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Human Rights Abuses and Authoritarian Rule Dominate in China

The latest U.S. State Department human rights report on China says there has been a trend in that country towards increased harassment, detention and imprisonment of those perceived as threats to government authority. As VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, victims of official harassment in China include people who want to simply pray and or to be informed.

Buddhism is an ancient religion in Tibet. And today's Internet technology is throughout China.

Both are objects of repression in China because both are perceived as a threat to the government's monopoly on power, says T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Amnesty International in Washington, DC. "At the root of human rights abuses in China is basically -- you have absolute control over the society by the government. I will say that translates into a lot of abuses in China."

This week the head of that government, President Hu Jintao, is making his first official visit to the United States. His host -- American President George W. Bush.

"On our agenda, of course, is fairness in trade, as well as human rights and freedom of religion," said the U.S. president.

Mr. Bush underscored his commitment to religious freedom in China when he attended a Christian church service in Beijing during his last visit to the city in November. Among those pressing for freedom of religion are Buddhists in Tibet, Muslim Uighers in northwest China and practitioners of Falun Gong.

Senior U.S. officials say the president will now stress the need for Chinese structural reforms that can affect the lives of millions rather than just focus on individual cases.

A major human rights issue in China: farmers who are protesting appropriation of rural land by property developers linked to the Communist Party without due process or adequate compensation. Amnesty International's T. Kumar says, "There are huge rallies and demonstrations, which is very new in China. At least 80,000 incidents have been reported recently of mass uprisings."

Kumar says authorities have used brutal force to disperse such demonstrations.

On another issue that affects millions, free access to information, Chinese authorities appear to have enlisted the help of American search engine companies Google and Yahoo to censor the Internet in China.

Reporters Without Borders recently went to Yahoo headquarters in California to show what the company's cooperation with the Chinese government means. Julien Pain represents the organization. "We want them to realize what they've done. We want them to see that they helped the Chinese police to jail people, human beings."

The organization showed a video smuggled out of China.

In the video, the brother of Li Zhi says the dissident's health in prison has deteriorated. He says Yahoo helped Chinese authorities identify Li Zhi, who had anonymously exposed government corruption on the Internet. Yahoo allegedly helped the Chinese government trace the e-mails of journalist Shi Tao for writing about Chinese press censorship. His lawyer says there are more such cases.

Human rights organizations have also documented the absence of free assembly in China, torture, arbitrary arrest, psychiatric abuse, and coercive birth control. There are also numerous reports of organ harvesting, or the sale of organs removed from executed prisoners or terminally ill patients without their consent.