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War on Terror Has Led to Rights Crackdowns in Asia, says Report - 2003-01-14

A new report says human rights abuses continue in much of Asia. The international group Human Rights Watch also criticized several countries for taking advantage of the war on terrorism to crack down on dissidents.

Human Rights Watch said the war on terror has led to harsh crackdowns and the imprisonment of religious dissidents in parts of Asia last year.

The group's annual report criticizes China for arresting thousands of ethnic Uighur Muslims. Human Rights Watch said China is taking advantage of international efforts to stem terrorists as an excuse to hide abuses against Muslims who have been politically and socially marginalized.

The report, which was issued Tuesday, also said Chinese officials "appeared conflicted" in dealing with the nation's AIDS epidemic. They say authorities suppress information, but are also willing to work with the United Nations.

The report praises China for reforms to its legal system. However, it says that Chinese leaders continue to control the media and freedom of expression.

Zhang Qiyue, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, calls the report groundless. She says China's people do not face any rights abuses by the government.

Human Rights Watch also criticizes Burma's human rights record in 2002.

The group says that although Burma's government freed democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and released three hundred political prisoners, there have been no improvements in the rights situation.

Sanjeewa Liyanage, with the Asian Human Rights Commission, agrees with that assessment. "There are many other arrests been taking place while people have been released. So actually, the fundamental lawlessness of the military junta remains," Ms. Liyangage said.

In Cambodia, the rights group said, the government made no progress on the human rights situation. The report notes political killings, the deportation of asylum seekers, and voter coercion as some of the abuses seen in 2002. The report also noted that the country's first local elections in more than 30 years were marred by the murders of candidates.