News / Asia

China Increases Using Prison Sentences to Silence Dissent

U.S. human rights activists and legal experts say China is increasingly using prison sentences and detentions to crackdown on all types of non-violent expression. They urge the U.S. government to pay more attention to the trend and to engage Beijing on human rights issues.

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota used the mysterious disappearance of Chinese activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng to highlight the growing problem at a congressional hearing Tuesday on political prisoners in China.

"Last year he [Gao] was abducted from his home by security agents after his wife and two children had left China to seek asylum in this country [the United States], "said Senator Dorgan. "He was known at that point just to have disappeared. And now we know that for more than a year security agents shuffled him from one location to another and subjected him to both physical and psychological abuse."

Dorgan, who is the chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, said that following urgings from U.S. lawmakers, his commission and international attention, Gao was briefly released for about two weeks in March before being taken away again by Chinese security forces.

"His forced disappearance by the state reveals a complete disregard by the state for individual rights and the rule of law," he said.

Chinese authorities have provided little information regarding Gao's situation, but insist his case is being handled in accordance with Chinese law.

Gao made a name for himself defending medical malpractice victims and dispossessed landowners. Activists, legal experts and human rights advocates say he is just one of a increasing number of people in China who are being targeted, including people who want to express their opinions online, those who work with non-government organizations or lawyers who wish to represent their clients.

In testimony to the same Commission, Joshua Rosenzweig, senior manager at the Dui Hua Foundation, said a growing crackdown in China has targeted ethnic minorities, government critics and rights activists in particular.

"Since roughly the beginning of 2008, there have been clear signs that earlier progress towards rule of law in China has stalled or even suffered a reversal and there is mounting evidence that a crackdown is well under way," said Joshua Rosenzweig.

For more than a decade, Rosenzweig's Dui Hua Foundation has documented the imprisonment of individuals in China who have been jailed for voicing their political or religious views. He said evidence of the crackdown can be seen in the increase in cases of individuals charged with endangering state security.

"A category of crime that includes vaguely defined and arbitrarily applied offenses such as splitism, inciting subversion of state political power and trafficking in state secrets for overseas entities," he said.

Rosenzweig said that arrests for endangering state secrets more than doubled in 2008, and more arrests and indictments for endangering state security were carried out in 2008 and 2009 than in the five years before that.

Wan Yanhai, a prominent AIDS activist who fled China with his family earlier this year, said help from overseas is crucial.

"Chinese civil society democratic forces are developing rapidly and I think [that now] is a key moment for western societies to give a hand to support human rights defenders, civil society organizations and general democratic parties in China," said Wan Yanhai.

Wan said he left China when it became apparent that authorities were moving in to arrest him.

Sophie Richardson, a China expert with Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC, said political imprisonment has reached new lows of arbitrariness and that recent cases highlight how anyone can face prosecution.                        

"All behavior may be subject to some kind of reprisal from the government," said Sophie Richardson. "Your business success today, might be a liability tomorrow. Your call to end unrest last year, may land you in hot water today. Your approval from the government at any point is no guarantee of a life free of persecution."

Richardson said the development of civil society, rule of law, a predictable and fair trade regime are at risk as long as those who share those views in China are considered potential threats by their government. She calls on the U.S. government to take a closer look at the situation.

"The United States should remain profoundly concerned about the Chinese government's persecution of its citizens," she said. "Until peaceful dissent is tolerated, the county cannot be expected to be predictably transparent or stable."

Richardson said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should make a strong explicit statement about Washington's concern about the human rights environment in China. She also urged President Barack Obama to meet with former Chinese political prisoners in the White House to show Washington's support of civil society rights in China.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs