News / Asia

China Increases Using Prison Sentences to Silence Dissent

William Ide

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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid