News / Asia

China Increases Using Prison Sentences to Silence Dissent

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid