

Tibet is a sensitive subject for Western leaders to broach with China, which views the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as a separatist.

Meanwhile, Uighur complained heavy restrictions on their religious and cultural existence in their homeland.

Uighur demonstrators took the streets in Urumqi on July 5 to protest against Han Chineses’ attacks on Uighurs workers at a factory in south China in June which left two Uighurs dead. Hans in Urumqi sought bloody revenge two days later, killing more than 800 according to World Uighur Congress. But China government put the death toll 197.

Many Uighurs resent Han Chinese rule, complaining they’re marginalised economically and politically in their own land, while having to tolerate a rising influx of Han Chinese migrants.

It took months for China to forgive German Chancellor Angela Merkel for meeting the spiritual leader back in 2007.

Westerwelle said Yang explained the Chinese stance on the Internet and the role of search giant Google.

Yang said China opposed hackers attacking the Internet but the government had a duty to protect social stability and to prevent its citizens from physical or psychological injury.

China sought on Friday to play down a threat by Google to quit the country on hacking and censorship concerns, saying any decision by the company would not affect U.S. trade ties.

Westerwelle and Yang said they agreed to foster relations between Germany and China, saying that differences of opinion over human rights would not affect trade ties.

“It was quite clear that our engagement for human rights and also for export opportunities for the German economy were not at odds,” Westerwelle said. “Instead they were very compatible.”

Uyghuristan Bans Separatist Talk


China’s restive northwest gets a new law.

AFP Photo

A Chinese policeman (R) watches as ethnic Uyghurs line the street for an official ceremony in Kashgar, in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Aug. 7, 2008.
HONG KONG—Legislators in China’s troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have passed a new “ethnic unity” law banning pro-independence speech and writings, following last year’s deadly ethnic violence between minority Uyghurs and Han Chinese.

The “Law on Education for Ethnic Unity in Xinjiang” was voted into law by regional legislators last week, and will take effect from Feb. 1.

“It rules that all people and organizations are banned from promulgating speech detrimental to ethnic unity, and from gathering, providing, producing, and spreading information to that effect,” Erkin Imirbaqi, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People’s Congress, was quoted by official media as saying.

The law spells out that it is an obligation for all citizens to work towards national unity and against secession, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“Anyone who endangers ethnic unity or provokes secession will face penalties and prosecution,” the agency said.

The law follows hard on the heels of the “Information Promotion Bill,” which outlaws use of the Internet in Xinjiang in any way that “undermines national unity, incites ethnic separatism, or harms social stability.”

Officials say that terrorists, separatists, and religious extremists used the Internet, telephones, and mobile text messages to spread rumors and hatred during the ethnic violence which killed at least 197 people, sparking one of the most comprehensive Internet shutdowns ever reported.

While authorities announced that a limited Internet service would resume, bloggers in Xinjiang said they are still unable to get online using normal technical procedures.

Instead, Xinjiang’s 20 million residents, who have been cut off from Internet and international phone services since deadly ethnic rioting six months ago, may now access two state-run Web sites: those published by the Xinhua news agency and the Communist Party newspaper, The People’s Daily.

Still blocked

Phone, text, and email links remain largely blocked.

The ethnic unity law also comes into effect as the Chinese government sets up an anti-terrorism information coordination office, known informally as the “July 5th Office,” aimed at curbing separatist activities and sentiment in five politically sensitive regions.

According to a former Chinese intelligence officer, the office’s brief will be to counteract Xinjiang separatists, Tibetan independence activists, supporters of formal independence for Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, and overseas democracy activists.

“This office will avoid ministries and commissions,” said U.S.-based former intelligence officer Li Fengzhi.

“Its leader won’t have a particularly high rank, or they may hold another office simultaneously.”

“But they will have to have enough clout to propel the ministries into action.”

He said the office would have to collaborate with the military, police, foreign affairs ministry, and propaganda department.

“It will group all the head honchos together,” he said.

“I think that they will mostly be focusing on protecting China’s territorial integrity using anti-terrorism as an excuse.”

He said that good connections already exist between China’s intelligence gathering and counterespionage agencies, and that the purpose of the office was unlikely to be purely to collate intelligence reports.

“I think that there’s much more of a sense that they will actually coordinate things involved here,” Li said.


Clashes first erupted between Han Chinese and ethnic Uyghurs on July 5.

Twelve people have since been sentenced to death in connection with the violence, which was the worst the country has experienced in decades.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it has documented the disappearances of 43 men and boys in the Xinjiang region, but that the actual number of disappearances is probably far higher.

Official media say police have detained more than 700 people in connection with the unrest.

Uyghurs, a distinct and mostly Muslim ethnic group, have long complained of religious, political, and cultural oppression under Chinese rule, and tensions have simmered there for years.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Shi Shan and Yang Jiadai, and in Cantonese by Hai Nan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Written and translated for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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