A US government commission on Wednesday said China has witnessed a “deepening disconnect” on human rights, with the leadership failing to meet what it said were rising demands by citizens.
In an annual report, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said that the past year had seen “unprecedented” protests by citizens against “the lack of basic freedoms and official abuse.”
“The commission observed a deepening disconnect between the growing demands of the Chinese people and the Chinese government’s ability and desire to meet such demands,” it said.
“In a year marked by a major internal political scandal and leadership transition, Chinese officials appeared more concerned with ‘maintaining stability’ and preserving the status quo than with addressing the grassroots calls for reform taking place all over China,” it said.
The report listed “egregious” human rights abuses in China during a year marked by the escape of activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) from house arrest and the continued detention of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) and rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟).
Detained activists “are a testament to how far China must go to be a country where rule of law and international human rights are respected,” Representative Chris Smith, the co-chairman of the bipartisan commission, said in a statement.
The commission said that the treatment of ethnic minorities was “especially troubling,” pointing to a wave of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting their conditions and restrictions on Uighur Muslims.
The report also spoke of “repression” against the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement and of China’s continued repatriation of North Korean refugees despite fears of “severe punishments” when they return home.
However, the commission saw “potential bright spots” including a decrease in officially reported deaths from mining accidents and a revised criminal procedure law that expands access to defense lawyers.
The report also said that a proposed mental health law, while not going far enough, might curb abuse of psychiatric patients.
The report called on US officials and lawmakers to press China to free prisoners, strengthen the rule of law and guarantee the rights of minorities.
The commission, set up by Congress in 2000, is comprised of members of the Senate, House of Representatives and US President Barack Obama’s administration, although the reports are not considered administration policy.