Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tribute to Mr Rumsfeld

It seems to me that it's up to all of us to try to tell the truth, to say what we know, to say what we don't know, and recognise that we're dealing with people that are perfectly willing to, to lie to the world to attempt to further their case and to the extent people lie of, ultimately they are caught lying and they lose their credibility and one would think it wouldn't take very long for that to happen dealing with people like this.
Donald Rumsfeld, March 30, 2003

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Let's talk about human rights

China attaches great importance to the issue of human rights and we identified human rights as the basic rights of the Chinese people.”
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jia-bao, 10 Sept 2006

Started doing research today for a paper on the EU’s human rights dialogue with China…as suspected, a lot of countries do not dare to criticise too much, because they fear China’s retaliation.

“Many dialogue partners, including most EU member states, have made little secret of the fact that dialogue is more conducive to the enhancement of commercial opportunities than what has been termed "confrontation" with China on human rights”

Within the 25 member union, there are divided voices. Some, most notably the ‘big’ powers like the UK, France and Germany, who have many business interests in and with China, want to ‘tone down’ the human rights talk. This is further complicated by the lucrative issue of arms sells, because these three want to lift the ban imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen ‘Incident’. Others, most notably the Scandanavian countries, and perhaps to some extent the Netherlands as well, stand more or less firm on the condition that deepening trade relations should only be coupled with promises of further reform and improvements. Whereas the EU appears to be championing ‘soft power’ and values grounded on respect for (universal) human rights, justice and democracy, when it comes to China it becomes less vocal.

Below a very unflattering report on the human rights situation in China by Amnesty International:

Treatment of prisoners

“[The UN Special Rapporteur on torture observed priosners] were ‘handcuffed and shackled with leg-irons weighing approximately three kilograms, 24 hours per day and in all circumstance. Prison officials reportedly defended this practice as a necessary measure to prevent them from fleeing and to prevent suicide. [further there were] ‘the continuous handcuffing and shackling of death row prisoners constitutes an imposition of additional punishment without justification, leading to severe suffering, and amounting to torture.”

Death penalty

[The] lack of transparency about the process of execution is mirrored by official secrecy over the exact number of people sentenced to death and executed every year in China. The Chinese government refuses to publish full national statistics on death sentences and executions. Based on public reports available, Amnesty International estimated that at least 1,770 people were executed and 3,900 people were sentenced to death during 2005, although the true figures were believed to be much higher. In March 2004, Chinese legislator Chen Zhonglin estimated the figure at around 10,000 executions per year. Earlier this year, Liu Renwen, a leading Chinese abolitionist and criminal law professor, estimated that around 8,000 people are executed per year based on information obtained from local officials and judges.

No one who is sentenced to death in China receives a fair trial in line with international human rights standards. Failings include: lack of prompt access to lawyers, lack of presumption of innocence, political interference in the judiciary and failure to exclude evidence extracted through torture.

Related issue of forced organ transplantation of executed people.

Organ transplants have become a highly profitable business, particularly since the commercialisation of health care in China. There are serious concerns that the potential to profit from such transactions combined with apparently widespread corruption among police, courts and hospitals may lead to abusive practices. It may also provide an economic incentive to retain the death penalty.

And thanks to the “Re-education through Labour” programme, we in the rest of the world can enjoy cheap products (reason I avoid ‘Made in China’ products):

Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be held in RTL facilities across the country as a punishment for so-called minor offences which are not deemed serious enough to be punished under the Criminal Law. Periods of RTL, ranging from one to three years (extendable for a further year) are imposed by the police without charge, trial or judicial review.”

Arbitrary detention, torture and harassment of human rights defenders

“Chinese human rights defenders continue to face severe obstacles in their attempts to draw attention to ongoing abuses, some of which are directly related to the Olympics and the host city, Beijing.”

Media freedom

“The crackdown on individual journalists, newspapers and websites in China has continued over the last year, raising serious doubts about China’s commitment to ensure ‘complete media freedom’ during the Beijing Olympics. These concerns were echoed recently by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) which published a survey on 7 August 2006 showing that the police had detained foreign journalists on at least 38 occasions over the last two years, most of whom were covering stories relating to social issues such as environmental protests, land disputes and the plight of HIV/AIDS victims.”

“Broad and vaguely defined ‘state secrets’ and ‘subversion’ charges in the Criminal Law continue to be used to arbitrarily detain and prosecute journalists, editors and Internet users. While foreign journalists are generally detained for short periods and may face expulsion, Chinese journalists and writers often face much harsher treatment for reporting on issues deemed sensitive.”

Thanks to the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, the Chinese government can be even more repressive:

“Microsoft closed down the blog of Zhao Jing, a Beijing-based researcher for the New York Times, on 30 December 2005 at the request of the Chinese government. Tests have shown that it also prohibits users of MSN Spaces in China from using certain terms such as ‘human rights’, ‘Falun Gong’ or ‘Tibet independence’ in their account name or blog title;

Google announced in January 2006 the launch of ‘’, a self-censoring search engine as an alternative to its existing search engine based outside China (;

Yahoo! has voluntarily signed the Chinese government’s ‘Public Pledge on Self-discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry’, thereby aligning itself with official efforts to censor the Internet. Yahoo! has also provided information to the authorities, which has helped to secure the conviction of at least four Chinese Internet users on ‘state secrets’ or ‘subversion’ charges in violation of their rights to freedom of expression.”

An excellent article here about the one-sided, one full of lauding and praise, approach of mainstream international press towards the (economic) rise of China:

Dispelling the myths

“[…] to propagate or to echo the myth of China’s rise and China’s stability created by China’s Central Propaganda Department not only encourages the arrogance of the Beijing dictatorship in its dealings with domestic and international issues, it also deals an injustice to the millions of ordinary Chinese who suffer from both economical hardship and political disaster. Offering compliments to an unjust system disregards and humiliates all those who fight against this injustice, and those who are trampled by it.”

Stability as an end with all means

“The Communist regime has made our nation into one big labor camp and then calls it stable. […] A society in which mass demonstrations occur at a rate of 70,000 to 80,000 per year is called a harmonious and stable society.The fact that stability is achieved through brutal and ironclad suppression by the police and military clearly exposes the basic nature and conditions of China’s stability.”

China has topped the list of countries imprisoning journalists for six years running, and that the number of journalists imprisoned in China during that period had doubled. Recent years had seen increases in the number of Internet journalists and writers targeted by the Chinese authorities […]”

Progress? What progress?

“With the situation for freedom of expression seriously deteriorating, and human rights abuses well documented, describing China as making progress in human rights is inexplicable. The truth is that the victims of China’s human rights crisis are not only dissidents and brave journalists; the lack of freedom and legal recourse places every ordinary Chinese citizen in a climate of fear on a daily basis.”

“Today, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao tell the world that China is flourishing, is harmonious, China is rising, and again the international consensus, including Time magazine, chimes along. But in the midst of China’s rise, 200 million Chinese, roughly the entire population of the United States, are suffering in abject poverty. Each year 800,000 Chinese, equal to the population of a small or medium-sized American city, die unnatural deaths, while thousands of others are imprisoned for honestly expressing their views to the government. This government blocks the Internet in an information age, and turns the nation’s ecosystem into an uninhabitable wasteland.”