Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - Page 3 News List

New Human Rights Watch report grim reading for Beijing

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

China’s new leadership has failed to embrace genuine reform and continues to enforce a social system in which torture is common, according to a grim new report from Human Rights Watch.

“The Chinese Communist Party reinforced its monopoly on power in 2013 through tough new measures and hardline rhetoric, dashing hopes that the country’s new leadership would engage in deep systemic reforms to improve human rights and strengthen the rule of law,” this year’s World Report says.

In the 667-page report — its 24th edition — Human Rights Watch reviews more than 90 countries, but does not include Taiwan.

“We are lacking the research capacity to cover Taiwan,” an organization official told the Taipei Times in an e-mail. “The fact that Taiwan is not included does not mean that there are no human rights issues deserving attention in Taiwan, just that at the present time we don’t have the institutional capacity to follow it closely enough.”

China comes in for heavy condemnation even though it announced the abolition of the “abusive administration detention system,” known as re-education through labor, relaxed the one-child policy and vowed to improve the delivery of justice.

“The new leadership of [Chinese President] Xi Jinping (習近平) and [Chinese Premier] Li Keqiang (李克強) has yet to embark on fundamental reforms that adequately respond to the public’s increased demands for justice and accountability,” the report says.

“The leadership has also embarked on a harsh crackdown on critics, while using hardline rhetoric to make clear they have no intention of liberalizing the political system,” Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said.

According to the report, Beijing censors the press, the Internet, print publications and academic research, and justifies human rights abuses as necessary to preserve social stability.

“It carries out involuntary population relocation and rehousing on a massive scale and enforces highly repressive policies in ethnic minority areas in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia,” the report says.

At the same time, citizens are increasingly prepared to challenge authorities with official and academic statistics suggesting there are 300 to 500 protests each day in China.

“China’s human rights activists often face imprisonment, detention, torture, commitment to psychiatric facilities, house arrest and intimidation,” the report says. “Use of torture to extract confessions is prevalent and miscarriages of justice are frequent due to weak courts and tight limits on the rights of defense.”

China also continues to lead the world in executions.

The exact number remains a state secret, but experts estimate it has decreased progressively from about 10,000 per year a decade ago to about 4,000 in recent years.

Freedom of expression deteriorated last year, especially after the government launched a concerted effort to rein in micro-blogging, the report says.

“The government and the [Chinese Communist] Party maintain multiple layers of control over all media and publications,” the report says.

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