Congressional members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) presented the CECC Annual Report for 2004 in a briefing on Tuesday, October 5, 2004. The Commission, established by Congress in 2000 to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, reports on the issues each year to the President and the Congress.
The 2004 Annual Report, the third prepared by the Commission, said that limited progress was found over the past year in some areas of human rights and rule of law in China. The report also stated that the Commission found severe and continuing problems on many of the issues critical to ensuring that its citizens enjoy internationally recognized human rights.
“Chinese government repression of free religious belief and practice has grown more severe over the past year,” the report said, adding that Chinese authorities “continue to expend significant resources to silence their critics and censor information from sources the government cannot control or influence.”
While the report noted that in March 2004, the National People’s Congress made a positive development by amending China’s Constitution to guarantee humans rights for Chinese citizens, the Commission stated that Chinese Communist Party would now have to deliver “some measurable improvements in human rights to maintain its own legitimacy.”
Without legal mechanisms necessary to enforce this and other constitutional guarantees, “the Chinese leadership demonstrates its continued unwillingness to allow the Chinese people to exercise their constitutional rights, freely voice their beliefs, desires, and complaints, or take a meaningful role in their government,” the report stated.
According to the Commission, the Chinese government “continues to detain and imprison Chinese citizens for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and belief.”
In addition, “coerced confessions, lack of access to defense counsel, law enforcement manipulation of procedural protections, pervasive presumption of guilt by law enforcement officials, judges, and the public, and extra-judicial pressures on courts continue to undermine the fairness of the criminal process in China.”
The Commission also reported intensified crackdowns by the Communist Party against free religious belief and practice during 2003 and an expanded campaign during 2004. While the Commission welcomed China’s progress toward developing a system based on the rule of law, it said, “In the case of religion, the Chinese government uses law as a weapon against believers.”
“Hundreds of unregistered believers, and members of spiritual groups have endured severe government repression in the past year,” the Commission reported. “Many unauthorized places of worship have been demolished. The Chinese government has tightened its repression of unregistered Catholic religious practice and believers. Protestant house church congregations have suffered continued government intimidation and harassment, with reports of beatings and killings.”
Chinese authorities also continue to impose strict licensing requirements on publishing and news reporting. Authorized publishers are subject to censorship; unauthorized publishers are subject to punishment. “China’s government continues to harass, intimidate, detain, and imprison those who express opinions that the Party deems objectionable,” added the Commission.
Among a list of recommendations for 2004, the Commission noted that:
- “The Chinese government made efforts to combat the practice of torture in the past year, but China lacks the public institutions necessary to monitor and expose law enforcement abuses. The President and the Congress should continue to encourage public debate and criticism of torture in China by pressing the Chinese government to fulfill, without further delay, its longstanding commitment to allow an unconditional visit by the U.N. Special Reporter on Torture.”
- “The freedom to believe and to practice one’s religious faith is a universal and essential right. The Chinese leadership must open itself to dialogue on establishing true freedom of religion for all its citizens. The President and the Congress should foster and support such a dialogue by urging Chinese leaders at all levels to meet with religious figures from around the world to discuss the positive impact on national development of free religious belief and religious tolerance, and to urge the release of religious prisoners.”
- “The Chinese government continues to use anti-cult regulations to oppress believers who choose not to worship within the confines of government-authorized religion, and prohibits the free publication and importation of the Bible, the Koran, and the sacred texts or teachings of other religious and spiritual groups, including those of the Falun Gong. The President and the Congress should continue to urge China’s leaders to eliminate all laws and regulations that allow the arbitrary labeling of unregistered religious and spiritual groups as cults, and to eliminate all restrictions and controls on the freedom to produce, read, and distribute the religious or spiritual texts of one’s choosing.”
According to the report, the Commission will be working to implement the recommendations made in the 2002 and 2003 Annual Reports in addition to the 2004 Annual Report, until they are achieved.
[Source: Congressional-Executive Commission on China]