China (includes Hong Kong and Macau)
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2002
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 31, 2003
(Note: Also see the report for Hong Kong and the report for Macau.)
United States Human Rights Report 2003
The following are excerpts from the above titled document
The Government continued its crackdown against the Falun Gong (FLG) spiritual movement. Thousands of practitioners were incarcerated in prisons, extrajudicial reeducation-through-labor camps, psychiatric facilities or special deprogramming centers. FLG adherents conducted far fewer public demonstrations than in past years, which some observers attributed to the effectiveness of the Governments crackdown. Several hundred Falun Gong adherents reportedly have died in detention due to torture, abuse and neglect since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The official press reported a number of extrajudicial killings, but no nationwide statistics were available. During the year, deaths in custody due to police use of torture to coerce confessions from criminal suspects continued to be a problem. Several hundred Falun Gong adherents reportedly have died in detention due to torture, abuse and neglect since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999. For example, Zheng Fangying of Weifang, Shandong Province, was arrested in December 2001 after she tried to unfurl a pro-FLG banner in Beijings Tiananmen Square. Zheng was taken to a detention center where she was punched and shocked with electric batons. Police released her after she staged an 18-day hunger strike. Three days later, she reportedly died from her injuries at her home.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999, there reportedly have been several hundred deaths in custody of FLG adherents, due to torture, abuse, and neglect. A 2001 pilot program in Liaoning Province, intended to institute the right to remain silent in criminal trials as a way to combat torture, was discontinued. In September 2000, the National Peoples Congress (NPC) carried out an independent study of the use of torture in Tianjin, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, Hebei, and Shaanxi. The group discovered 221 cases of confessions coerced by torture and 21 criminal suspects who died as a result of the torture.
During the year, there were many reports of persons, especially FLG adherents, sentenced to psychiatric hospitals for expressing their political or religious beliefs (see Section 1.d.).
The Government also confined some Falun Gong adherents and labor activists to psychiatric hospitals. Although the crime of being a "counterrevolutionary" was removed from the criminal code in 1997, western NGOs estimated that as many as 1,300 persons remained in prison for the crime.
The Criminal Procedure Law also does not address the custody and repatriation system, which allows authorities to detain persons administratively without trial to "protect urban social order." Until they were returned to their home provinces, those detained were held in custody and repatriation centers, and could be required to pay for the cost of their detention and repatriation by working while in detention. Persons who could be detained under this provision included the homeless, the unemployed, petty criminals, Falun Gong practitioners, persons without permission to live or work in urban areas, and, in some provinces, additional categories of persons such as the mentally ill and persons with mental disabilities. According to one report, as many as 20 percent of those detained were children.
According to researchers, the country had 20 "ankang" institutions, high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane, directly administered by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). Dissidents and other targeted individuals were housed with mentally ill patients in these institutions. The regulations for committing a person into an ankang psychiatric facility were not clear. Credible reports indicated that a number of political and trade union dissidents, "underground" religious believers, persons who petitioned the Government for redress of grievances, and hundreds of Falun Gong adherents were incarcerated in such facilities during the year.
Huang Jinchun, a judge in Beihai, fired from his job and admitted to a psychiatric hospital in November 1999 for refusing to renounce his belief in Falun Gong, also remained in an ankang facility at years end. He reportedly displayed no signs of mental illness but was given daily injections of narcotics.
In August The Royal College of Psychiatrists sponsored a motion to expel China from the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) for using psychiatric facilities to incarcerate political prisoners; a decision was pending at years end. .
Both formal and informal guidelines continued to require journalists to avoid coverage of many politically sensitive topics. The State Security Law forbids journalists from divulging state secrets. These public orders, guidelines, and statutes greatly restricted the freedom of broadcast journalists and newspapers to report the news and led to a high degree of self-censorship. The Government continued an intense propaganda campaign against the Falun Gong.
The Government kept tight control over the foreign press during the year and continued efforts to prevent foreign media "interference" in internal affairs. The June 15 edition of the Economist was banned due to an editorial it ran entitled "Set Chinas Politics Free." Time Magazine was temporarily banned after an article appeared on the Falun Gong. In July BBC World Television was blocked for several weeks after it ran a report about the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
In 2001 some government-owned local cable television networks began providing uncensored foreign news programming, including programs from CNN and European news services, to cable television customers for a fee. Prior to 2001, only major hotels and residence compounds for foreigners could legally show uncensored television news from outside of the country.
During the year, Falun Gong followers overrode television broadcasts several times to broadcast pro-FLG statements during regular programming. In September 15 persons were given sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years in prison for interfering with a cable television system in the northeastern city of Changchun in March. On December 30, the Intermediate Peoples Court in Xining sentenced four FLG adherents to up to 20 years in prison for tapping into cable television signals. The Government also reported several instances of individuals interfering with domestic broadcasts transmitted via satellite, replacing regular programming with pro-FLG material.
At times police used excessive force against demonstrators. Demonstrations with political or social themes were often broken up quickly and violently. The most widely publicized demonstrations in recent years were those of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. The Government continued to wage a severe political, propaganda, and police campaign against the FLG movement during the year. Since the Government banned the FLG in 1999, mere belief in the discipline, without any outward manifestation of its tenets, has been sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment, and in many cases, to suffer torture and death. Several hundred practitioners have been tried and convicted of crimes, including that of "using a heretical cult to disturb social order," which was established in the 1999 anticult legislation. However, the great majority of practitioners were punished without a trial, primarily in the reeducation-through-labor system. Many thousands of persons have been detained in reeducation-through-labor and custody and repatriation camps; others have been confined to psychiatric hospitals. In 2001 facilities were established specifically to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refused to recant their belief voluntarily (see Section 2.c.).
The tactic used most frequently by the central Government against the FLG, however, has been to make local officials, family members, and employers of known practitioners responsible for preventing FLG activities by their family members or associates. In many cases, practitioners were subject to close scrutiny by local security personnel and their personal mobility was tightly restricted, particularly at times when the Government believed public protests were likely.
The number of protests by individuals or small groups of FLG practitioners at Tiananmen Square remained very low during the year. Some observers attributed this to the effectiveness of the sustained government crackdown, which by the end of 2001 had essentially eliminated public manifestations of the movement. Authorities also briefly detained foreign practitioners who attempted to unfurl banners on Tiananmen Square or pass out leaflets, in most cases deporting them after a few hours.
c. Freedom of Religion
Overall, government respect for religious freedom remained poor, and crackdowns against unregistered groups, including underground Protestant and Catholic groups, Muslim Uighurs, and Tibetan Buddhists continued. The Government continued its repression of groups that it determined to be "cults" and of the Falun Gong in particular. Various sources reported that thousands of FLG adherents have been arrested, detained, and imprisoned, and that several hundred or more FLG adherents have died in detention since 1999; many of their bodies reportedly bore signs of severe beatings or torture or were cremated before relatives could examine them. The atmosphere created by the nationwide campaign against the FLG reportedly had a spillover effect on unregistered churches, temples, and mosques in many parts of the country.
The law does not prohibit religious believers from holding public office; however, most influential positions in government were reserved for party members, and party officials stated that party membership and religious belief are incompatible. This had a disproportionate effect in such areas as Xinjiang and Tibet, where the minority populations are adherents of Islam or Buddhism. Party membership also was required for almost all high-level positions in government and in state-owned businesses and organizations. The Party reportedly issued circulars ordering party members not to adhere to religious beliefs, and reminding cadres that religion is incompatible with party membership, a theme reflected in authoritative media. The Routine Service Regulations of the Peoples Liberation Army state explicitly that servicemen "may not take part in religious or superstitious activities." Party and PLA personnel have been expelled for adhering to Falun Gong beliefs.
Religious groups that preached beliefs outside the bounds of officially approved doctrine (such as the imminent coming of the Apocalypse, or holy war) or that had charismatic leaders often were singled out for particularly severe harassment. Some observers attributed the unorthodox beliefs of some of these groups to undertrained clergy. Others acknowledged that some individuals may have been exploiting the reemergence of interest in religion for personal gain. Police continued their efforts to close down an underground evangelical group called the "Shouters," an offshoot of a pre-1949 indigenous Protestant group. Many groups, especially those in house churches, reportedly were viewed by officials as "cults." The Government continued a general crackdown on groups it labeled cults, such as Eastern Lightning, the Association of Disciples, the Full Scope Church, the Spirit Sect, the New Testament Church, the Way of the Goddess of Mercy, the Lord God Sect, the Established King Church, the Unification Church, the Family of Love, the Dami Mission, and other groups. According to reports, the crackdown on the Falun Gong in 1999 led to a tightening of controls on all non-officially sanctioned groups.
During the year, the Government continued its harsh and comprehensive campaign against the Falun Gong. There were many thousands of cases of individuals receiving criminal, administrative, and extrajudicial punishment for practicing FLG, admitting that they believed in FLG, or simply refusing to denounce the organization or its founder. By mid-year 2001, the campaign against FLG appeared to have abated somewhat in eastern and southern China, perhaps due to the decreased number of practitioners in those regions, but the campaign in Sichuan Province and the northeast continued.
Since the Government banned the FLG in 1999, the mere belief in the discipline (and since January, even without any public manifestation of its tenets) has been sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment. Although the vast majority of practitioners detained since 2000 were released, those identified by the Government as "core leaders" have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment. More than a dozen FLG members have been sentenced to prison for the crime of "endangering state security," but the great majority of FLG members convicted by the courts since 1999 have been sentenced to prison for "organizing or using a sect to undermine the implementation of the law," a less serious offense.
However, most practitioners were punished administratively. Many thousands of persons were in reeducation-through-labor camps. Other practitioners were sent to detention facilities specifically established to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refused to recant their belief voluntarily. In addition, hundreds of FLG practitioners have been confined to mental hospitals (see Section 1.d).
Police often used excessive force when detaining peaceful FLG protesters, including some who were elderly or who were accompanied by small children. During the year, there were numerous credible reports of abuse and even killings of FLG practitioners by the police and other security personnel, including police involvement in beatings, detention under extremely harsh conditions, and torture (including by electric shock and by having hands and feet shackled and linked with crossed steel chains). Various sources reported that since 1997 several hundred FLG adherents have died while in police custody (see Section 1.a.). In February Chengdu University Associate Professor Zhang Chuansheng, a longtime FLG practitioner, was arrested in his hometown and taken to Chengdus main prison. He died there 3 days later. Prison authorities claimed the 54-year-old had died of a heart attack, but his family, who saw his body after Zhangs death, claimed he had been severely beaten.
FLG practitioners continued their efforts to overcome government attempts to restrict their right to free assembly, especially in Beijing, but the number of protests at Tiananmen Square decreased considerably during 2001 and remained low during the year (see Section 2.b.).
In 2001 the Government launched a massive anti-FLG propaganda campaign, initiated a comprehensive effort to round up practitioners not already in custody, and sanctioned the use of high pressure indoctrination tactics in an effort to force practitioners to renounce the FLG. Neighborhood committees, state institutions (including universities), and companies reportedly were ordered to send all known FLG practitioners to intensive anti-FLG study sessions. Even practitioners who had not protested or made other public demonstrations of belief reportedly were forced to attend such classes. Those who refused to recant their beliefs after weeks of intensive anti-FLG instruction reportedly were sent to reeducation-through-labor camps, where in some cases, beatings and torture were used to force them to recant; some of the most active FLG practitioners were sent directly to reeducation-through-labor camps. These tactics reportedly resulted in large numbers of practitioners signing pledges to renounce the movement.
Authorities also detained foreign practitioners. For example, in November 2001, more than 30 foreigners and citizens resident abroad were detained in Beijing as they demonstrated in support of the FLG. They were expelled from the country; some credibly reported being mistreated while in custody.
During the year, the authorities also continued a general crackdown on other groups considered to be "cults," often using the 1999 decision to ban cults under Article 300 of the Criminal Law. Regulations require all qigong meditation and exercise groups to register with the Government. Those that did not were declared illegal. The Zhong Gong qigong group, which reportedly had a following rivaling that of FLG, was banned in 2000 under the anticult application of the Criminal Law, and its leader, Zhang Hongbao, who resides abroad, was charged with rape, forgery, and other crimes. This created an atmosphere of uncertainty for many qigong practitioners, and there were reports that some qigong practitioners feared practicing or teaching openly. During the year, authorities and experts wrote articles characterizing the rise of religious groups that failed to register and "cults" such as Falun Gong as part of a plot by the West to undermine Chinese authority. In February 2001, Zhang Xinying, vice chairman of the Chinese Society of Religious Studies, said that the rise of "cults" was due to frequent abuse of the concept of "religious freedom" by "some people with ulterior motives." Other senior leaders made similar comments in the context of criticizing FLG.
However, the Government retained the ability to restrict freedom of movement through other mechanisms. Authorities heightened restrictions during the year, especially before politically sensitive anniversaries and to forestall Falun Gong demonstrations.
Despite the ban on the Falun Gong in mainland China, the Falun Gong remained legally registered, and practitioners continued their activities in Hong Kong. In September the Government issued a consultation paper to elicit public discussion of legislation to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, which triggered intense public debate about the impact of such legislation on civil liberties and fundamental freedoms. Article 23 calls for the Government to draft and implement laws that criminalize subversion, secession, treason, sedition, and theft of state secrets, and to criminalize links with foreign political organizations that are harmful to national security.
The Falun Gong was able to print flyers and small items in Hong Kong, despite reported concerns of some printers about associating with the group, but most of its publishing took place outside the SAR. One bookstore, owned by a practitioner, carried Falun Gong books.
In August the Government issued warnings against distributing a catalog for an art exhibition at a public venue that showcased the work of an Australian Falun Gong practitioner. The Government requested that the exhibit organizer not distribute the catalog, which noted that the artist had been imprisoned in China for several months in 2000 for being a Falun Gong practitioner. In the end, the organizer ignored the requests and the Government neither stopped the exhibition nor restricted distribution of the catalog. However, the artist was denied entry into Hong Kong to attend the exhibit. The Government stated that the decision to deny entry was based on immigration irregularities, not on her Falun Gong affiliation.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Falun Gong practitioners regularly conducted public protests against the crackdown on fellow practitioners in the PRC, holding some protests in front of the Hong Kong offices of the Central Government. In August a group of 16 Falun Gong practitioners, including 4 from Switzerland and 1 U.S. legal permanent resident, were convicted and fined for obstruction after refusing repeated police instructions to remain in a designated demonstration zone. This was the first time that Falun Gong practitioners were convicted of an offense in Hong Kong. The groups appeal was pending at years end.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Basic Law provides for freedom of religion, the Bill of Rights Ordinance prohibits religious discrimination, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice.
The Government does not recognize a state religion but does grant public holidays to mark numerous special days on the traditional Chinese and Christian calendars, as well as the Buddhas birthday.
Religious groups were not required to register with the Government and were exempted specifically from the Societies Ordinance, which requires the registration of nongovernmental organizations. Some groups, such as the Falun Gong and various other martial arts/meditation groups, known collectively as qigonq groups, that did not consider themselves religions, have registered under the Societies Ordinance.
During the year, Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has explicitly characterized itself as "not a religion," practiced freely and held regular public demonstrations against PRC policies. In 2001 a series of developments sparked concerns about pressures on the Government to constrain the groups criticism of the PRCs anti-Falun Gong policies. In particular, statements by Chief Executive C.H. Tung in May and June 2001 that the group was "no doubt an evil cult" and that the Government would not let the Falun Gong "abuse Hong Kongs freedoms and tolerance to affect public peace and order" prompted concern. In May 2001, the Government barred the entry into Hong Kong of approximately 100 overseas-based Falun Gong practitioners during President Jiang Zemins visit, although several hundred local and foreign Falun Gong practitioners demonstrated freely on numerous occasions and at numerous venues during the visit. In June 2002, over 90 foreign practitioners were denied entry upon arrival at the Hong Kong international airport (see Section 2.d.). Falun Gong representatives claimed that Hong Kong practitioners remained generally undeterred by these developments, but stated that the number of practitioners in Hong Kong had dropped from approximately 1,000 to approximately 500 since the PRC government began its mainland crackdown in mid-1999.
. Also in June, over 90 foreign Falun Gong adherents who intended to stage protests during the fifth anniversary of the handover celebration were denied entry upon arrival at the Hong Kong international airport.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
3). Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the Macau SAR to enact laws to prohibit foreign political organizations from establishing ties with domestic political organizations or bodies. The Government had not enacted any legislation to implement Article 23 (see Section 2.a.).
Falun Gong practitioners were allowed to continue their exercises and demonstrations in public parks. In recent years, police photographed practitioners. In the past, police occasionally took practitioners to the police station and made them wait a few hours while police checked their identification documents. Pro-democracy and Falun Gong activists living outside of the SAR stated that they were able to travel to the SAR without interference.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Religious Freedom Ordinance requires the registration of religious organizations. Registration is handled by the Identification Services Office. There have been no reports of discrimination in the registration process.
Practitioners of Falun Gong (a spiritual movement that does not consider itself a religion) have not applied for registration because a local lawyer advised them that their application for registration would not be approved since the Falun Gong was banned in mainland China in October 1999. However, the Identification Services Office has not issued any instructions regarding the Falun Gong, and senior SAR Government officials have reaffirmed that practitioners of Falun Gong may continue their legal activities without government interference. In recent years, police occasionally photographed practitioners and checked their identification documents (see Section 2.b.).
d. Freedom of Movement, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for these rights, and the Government generally respected them in practice. In 2001 a female Falun Gong practitioner from Hong Kong was barred from entering Macau despite statements by the Chief Executive that there was no political blacklist of persons from Hong Kong. In past years, the police admitted that they kept a list of unwelcome persons who have criminal records and persons whom they believe have criminal intentions. In December 2000, the Government detained and turned back prodemocracy activists and Falun Gong practitioners who tried to enter the SAR during the period observing the anniversary of the handover. A Security Bureau spokesman stated that they were not admitted because it was suspected that they intended to carry out unlawful demonstrations and that the law, which gives residents the right to assemble and demonstrate, does not give nonresidents that right (see Section 2.b.). Foreign Falun Gong and democracy activists have traveled to Macau at other times without incident.