[House Hearing, 111 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CHINA:
TRENDS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY
CONGRESSIONAL-EXECUTIVE COMMISSION ON CHINA
ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS
AUGUST 3, 2010
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CONGRESSIONAL-EXECUTIVE COMMISSION ON CHINA
LEGISLATIVE BRANCH COMMISSIONERS
BYRON DORGAN, North Dakota, SANDER LEVIN, Michigan, Cochairman
Chairman MARCY KAPTUR, Ohio
MAX BAUCUS, Montana MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
CARL LEVIN, Michigan TIMOTHY J. WALZ, Minnesota
DIANNE FEINSTEIN, California DAVID WU, Oregon
SHERROD BROWN, Ohio CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
BOB CORKER, Tennessee DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
GEORGE LeMIEUX, Florida
EXECUTIVE BRANCH COMMISSIONERS
Department of State, To Be Appointed
Department of Labor, To Be Appointed
Department of Commerce, To Be Appointed
At-Large, To Be Appointed
At-Large, To Be Appointed
Charlotte Oldham-Moore, Staff Director
Douglas Grob, Cochairman's Senior Staff Member
C O N T E N T S
Opening statement of Hon. Byron L. Dorgan, a U.S. Senator from
North Dakota, Chairman, Congressional-Executive Commission on
Cohen, Jerome A., Professor, New York University School of Law;
Co-director, U.S.-Asia Law Institute; and Adjunct Senior Fellow
for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations................. 5
Rosenzweig, Joshua, Senior Manager for Research and Hong Kong
Operations, The Dui Hui Foundation............................. 8
Wan, Yanhai, Director of Beijing Aizhixing Institute, Expert on
HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, and Civil Society in China............. 10
Richardson, Sophie, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch... 12
Cohen, Jerome A.................................................. 28
Rosenzweig, Joshua............................................... 32
Wan, Yanhai...................................................... 37
Richardson, Sophie............................................... 39
Levin, Hon. Sander...............................................
Submission for the Record
Compilation of Representative Cases from the CECC Upgraded
Political Prisoner Database, submitted by Chairman Dorgan...... 41
POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CHINA: TRENDS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY
TUESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2010
Commission on China,
The hearing was convened, pursuant to notice, at 10:19
a.m., in room 628, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Senator
Byron Dorgan, Chairman, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BYRON DORGAN, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
NORTH DAKOTA, CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL-EXECUTIVE COMMISSION ON
Chairman Dorgan. We're going to call the hearing to order.
I'm Senator Byron Dorgan and I am Chairman of the
Congressional-Executive Commission on China. This hearing is
being held at a time when the House of Representatives is not
in session, so I unfortunately will not be joined by Members of
the U.S. House of Representatives.
But I will be joined by Members of the Senate this morning.
They are now attending a proceeding in the Foreign Affairs
Committee, I believe, but will attempt to get here as soon as
possible. I wanted to begin the hearing reasonably close to the
time that was advertised. I thank the witnesses for being with
us today to discuss a very important issue for our country.
The recent trials of scholars, activists, lawyers, and
others in China have shone a spotlight on the Chinese
Government's use of detention and imprisonment to squelch
dissent or to advance government objectives.
This Commission is the repository of the most complete
publicly available database of Chinese political prisoners who
are being held in some of the darkest cells in the world due to
government human rights violations.
I want to just show a printout from the database that was
created and is maintained by our Commission. This three-inch
thick binder contains names of people who are being held in
Chinese prisons, some without hope, some for a lifetime, some
for 10, 20, and 30 years. These prisoners have been convicted
by the state, by the Government of China, for various offenses
against the state. We are going to talk about that today.
One of the things that I want to learn from the experts who
will testify today is, what is the trend? Is the trend toward
imprisoning people for exercising the right of free speech or
is the trend toward allowing more space for people to exercise
their freedom of speech? China is changing, we know that. China
is a significant country on the world stage. The relationship
between our country and China is significant.
The question is, what do we make of what is now happening
in China with respect to the imprisonment of people who dare
tell the truth, who dare on the Internet to type what to most
of us would seem to be a very innocent email and discover it
puts them 10 or 20 years in a Chinese prison? What do we make
of all that? Can we, and should we not, expect China to be
behaving in a different way, to be committed to rule of law,
and for which they should be proud of, as opposed to a rule of
law that all too often is bent to exercise the will of their
government and to repress the free expression of their
The title of today's hearing is, ``Political Prisoners in
China: Trends and Implications.'' Recent trials of bloggers and
professors, writers, lawyers, and others have heightened
concern that the Chinese are now increasingly using detention
and jail to stifle dissent and to advance government objectives
at the expense of human rights.
For example, just a few days ago, Gheyret Niyaz, a Uyghur
journalist and editor of a popular Web site was sentenced to 15
years in prison in China for apparently giving an interview to
the foreign media after the July 2009 demonstrations and riots
and for essays critical of some Chinese Government policies in
We have a distinguished panel of witnesses who will help us
examine whether or not imprisonment for human rights violations
is on the rise in China and whether the profile of a political
prisoner is different today than, say, for example, 10 years
We will examine whether and how the threat of political
imprisonment affects the work of people and organizations who
have been engaged in human rights advocacy or who are involved
in, for that matter, commercial activity in China, including
U.S. citizens involved in commercial activity.
The witnesses that we have invited will also explore the
opportunities that Chinese citizens have lost as a result of
the chilling effects of political imprisonment on public life
and what the U.S. Government should do in response.
I want to mention two alarming trends. First, with respect
to the Internet, it appears to have spawned an entire new class
of political prisoners in China. Chinese citizens are
increasingly going to jail for posting essays online that are
critical of the government or for trying to organize political
Many citizens who criticize their government in blogs and
comment boards go unpunished, and at most their comment is
deleted. But individuals with a track record of human rights
advocacy or some kind of political activism or some sort of
grassroots support organizing or opposition to the Communist
Party, they seem to be systemically targeted.
The most common charges against these citizens is the crime
of subversion, which carries a sentence of up to life
imprisonment, and also inciting subversion, which carries a
sentence of up to 15 years. And individuals that are imprisoned
on these charges have done nothing more than criticize the
Communist Party, without advocating any form of violence.
Now, the second major concern is the government's harsh
crackdown on lawyers and human rights defenders inside the
country of China. Over the last two years, a number of lawyers
who have represented human rights advocates, including house
church members, HIV/AIDS activists, Falun Gong practitioners,
Tibetans, and Uyghurs, have been harassed and abused by the
government because of their clients and because of the causes
Perhaps the most outrageous, I think, and cruel example of
abuse by the government is the disappearance of Gao Zhisheng,
one of China's greatest human rights lawyers. He endured jail
and torture because of his fearless advocacy and his commitment
to speak the truth as he knew it. Last year, he was abducted
from his home by security agents after his wife and two
children had left China to seek asylum in this country. He
Now we know for more than a year security agents shuffled
him from one location to another and subjected him to both
physical and psychological abuse. After Members of Congress,
including this Commission and myself, and the international
community pressed his case, Gao mysteriously reappeared for two
weeks, just two weeks, this past spring. He gave a few
interviews, and then security agents abducted him again. His
forced disappearance by the State reveals a complete disregard
for individual rights and the rule of law.
Let me say, with respect to the case of Mr. Gao, I have
written on several occasions to the Chinese Embassy here in the
United States, and have not received satisfactory responses,
which is typical, I regret to say.
Gao's photograph and a detailed record of his case can be
found in the Commission's newly enhanced Political Prisoner
At this time, the Commission's Political Prisoner Database
contains about 5,500 records of political prisoners. Our
Commission believes that to promote the rule of law in China it
is vital to publicize and seek the release of these people. It
was international pressure that played a critical role in
securing the freedom of Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Kim Dae-
Jung, and many others who helped lead their countries to
greater social justice.
So, too, is our responsibility, to press for the release of
political prisoners in China. Today's imprisoned dissidents are
the leading figures of tomorrow's societies, in my judgment,
and that is especially the case with respect to China. The new
society in these countries will be led by people who understand
and exercise a greater respect for human rights.
Perhaps most of us in this large room have visited China,
and we look at this very large, interesting country with an
extraordinary history with wide-eyed interest. We understand it
will play a significant role in the destiny of our country and
the world for decades to come, centuries to come. The question
is, what can we say to the Government of China to change and
end their suppression of human rights and imprisonment of those
who dare speak the truth--what can we do to change that?
How can we continue to apply pressure on China, to say if
you want to be a respected member of the modern world, if you
want to be a respected member of the economic world, then you
must change course with respect to the suppression of the human
rights of your citizens. The State just cannot go to the
Internet and find someone who has said something critical about
the government and throw them in a dark prison cell away from
society for 10 years, 20 years, or life. The rest of the world
condemns that behavior and it must stop.
We are joined today by four witnesses. I do want to read a
fair amount of their background. The background recitation will
take longer than their testimony, perhaps, but I want everyone
to understand what these witnesses are about and what
experience they have.
Starting on my left is Mr. Jerome Cohen, Professor at New
York University School of Law. He is the Co-director of the
U.S.-Asia Law Institute and served for several years as C.V.
Starr Senior Fellow and Director of Asia Studies at the Council
for Foreign Relations.
At Harvard Law School, he introduced the teaching of Asian
law into the curriculum from 1964 to 1979. He has written
extensively. He's published several books on Chinese law,
including ``The Criminal Process in the People's Republic of
China, 1949-1963,'' ``People's China and International Law,''
and ``Contract Laws of the People's Republic of China.'' He has
a B.A. Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, and graduated from Yale Law
School, where he was editor-in-chief at the Yale Law Journal.
Mr. Cohen, that's quite a background. We welcome you here.
Mr. Joshua Rosenzweig is the Senior Manager for Research
and Hong Kong Operations of the Dui Hua Foundation where he has
extensive research experience working in Chinese archives and
libraries. Since joining that foundation in 2002, he has
developed its comprehensive database on information about
Chinese political and religious prisoners, and written more
than a dozen volumes in the foundation's series of occasional
He received a B.A. from Swarthmore College. We express a
special thanks to Josh, the foundation, and its executive
director, John Kamm, for their extensive efforts on behalf of
political and religious prisoners in China. Their assistance to
the Commission has been invaluable, particularly in helping to
launch the Political Prisoner Database.
Dr. Wan Yanhai is Director of the Beijing Aizhixing
Institute and an expert on HIV/AIDS, human rights, and civil
society in China. He received a medical degree from Shanghai
Medical University School of Public Health. Upon graduation, he
worked in China's National Health Education Institute, then
served on the staff of Beijing Modern Management College from
1994 to 2002. He founded the Aizhixing Institute, which works
toward prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission through community
He has collaborated with the Chinese Society for the Study
of Sexual Minorities, the National Working Committee of People
Infected by HIV Through Blood Transfusion, the Working Group of
Citizens Health Rights for Education, the China Patient Rights
Project, and the Beijing LGBT Culture and Rights Center in
Dr. Wan, thank you very much for being here.
Finally, Sophie Richardson. She's the Asia Advocacy
Director of Human Rights Watch. Dr. Richardson oversees Human
Rights Watch's work on China and speaks Mandarin Chinese. She's
the author of numerous articles on domestic Chinese political
reform, democratization and human rights in Cambodia, China,
Hong Kong, and the Philippines, and of a new book on Chinese
foreign policy, I understand.
She has testified before the European Parliament and the
U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, provided
commentary to BBC, CNN, the Far Eastern Economic Review of
Foreign Policy, and NPR. She received her B.A. from Oberlin
College and her doctorate from the University of Virginia.
Dr. Richardson, thank you for being with us today.
The entire statements of all four of the witnesses will be
made a part of the permanent record in their entirety, and we
would ask the witnesses to summarize their statements now.
Mr. Cohen, let me begin with you. Again, let me welcome you
to the Commission.
[A compilation of Representative Cases from the Political
Prisoner Database appears in the appendix.]
STATEMENT OF JEROME A. COHEN, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
SCHOOL OF LAW; CO-DIRECTOR, U.S.-ASIA LAW INSTITUTE; AND
ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW FOR ASIA STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN
Mr. Cohen. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be here and
also for the Commission's continuing contribution to American
understanding of China, especially in the area of human rights.
I appreciated your statement, which I think accords well
with all of those who know China. You were already, in effect,
the first witness and we will try to supplement what you have
This topic, as we all know, is as broad as it is important.
I want to emphasize the breadth of it, the breadth of the term,
``what's political'' and the breadth of the term, ``who are
prisoners,'' and the disqualifications and sanctions that apply
to people, not only those who suffer criminal prosecution,
conviction, and are sentenced to jail, but those who don't but
who are also prisoners in many significant ways.
Now, the Chinese Government always denies that it has any
political prosecutions. People are always prosecuted for
violating specific provisions of the criminal law. But the
criminal law, as we all know, is very vague and it permits a
whole range of people, starting with classical political
dissidents, democratic organizers, freedom seekers, and
covering a whole spectrum of people who didn't realize they
were political criminals but became so because they were merely
protesting a range of local grievances, such as some of those
you have mentioned: land disputes, property disputes,
environmental, labor problems, birth control problems. These
are all often local disputes that make people become political
prisoners because there is no satisfactory outlet for their
peaceful protest. Many of them, of course, get locked up.
The trend with respect to prosecuting people--for example,
engaging in conduct that endangers state security, a very vague
term--is troublesome. It seems to be increasing; although we
have some statistics--transparency is highly limited in this
respect, as well as others. But as you mentioned, lawyers who
defend these people often become political criminals. It isn't
only the famous people that some of us have helped to publicize
who become political offenders.
Political can cover people like Xue Feng, the American
petroleum geologist who was recently sentenced to eight years
in prison. He thought he was acting in a commercial sense. His
case has become highly political in terms that it involves
alleged state secrets, it involves diplomatic sensitivities, it
involves international business, the concern of the business
Then you have other examples. For example, the recent trial
of alleged mafia organized crime people in Chongqing involves
domestic Chinese politics for perhaps the rivalry for who will
succeed the current leaders in 2012. There are many reasons why
the Chinese call their legal system a political legal system.
It's not a legal system, but it's a political legal system.
And if you are unfortunate enough to be prosecuted for a
political offense, you suffer not only the inadequate
protections of ordinary criminals, those alleged to be
criminals in China, but you have additional handicaps. In my
statement, I recite a litany of defects in the current Chinese
criminal justice system that denies people fair trials.
And if you're a political offender, your situation is worse
off because your trial will often be closed to the public, even
to your family, and recently, even if you're an American
citizen, to American consular representatives. Even when
they're open in principle, they're often not open in reality.
Lawyers who wage a vigorous defense in cases of this nature
themselves risk prosecution, disbarment, or other sanctions.
In sensitive political cases, those who hear the case don't
make the decision. The decision is made often by court leaders
who may know very little about the case. The whole process of
political prosecution is generally under the supervision of the
Communist Party political-legal group.
Now, we shouldn't only worry about criminal justice in
China for punishing political offenders. We have to worry about
a range of sanctions that aren't called criminal. Reeducation
through labor enables the police, on their own, to put away any
political criminal or anybody who asks too many questions for
as long as three years, and that can be extended to four. There
are some similar sanctions.
But then there are shorter sanctions that intimidate
people. Petitioners who prove too irksome and find no outlet
for their petitions often get locked up in ``black jails.''
These are unauthorized penal institutions and they do not have
very good regulation, and there are many abuses that occur
There is a great deal of low-visibility harassment of
people who are not formally locked up. They may not be put in a
mental asylum. They, however, may find their daily lives are
severely constricted. Some lawyers lose their right to practice
law, even though they may not be locked up.
Political offenders who have already served their criminal
sentence are themselves under continuing restraint, very often.
Some have also been sentenced to deprivation of political
rights for a year, or up to five years. That means they can't
do very much. After that period of deprivation is over, these
people are often subjected to continuing surveillance, house
arrest, restriction of any meaningful life with no legal
authority whatever. The former Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong,
whom I managed to visit in May, can't really leave the house.
He's been restricted for years.
I worry about the forthcoming release of the famous ``blind
man,'' the barefoot lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who, on September
9, will conclude four years and three months in prison on
Chen Guangcheng had been protesting birth control law
violations by the local authorities and they put him away. He
used to say to me, ``What do they want? I want to use legal
methods to solve these problems and there's no outlet, and look
what they do.'' The question is, what will happen to him on his
release September 9?
Chairman Dorgan. Did you visit him in prison?
Mr. Cohen. No. He's not allowed. It was very difficult,
even for his wife to visit him. I visited him just before he
was detained in his local village. Afterward, he was under
constraint. Before they even invoked the criminal process he'd
had over 100 people surrounding his house 24/7. His wife lives
under that kind of restraint today.
What we discovered is that his five-year-old daughter
cannot enroll in the village school now until his political
problem is settled. This is a very disturbing aspect.
Traditional China used to have collective punishment. An
offender's family would also suffer severely, sometimes through
two generations, or three. China has abandoned that barbarity
in principle, but in practice we see the families of many of
these political offenders suffer.
In New York now you have the daughter of an ex-lawyer from
Shanghai, Zheng Enchong. She was told she has no future if she
wants to go on to university. But to deny a five-year-old child
the opportunity to start education because her father has been
a political offender and to use her as a tool in an evident
blackmail negotiation that will begin September 9 to try to
curb his activity is a disturbing trend.
So we have the whole range of, who are ``political people''
and who are ``prisoners.'' ``Prisoners'' can embrace many
people. One concept would say, if you can't go back to your
country because you've been excluded for over a decade, in a
way you're a prisoner in the United States because you're
excluded from your own society. So the breadth of this topic is
Now, foreigners get involved in the system, too. That's the
significance of the Xue Feng case. I can't go into detail in my
opening, but it's in my statement. But one thing we've seen,
foreigners usually, like Xue Feng, have the benefit of a
consular convention between the United States and China, and
that convention needs some repair. I criticize the U.S.
Government in certain respects for its own conduct on consular
Finally, you asked, quite rightly, what can we do? One of
the few things we can do, is do a better job on the official
U.S.-China dialogues and the official U.S.-China expert
dialogues on human rights. These have been pretty unimpressive,
even when they occur. They're frequently interrupted. Also,
people talk past each other and not much has happened. We have
a new administration that is trying hard to make these more
meaningful dialogues, but it's very difficult to accomplish
In my statement, I make some suggestions for how to improve
these official dialogues. For example, they should discuss
concrete cases. Chinese officials love to talk abstract
principles. They don't like to talk reality of concrete cases,
such as the one you mentioned of lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
Also, we need the participation of higher level leaders. We
ought to try--it seems like a way-out idea, but I don't think
so. It's worth trying--to get those who really make the human
rights decisions in China to take part in some of these
dialogues. Have the head of the Party National Political Legal
Committee, Mr. Zhou Yongkang, for example, who is a member of
the Standing Committee of the Politburo, have him come and
spend a day or two
exchanging ideas with a counterpart. We would have to produce
significant people. We should have the head of the Supreme
Court, the head of the procuracy, the head of the Ministry of
Justice. These are officials the Party has great confidence in
who make the decisions. We ought to have access to them.
I have a number of other suggestions, but I would only say
we should encourage the efforts of the State Department to try
to make these dialogues more meaningful, to open up the
experts' dialogue to people who are not officials but know a
lot about what's going on, and to encourage, apart from the
official dialogues, the NGO dialogues that are beginning to
take place, so-called Track 2 dialogues. Track 2 normally
On the Chinese side, they end up being pretty official, but
I don't mind that if we can get a range of people into this
process of discussion in a more informal way. So there are many
things that can be done, and I hope this hearing helps to
Chairman Dorgan. Mr. Cohen, thank you very much. I've read
your testimony and I appreciate very much your summary of that
testimony today, which I think is very insightful.
Joshua Rosenzweig, Senior Manager for Research and Hong
Kong Operations, The Dui Hua Foundation.
Mr. Rosenzweig, thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cohen appears in the
STATEMENT OF JOSHUA ROSENZWEIG, SENIOR MANAGER FOR RESEARCH AND
HONG KONG OPERATIONS, THE DUI HUA FOUNDATION
Mr. Rosenzweig. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am privileged to
be invited to participate in this hearing today, and I'd like
to thank you, your fellow Commissioners, and the CECC staff for
The Dui Hua Foundation has been engaged for over a decade
in efforts to uncover the names of individuals imprisoned in
China for the non-violent expression of their political and
religious beliefs. Our database of prisoner information
includes names of roughly 22,000 persons imprisoned for these
reasons since 1980, of which more than 5,800 form an active
registry from which we develop prisoner lists designed to raise
individual cases directly with the Chinese Government and
encourage better treatment and early release.
I'd like to start by discussing trends in political
imprisonment in China. Since roughly the beginning of 2008,
there have been clear signs that earlier progress toward rule
of law in China has stalled, or even suffered a reversal, and
there is mounting evidence that a crackdown is well under way,
one particularly targeting members of ethnic minorities,
government critics, and rights defenders.
Evidence of this can be seen in the recent sharp increase
in criminal proceedings for endangering state security, a
category of crime that includes vaguely defined and arbitrarily
applied offenses such as splittism, inciting subversion of
state political power, and trafficking in state secrets for
State security arrests more than doubled in 2008 compared
to the previous year, and more arrests and indictments for
endangering state security were carried out in China in 2008
and 2009 than in the entire five-year period preceding.
Recent statistics suggest that as many as 1,500 Chinese
were convicted on state security charges in 2009, more than
three and a half times the number five years earlier. In the
Appendix to my written statement, I show the data behind this
Moreover, China's Supreme People's Court recently announced
that these individuals are being punished more harshly, with a
20-percent increase in sentences of at least five years'
imprisonment in 2009. That includes people serving life
sentences and being sentenced to death as well.
One of those sentences was given to Liu Xiaobo, whose 11-
year sentence for publishing critical essays on overseas Web
sites and helping to draft the Charter 08 political manifesto
is the longest sentence known to have ever been handed down for
inciting subversion. Evidence suggests the majority of those
punished on state security charges are members of the Tibetan
and Uyghur ethnicities, many of them detained for engaging in
non-violent criticism of government policies.
The targets of political repression can expect no
constitutional or legal guarantee that their rights will be
protected during the proceedings against them. Defense lawyers,
as Professor Cohen says, face numerous obstacles in simply
trying to get access to meet with detainees or to get access to
prosecution evidence before a trial, and their defense
arguments in court fall on deaf ears while decisions about
defendants are prepared by Party-dominated adjudication
committees, sometimes even before a trial has even taken place.
Once imprisoned, these individuals are seldom offered any
clemency through sentence reduction or parole, victims of a
pattern of discrimination based on policies of strict handling
and a system that equates good behavior with admission of
wrongdoing. This extends also to medical parole as well, even
for gravely ill individuals such as Hu Jia, Li Wangyang, or
You mentioned the disturbing case of Gao Zhisheng, Mr.
Chairman, and I appreciate the work that this Commission has
done and the personal interest that you yourself have taken in
this case. Unfortunately, it appears that more work will need
to be done by all of us in order to guarantee Mr. Gao's freedom
I believe that the situation that I have described here is
a consequence of the Chinese leadership's acquiescence to a
hard-line element within the Party that sees harsh criminal
justice measures as superior to building rule of law as a means
of maintaining stability. Their dominance has been at the
expense of those who support moving more resolutely along a
path of reform and who feel frustrated by the recent lack of
progress and growing reliance on repression in China.
Now, I believe that an important goal of our collective
human rights engagement with China should be to support the
efforts of this second group, particularly at a moment such as
this when they feel the most embattled.
In my written statement I offer some concrete
recommendations for U.S. Policy: Enhancing the bilateral human
rights dialogue with China, playing a more active role in the
human rights institutions of the United Nations, and making
more frequent use of this Commission's excellent, and now
enhanced, Political Prisoner Database to prepare prisoner lists
for use by Members of Congress in their interactions with
Chinese officials. In the interest of time, I will defer a
detailed discussion of these recommendations until asked to do
so later in the hearing.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to thank you again for your
leadership in this area and to pay tribute to the longstanding
and close working relationship that Dui Hua enjoys with this
Commission, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
Chairman Dorgan. Mr. Rosenzweig, thank you very much.
Dr. Wan, I've already introduced you. You have a medical
degree from Shanghai Medical University School of Public
Health, you've worked extensively in Citizens Health Rights
Education in China, and we appreciate very much your
willingness to be here and testify. I understand as well, and I
think you do at the same time, that there is some jeopardy for
you to speak publicly. We appreciate, nonetheless, your
willingness to do that. I'll ask you about that during the
question period, but Dr. Wan, why don't you proceed?
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rosenzweig appears in the
STATEMENT OF WAN YANHAI, DIRECTOR OF BEIJING AIZHIXING
INSTITUTE, EXPERT ON HIV/AIDS, HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL SOCIETY
Dr. Wan. Yes, Senator Byron Dorgan. I am Wan Yanhai,
Director of Beijing Aizhixing Institute. I've been working on,
actually, HIV/AIDS prevention and care for 20 years, since
1990. My organization, Beijing Aizhixing Institute--has been
working on HIV/AIDS, human rights, and civil society
development in China for 16 years, since 1994.
In the summer of 1994, I had a meaningful conversation with
a psychiatrist in Beijing--a good friend--that influenced my
philosophy about serving people. When told I was being
monitored by the security agency in China, I said I did not
care, and I could still manage my work from jail.
The senior doctor said that if I am sacrificed, nobody
benefits. If I'm sacrificed, I would not be able to work. It's
a loss. So to continue to keep on with my work that is helpful
to others, I need to protect myself.
This philosophy has guided my approach of dealing with the
security agency in China, so with great effort and careful
attention I've managed to keep working in China for the past 16
years. In the past 16 years, I was briefly detained from August
24 to September 10, 2002, and November 25 to November 28, 2006,
and December 27 to December 28, 2007. I left China because of
security concerns in general in 1997, October 2002, and May of
this year, but most of the time I've been working in China.
So today, while I'm sitting here and not in prison, I have
to say that I benefited from the following factors. First,
actually, AIDS is a public health concern which the Chinese
Government may also care about. Second, I used to work at the
Government Health Education Institute, where I became known to
the public and also established good working relations and
friendships with individuals in the government.
Government officials who were friendly may also help. The
international media coverage also offered some support and
protection, but I also carefully managed my own activities and
took a sensitive approach in the language I used surrounding my
I don't know whether these are the reasons for my success
or failure, but I'd like to share them with you. First, to be
transparent, don't hide. So that is a general approach of my
activities to be transparent. Second, to understand that all
your activities are monitored all the time by security and we
need to be careful and be sensitive all the time. Third, use a
professional approach and polite language. Fourth, to avoid
personally offending the police and keep in communication with
them. So, when arguing with the police, argue with them on
logic, not about the order of things. So, understand and be
aware of friends and allies inside of the government and be
critical not just on Chinese issues, but also be critical of
So when I was detained by the Beijing State Security Bureau
for releasing a classified document from August 24 to September
20, 2002, and also detained by the Beijing Public Security
Bureau in November 2006, the investigation was similarly
focused on my funding sources and relations with human rights
groups and the media and the information provided to
foreigners. In 2006, the focus of the investigation was on my
relationships with overseas foundations and the human rights
defenders inside of China.
As a non-governmental organization [NGO] receiving foreign
donations, I was really careful when answering questions and
insisted that I was serving the Chinese people and China, and
we happened to receive foreign donations. We also applied for
Chinese Government funding, although we haven't received much
funding from the government side.
While in detention, I was careful in my use of language and
tried not to offend the police. Sometimes we chatted. When they
asked questions, I seriously thought about my response before
answering. I told the police officers that I was serving the
people. If my work became too difficult, I could give up. I
cooperated with a bottom line that I should not harm the third
Party. In talks over tea or meetings in my office with security
agents, I was more open and frank and questioned the security
department or government policy in general.
As a leader of an organization, we manage the organization
in a transparent and a professional way and based on the law.
We anticipated that the Chinese Government would come to
investigate any day. So our work, however, has been severely
damaged by the government's raid. Our work to get compensation
for those infected with HIV/AIDS through blood transfusions was
canceled in November 2006.
Many other events were also canceled and we psychologically
felt bad. We stopped working a month before the Beijing
Olympics. For a month, we stopped working before the People's
Republic of China's 60-year anniversary. We had to politically
censor ourselves, which might damage our solidarity with other
I left China via Hong Kong on May 6 this year, after being
harassed by multiple government agencies. In the first six
months of 2010, our organization received pressure and
harassment from about 10 government agencies, including Public
Security, State Security, the Tax Department, the Department of
Industry and Commerce where we were registered, the Propaganda
Department, the File Department, et cetera. Human rights
advocacy and civil society groups are developing rapidly in
China, but human rights defenders and civil society groups are
under surveillance and recently under attack by the Chinese
How can the U.S. Government make a difference? First, U.S.
AID [U.S. Agency for International Development] programs can
make a difference, but currently I don't know whether the
United States has a clear strategy to support civil society
groups and human rights defenders. Should the United States
have an evaluation of its current AID programs in China from a
human rights perspective?
Second, information and Internet freedom is crucial in
empowering people and protecting people, but if people are not
well organized, information itself cannot work. The United
States should strengthen its work in supporting people in China
in their efforts to organize in a way that is based on
democratic laws and principles.
Third, the United States should guarantee that the U.S.-
based businesses will not be used to persecute human rights
defenders and civil society organizations. Companies involved
in the information censorship of the Internet--information to
the Chinese people--should be punished in a democratic world.
Chairman Dorgan. Dr. Wan, thank you very much. We
appreciate your being here and your statement.
Next, we will hear from Dr. Sophie Richardson, who is the
Asia Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Wan appears in the
STATEMENT OF SOPHIE RICHARDSON, ASIA ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, HUMAN
Ms. Richardson. Thank you, Chairman Dorgan, for convening
this hearing and for your continued leadership on these issues.
It is equally an honor to be here with you this morning and to
work with your staff as it is to be with such a distinguished
group of fellow panelists.
I'm going to summarize my remarks to leave time for
questions. We have written extensively over the past two
decades about a number of very high-profile political
prisoners, including Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng, Chen Guangcheng,
and Rebiya Kadeer, the Panchen Lama, Tan Zuoren, Huang Qi, the
list goes on and on.
Today I want to highlight two individuals whose cases have
gotten rather less attention, but whose treatment we believe
represents an alarming development, extraordinarily harsh
sentences given to those who are not dissenters or critics, but
who in many ways embody the characteristics that the central
government says it wants.
Karma Samdrup is one of the largest private collectors of
Tibetan antiquities in China. He financed an environmental
protection organization, the Qinghai Three Rivers Environmental
Protection Group. Over the years, the group has won several
awards for its work and he was praised in the state-run press.
However, he was arrested in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in
January 2010 on charges of robbing graves that dated back to
1998. Karma Samdrup's relatives and friends believe that the
revival of the decades-old charges stem from his efforts to
gain the release of his brothers, who had fallen afoul of local
officials by criticizing their involvement in violating
environmental protection laws. In June 2010, Karma Sondrup
received a 15-year sentence.
Gheyret Niyaz, who you mentioned in your opening
statements, is a Uyghur journalist and the editor of a popular
Web site called Uighurbiz. He was detained in October 2009 on
charges of endangering state security, and on July 23, 2010,
was also given a 15-year prison sentence. His so-called crime
appears to have been giving an interview to the foreign media
after the July 2009 ethnic violence in Xinjiang, although in
those discussions Niyaz cited economic inequality and the role
of outside instigators, which is the government's line in the
Although over the years we have observed seemingly random
persecution of individuals who appeared to pose no overt threat
to the Chinese Government, the charges and lengthy sentences of
these two men, we believe, should ring alarms. The two cases
suggest a new twist in the nature of political imprisonment,
which is a theme that Professor Cohen raised, that one can
embody the qualities that the government claims it wants,
people who are reasonably apolitical, entrepreneurial, and
involved only in soft, state-approved causes, only to find
themselves arbitrarily deemed a threat to state security.
Put more simply, if these people are considered threats to
the State, who does not fall into that category? How can people
avoid such charges? Should they not be in business? Should they
not support government-sanctioned causes? Should they stop
At the same time, we cannot forget the untold numbers of
political prisoners whose names we do not know, those who are
arbitrarily detained in the wake of the March 2008 protests
across the Tibetan plateau and those who are similarly held in
``black jails,'' the facilities that Professor Cohen mentioned
We must make a particular effort not to forget those in
Xinjiang who are the victims of enforced disappearances,
meaning state-sponsored disappearances, in the wake of protests
in that region and demand account for them, and we must not
forget individuals such as Liu Xiaobo who committed the
audacious so-called crime of asking the Chinese Government to
uphold its own Constitution and laws, or Cheng Guancheng, who
did nothing more than try to take the Chinese legal system at
All of these cases lead us to the conclusion that political
imprisonment in China has reached new lows of arbitrariness and
that therefore all behavior may be subject to some kind of
reprisal from the government. 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.
The United States should remain profoundly concerned about
the Chinese Government's persecution of its citizens. Until
peaceful dissent is tolerated, the country cannot be expected
to be predictably transparent or stable.
But in its vast relationship with China, the ever-more
arbitrary nature of political imprisonment should serve as a
reminder that many of the U.S.' other goals and interests--the
rule of law, a predictable trade regime, the development of
civil society--are at risk so long as those in China who share
those views and goals are considered potential threats by their
What can the U.S. Government do? We offer four
recommendations here today, and I would be happy to elaborate
on these. First, Secretary Clinton should make a strong,
explicit statement that the United States is concerned by the
noticeably worsening human rights environment in China.
Continuing to say, as seems to be the preferred phrase, that
the Unted States and China agreed to disagree over human rights
issues is profoundly unhelpful.
Second, the United States should unambiguously reject the
Chinese Government's attempt to force the United States to
remain silent on Tibet and Xinjiang on the basis of the Joint
Declaration's recognition of China's ``core'' interests. This
may strike some as merely a semantic debate. It's not in
Beijing, and it's rhetoric the United States needs to be very
Third, all senior administration officials should commit to
raising at least one individual case in every meeting they have
with their Chinese counterparts, particularly given the
administration's claims to taking a whole-government approach
to the promotion of human rights in China.
Finally, President Obama should welcome in the White House
former political prisoners from China to give an unequivocal
sign of support to China's fledgling civil society. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Richardson appears in the
Chairman Dorgan. Dr. Richardson, thank you very much.
Let me ask a general question first. Dr. Richardson, you
said, at the end of your testimony, ``a worsening situation
with respect to human rights violations'' or the ``violations
of individual rights in China.'' Mr. Cohen, you referred to
that; Mr. Rosenzweig as well.
When we talk about this, we talk about trends. Is there
empirical evidence that allows us to say things are getting
worse on this issue in China, even as China becomes a larger
and larger part of the commercial world and there's a lot of
travel back and forth, and so on? China is increasingly seizing
people, denying them their basic rights in China and throwing
them into prison. So we say it's getting worse. Is there
empirical data to back that up or is it just our notion that
the trend is a bad trend? Dr. Richardson?
Ms. Richardson. Senator, I guess I would answer that
question in two ways. I mean, one of the best pieces of
empirical information is sitting next to me. The fact that the
space for civil society in China and organizations that were
recognized and tolerated, even encouraged by the government for
10, 15 years, organizations like Dr. Wan's, organizations like
Guo Jianmei's, organizations like Gongmeng, the Open
Constitution Initiative, which is funded by Yale, these kinds
of organizations have come under tremendous government pressure
in the last 18 months, having been approved of for so long, I
think is one quite telling indicator.
The other way I would answer the question is simply that if
you asked people, I think, 10 or 15 years ago what behavior
they needed to refrain from engaging in in order to stay out of
hot water, people can give you a pretty straightforward and
reasonably reliable answer. I think that that can't be answered
so easily anymore is what worries us.
Chairman Dorgan. All right.
Mr. Cohen. As I said, China remains largely non-
transparent, although inroads have been made in various ways.
You properly mentioned the Internet as a prominent one. We have
statistics to some extent. They're not sufficient, but they
certainly show a trend. Mr. Rosenzweig has provided them. I
think that's useful.
There are other ways. We know the 17th Chinese Communist
Party Congress, held almost three years ago, enunciated policy
changes that have been practiced now by the legal elites that
operate according to them: judges, prosecutors, officials, law
professors, lawyers. They all are expected to conform to the
new doctrine, and the new doctrine is regressive. It is in
large part a return to the ideology of the pre-1949 liberated
areas when China controlled roughly 90 million Chinese in rural
Not only has the policy tightened up, there's also a lack
of emphasis on those features of the system, like defense
lawyers, who can alleviate some of the hardships of the
policies. If you read the speech of the head of the Party Legal
Committee for the country, it's as though you're back in the
19th century. He never mentions the existence of defense
lawyers, only the need for better repression through the
police, prosecutors, officials, and judges.
Finally, it is very important, I think, to recognize what
is seldom recognized. These are not only policy changes, but
there have been many appointment changes, personnel changes,
where people more sensitive to professional legal
considerations to government under law, rule of law, have been
replaced by Communist Party apparatchiks who really see law
only as an instrument of current Party policy.
Chairman Dorgan. Mr. Rosenzweig, you use some data, and
you'll probably reinforce that, but it is also perhaps the case
with the Internet, that some of these cases can ricochet around
the world quickly by the Internet for those of us that care
about who is being railroaded and who's being sent to a prison
for exercising their right to speak. I guess the question is,
is there just more transparency, via the Internet and the
media, which allows us to see who is being shuttled off to
prison, or is it, in fact, the case that the trend is
increasing in political imprisonment?
Mr. Rosenzweig. I think the Internet plays a role in
several different ways. First of all, I think over the past,
say, 10 years, it's true that a large proportion of political
speech, political activity, so to speak, in China has migrated
to the Internet, takes place on the Internet, which on the one
hand makes it easier for us on the outside to follow it and to
track it. It also makes it, I would say, easier for the
government to track it as well.
So the fact that people are migrating this political space
to the Internet both increases the channels in which that kind
of discussion can take place, but it also makes it easier for
that activity to be curbed. It also creates the opportunity for
us to learn about those cases. So there is a certain extent to
which the increase in the amount of information that comes out
of China--especially compared to 10 years ago--about these
kinds of cases, does play a factor in increasing our awareness.
But if you compare the amount of cases that we know about,
through whatever channels, where we actually know the name of a
person that has been detained in China for these types of
offenses, if you compare that to the kinds of numbers that the
Chinese Government provides, and there are very broad
statistics that they do provide, it's still a tiny fraction. So
in other words, we are learning more of the names of people who
are being detained for these kinds of offenses, but as Dr.
Richardson says, there are still a large number of cases that
we don't know about as well.
Chairman Dorgan. Dr. Wan, when you left China in May of
this year, did your family leave with you?
Dr. Wan. Yes.
Chairman Dorgan. And when you left in May, you had
previously, I believe, left the country on two other occasions.
Dr. Wan. Yes.
Chairman Dorgan. Why did you decide, in May, that you
needed to leave China?
Dr. Wan. Yes. In March, we received a visit and pressure
from multiple governmental agencies and that is quite unusual.
So as a large NGO which received a large amount of donations
from foreign foundations, especially from the United States, it
could be a risk.
Chairman Dorgan. Did you fear being arrested at that point?
Dr. Wan. Yes. Yes.
Chairman Dorgan. You had been arrested twice before and put
in jail for short periods of time. Is that correct?
Dr. Wan. Yes. In 2003, it was four weeks. In 2006, it was
three days. Yes. Yes.
Chairman Dorgan. You have come to this country, and I think
all of us understand that you do very significant work in China
on the subject of HIV/AIDS, just as an example. Why on Earth
would the government view that work as potentially subversive
or view those engaged in that work as needing some extra
surveillance? Is it because, as you implied, you received some
funding from U.S. charities or some other assistance from the
Dr. Wan. I think China might have some big strategy change.
Before the Olympics, China developed really strong security
capacities. After the 60-year anniversary of the Chinese
Communist regime, you might think about the 100-year
celebration, so they might think of longer term strategies as a
part of the plan, a new wave of crackdown against civil
society, and it's really over with, like the long-term Women's
Legal Education Center. Beijing University was sponsoring the
Women's Legal Education Center, which is totally not a
So the Women's Legal Education Center worked closely with
the government and always tried to push people to work along
with government policy. But they received huge pressure from
the government. So, like Oxfam Hong Kong, also got pressure.
Oxfam Hong Kong worked with the government and has been subject
to really strong political censorship.
So even this type of non-political organization received
pressure from the government. This is the issue. There are some
other issues. My colleagues, after I left China, two lawyers
who are now managing our office, both received threats from the
police that they might be arrested.
Chairman Dorgan. Just a couple of questions of you, then I
want to go back to others on the panel. Is the rate of HIV and
AIDS in China substantial as compared to this country, for
example, or other countries in the world? Is it growing?
Dr. Wan. In general, information on the epidemic is not
transparent. So we know three waves of the epidemic. The first
is the HIV/AIDS epidemic among drug users. The epidemic among
drug users was first found 20 years ago in China in the border
areas. So now it's a national epidemic among drug users,
especially among the ethnic minorities.
So the epidemic among drug users mostly happens in ethnic
minority areas, like Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi, and
Xinjiang. So in the urban cities among the Uyghur minorities,
and also in other minorities, AIDS infection is very high, as
high as 50 percent of injecting drug users among Uyghur
migrants in Beijing might have been infected. It's a national
So another epidemic is like in the mid-1990s and it's among
blood donors. It mostly happened in central China, like the
Hunan Province. After the infection among blood donors, a lot
of people who received a blood transfusion or received blood
products have been infected. So most people suffered a lot in--
and in legal aid, and many of them have been jailed. So, I
provided two documents about the hemophiliacs and also the
blood victims. So those people took a lot of legal actions and
petitioned for compensation, and many of them have been
detained and arrested on different types of criminal charges.
So now there's a third wave of epidemic among the gay
Chairman Dorgan. All right.
Just two very brief questions, and then I'm going to go on
to others. You have not sought political asylum in this
Dr. Wan. No.
Chairman Dorgan. All right. Do you believe, given the
fact--I think the New York Times did a very substantial story
about your work in China and you now have volunteered to come
and speak about your experience here publicly in Washington,
DC. Do you believe you would run into significant difficulty
going back to China?
Dr. Wan. Yes. Without testimony here, I think even if I go
back to China I would be in a difficult condition for now. But
I think it's possible for me to go back to China in the coming
future. The Chinese civil society and democratic forces are
developing rapidly, and I think it's a key moment for Western
societies to give a hand to support human rights and defending
civil society organizations and the general democratic parties
in China. Yes.
Chairman Dorgan. This is an important moment, I think, for
a lot of reasons. But I would just say we've had others testify
before our Commission who have given testimony much more
aggressive than yours. You've been pretty straightforward about
your experience. The fact is, you do not gain much favor in
China by doing so and I think risk arrest upon going back to
China. We appreciate, for that reason, your courage to come and
to share with us your experience.
I want to ask a couple of questions of the other panelists
as well. Mr. Cohen, perhaps you first, then the others. How
much of this political imprisonment that we talk about--Gao is
a good example, but there are many others that we've just
described--is directed from Beijing and from the central
government as opposed to being driven by errant local law
enforcement officials or political officials at the local
government who believe they're serving the best interests of
their centralized Communist government by taking a look at
these NGOs and these individuals as being suspect or deserving
harassment? So, how much of it is directed, do you think, from
Mr. Cohen. There are different levels to appreciate. One,
is the central-local level. The center classically enunciates a
policy or a law that's an enlightened one. The local people
frustrate it. That's the traditional Chinese saying: The center
has its policies, the locality has its methods of avoiding
So there are terrific tensions in China along those lines.
The Ministry of Public Security, for example. Under its
previous head, who is now head of the country's Political Legal
Committee, the ministry took many measures to try to strengthen
their control over the local police. Similarly, with the
courts, the central court apparatus does not enjoy strong
control over the local courts. It's very different from Japan,
where you have a central secretariat that moves judges around
like chess pieces, that appoints them, that pays them, promotes
them, and if necessary, disciplines them. So there is a
legitimate central-local problem.
But it goes beyond that because often the center puts out
conflicting policies. On the one hand, it says you must observe
the following niceties in protecting people with respect to
enforcement of birth control laws. It tells that to local
officials. At the same time, it puts out policies that say to
local officials, if the number of births in your district
exceeds x, you're going to be fired. So it tells them on the
one hand, always observe the law. On the other hand, they feel
if they do observe the law, the number of births will exceed x.
So, then they have to choose. Do they observe the central law
or do they violate the central laws on criminal law and
criminal procedure and abuse a lot of people to make sure the
goal of no birth reaches x, and they usually choose the latter.
So it's a conflicting central policy.
The third confusing aspect is, who is the center? The
center often has conflicting agencies, they have conflicting
policies. Who are you going to listen to? One ministry may take
one position, another ministry may take another position. You
find even struggles between the court and the procurator, for
Chairman Dorgan. But is there any doubt, for example, Mr.
Rosenzweig, that the case of Mr. Gao, and many others here, and
in the database, that the prosecution of these high-profile
cases is supported by, and perhaps directed by the central
Mr. Cohen. I don't have any doubt whatever. They may not
have started that way.
Chairman Dorgan. Right.
Mr. Cohen. But once they rise to the level of visibility of
concern here and elsewhere, these are national policies. When
they started with the ``blind man,'' whose picture I'm glad to
see you have, Chen Guangcheng, I tried to see, it was a local
I wrote an article in the Far Eastern Economic Review that
was an open plea to the Ministry of Public Security: Is this
what you want your local public security people to do? Is this
how China is going to demonstrate to the world how civilized it
is? I asked them, in effect, to intervene. There were meetings
between the center and the province and the locality. There
were meetings in the provincial capital, apparently. But in the
end, the local people prevailed.
For political reasons, the center didn't want to be seen to
be interfering with the important birth control policy. But
when it gets to this level, the center makes the decision. But
who is the center? It's not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
that can't even give you a straight answer about what happened
to Gao. They're constantly asking the Ministry of State
Security, what should we tell the foreigners? We have a press
conference tomorrow. What are we going to say? Then they are
given lines to read, some of which are just facetious. They're
ridiculous, or they would be if it weren't so serious.
Chairman Dorgan. When this Commission, or when I write to
the Chinese Ambassador to the United States a specific letter
or set of letters about specific prisoners, in this case Gao,
my assumption is that those official communications from the
U.S. Government go to the central government in China. While
the cases may have emanated somewhere else, may have started
somewhere in the provinces, the justification for and the
defense of what the Chinese have done with Gao, that decision
is made at the central government, my guess is.
Mr. Rosenzweig, you have been very helpful to us as well
with information about Chinese prisoners. I asked you about
trends. What kinds of things can we do at this point to
continue to drive a higher profile on this issue of human
rights in China and our great concern about the treatment of
these individual prisoners?
Mr. Rosenzweig. Well, there's some structural things that
can be done--Professor Cohen has mentioned this as well--with
regard to the human rights dialogue. Increasing the frequency
of the human rights dialogue, I think, would be an important
step to take, not only to signal the importance with which the
United States treats human rights issues in China and treats
these cases of political imprisonment in China, but also to
allow for the development of better working relationships with
Chinese interlocutors that may yield better results.
The fact that the human rights dialogue has not been active
over the past several years, I think, has created a situation
where communications between the two governments on human
rights issues have not gone very smoothly.
One thing about the dialogue, I think, that would be
important, something I feel somewhat strongly about, is, I
guess, the tone of the dialogue. I think it's important, when
we talk about engagement with China on human rights issues, to
emphasize critical engagement, which doesn't mean, as Dr.
Richardson says, agreeing to disagree. It means something quite
different from that. It makes the disagreements that we may
have on human rights issues part of the process and recognizes
that the disagreements and working through those disagreements
is necessary in order to achieve progress.
And why that is important is because I think that over the
past several years--and this is not only true of the United
States, I think this is true of European governments as well--
there has been some confusion about how to engage with China, a
rising China, as we say, on human rights issues when there are
so many other things that we want to talk with China about that
are also important, as important if not at some times more
important than human rights issues, although I think human
rights issues are so broad that human rights can be part of
But I guess the thing that I want to say is that it's my
feeling that the Chinese Government may not agree with us all
the time on our positions with regard to human rights, but I
think they respect a consistent message, as opposed to a
message where we downplay human rights at certain times.
I think that feeds into a sense that we, the United States,
or our European friends, don't actually treat it as seriously
as we say we do. So our consistency with regard to our
commitments to human rights, I think, is perhaps one of the
most important things that we as a government can do.
Chairman Dorgan. I want to ask Dr. Richardson about the
case of Xue Feng, an American businessman who is now in prison
in China. My understanding is that he was arrested and then
convicted of a law that was passed after he had been charged.
This is an American businessman that was involved in a
commercial transaction in China, a transaction that he was not
aware was illegal.
The information that he acquired in China, that is, the
location of oil wells and so on, was apparently widely and
publicly available in China for sale on Web sites. After he
purchased that information, he was detained, and Mr. Cohen has
talked about the abuses surrounding his detention and the need
to change the U.S.-China Consular Convention to better protect
American business people in China.
That's a long question by way of asking, with more and more
business being done in China by U.S. citizens, does this case
portend some real concern about the future? Might some U.S.
business people believing they're doing something that's
perfectly harmless in China wind up in prison for those
Ms. Richardson. I'll see if I can give you a
straightforward answer to that question. Xue Feng's case came
on the heels both of a roughly similar case against executives
of the Australian mining company, Rio Tinto, and the primary
person in that case who was accused was a naturalized
Australian Chinese. The other three were Chinese citizens. The
lead protagonist there was also charged originally with state
security crimes, and those were later ratcheted down to
economic espionage crimes.
But these are the kinds of cases that we've seen more where
businessmen who were engaged in activities they seemed to
think, ostensibly, at least, are legal, then to find out the
hard way that somebody doesn't agree with them about that. One
of the alarming aspects of the state secrets laws in China is
that they're incredibly elastic and they can be used to charge
people for all sorts of behavior for which they can't even see
the evidence that's presented against them. They can't have
access to counsel or family members. These are real problems
that I think we will see more business people bump up against.
At the same time, it's probably also worth mentioning that
earlier this year the Chinese Government, or it was at the very
end of 2009, for the first time in 50 years, the Chinese
Government executed a foreigner, a British man of Pakistani
descent who was desperately psychiatrically unwell and who had
been found guilty of trafficking drugs. He, too, was not given
the kind of consular access he should have been. He was not
given access to appropriate physicians. The British Government
intervened to no avail.
We have all sat here and talked a great deal about the
kinds of abuses that the Chinese Government regularly metes out
against its own citizens. I think people should pay more
attention to the fact that we're starting to see some of those
abuses be meted out against other people's citizens, too.
Chairman Dorgan. Let me ask, why would the work of Dr. Wan
be targeted in any particular way? Dr. Richardson, you are
observing this from the outside. Why on Earth would the Chinese
Government take a look at a group of people that are working on
HIV/AIDS and decide there might be problems with respect to
running afoul of the government dictates here?
Ms. Richardson. Well, I think it goes back to a comment
that you made in your opening remarks, Senator, about how
today's political prisoners are perhaps tomorrow's leaders,
that some of the people we're seeing persecuted are precisely
the kinds of people who have the inclinations and the expertise
and the organizational capabilities to address some of the most
pressing problems inside China. Why are they perceived as a
threat to the government? What they do is embarrassing. It
shows ways in which the central government has failed to answer
certain kinds of problems, or even acknowledge that they exist.
In some instances, these organizations' work exposes
evidence of local corruption. It's not immediately controlled
by the local authorities and that can sometimes unnerve them.
In a style of
government that really knows only two strategies to deal with
problems, which is either to co-opt them or to crush them, what
we've seen is these organizations essentially getting shut down
instead of being put to work for comparable purposes to what
the government says it wants.
Chairman Dorgan. Mr. Cohen? And then I'm going to come back
for a further question of Dr. Wan.
Mr. Cohen. I wanted to help answer your initial questions
about the American businessman of Chinese descent. First of
all, in these cases, state secrets and similar ones, it's
impossible for the outsider to know what has taken place. Was
the conduct harmless, was it not harmless? There is no way to
know. Documents he's accused of acquiring were not labeled
``secret.'' There was no obvious way. After the person is
detained, the police get a certification from the National
State Secrets Bureau that says, ``Yes, these are state secrets.
He should have known about it.''
Then comes the court hearing. Are you allowed to see the
documents? Are you allowed to challenge whether or not they
should be state secrets? Can you produce witnesses? Can you
cross-examine those who certified the documents as secrets?
None of those things is possible. It's an ipse dixit. You're
told, this is it, you should have known it. It isn't the law
that was changed. The law is so broad, change or not is
irrelevant. It's the application of the law by the agencies
involved and it's an ex post facto declaration that is
unchallengeable. This is a state secret.
Now, if there were transparency, if you had an open trial,
if you had a fair opportunity for defense, then there'd be some
way to say, were these state secrets or not? Was this man
damaging the interests of China or not? But we don't have that.
That is a very sad situation.
Second, I should say we have to be aware that our own
conduct influences Chinese perceptions. We can't merely preach
at them, that they're not playing by the rules or they're
losing by the failure to play by the rules. I personally feel,
if China were transparent, people would see some of these cases
do involve violations by any government's point of view. I've
been involved in a number of these cases.
In some, the persons involved were spying for Taiwan. But
nobody believes that in the outside world because the
procedures are so unfair. We lump all these cases, and the
people come out of China later with political help and portray
themselves as legitimate scholars, hiding the fact of what they
did, and China enables them to do it by this self-defeating
Chinese policy of secrecy.
The other point is, our own government's behavior can
really affect this. I was shocked to see that, in looking into
the question of Chinese conformity to its obligations under the
consular convention, that the U.S. Government is a rampant
violator of consular conventions with other countries, not
necessarily with China.
But when they see hundreds of cases where State and Federal
Governments fail to notify detained foreigners, you have a
right to contact your consulate, and fail to notify the
governments of those detained people, you have a right of
access to these people, even in death cases, what can people
think of us? So it's not a simple question of only looking at
China. We can't say ``do as I say, not as I do.'' International
law is based on reciprocity.
Chairman Dorgan. The mechanisms exist in this country to
raise very serious questions in a significant way about
practices in this country. The same is not true in China, and
that seems to me the significant difference.
Dr. Wan, what do people in China, ordinary folks, know of
the things we've been discussing here today? Do they know of
the case of Gao Zhisheng? Do they know of the case of Chen
Guangcheng, and other high-profile cases, or are they unaware
of these men because there's not much information on them
inside the country of China?
Dr. Wan. Most people receive information through the
Internet, through social groups, emails. I think civil society
organizations play a very important role to keep communication
in these communities. So although most civil society
organizations are nonpolitical, they play a really important
role of networking and information sharing. So in general,
people may not know the case of Liu Xiaobo or Gao Zhisheng, but
many people on the Internet, people who are active on the
Internet, they know the information. A lot of activists work on
Chairman Dorgan. Mr. Rosenzweig, can you give me some
information about the number of Tibetans who may have been
detained based on the protest that started in March 2008? Do we
have any idea of what the consequences of that event have been?
Mr. Rosenzweig. I wish I could give you numbers that I
would feel comfortable with, concrete numbers about that, but I
can't. As we have said this morning numerous times, the
empirical basis for our discussions of these questions is quite
limited and to a large extent we are forced to rely on
anecdotal evidence, combined with this limited data.
What I can say is that, based on the statistics that we've
seen over the years and that we've collected over the years, it
is clear that, for example, in the first half of the last
decade, state security cases involving Uyghurs represented as
much as two-thirds of the total in the country. This is in a
normal year, by which I mean a year without a major uprising.
The fact that in 2008 we had an incident in Lhasa that grew
to spread throughout the Tibetan plateau over a long period of
time, where you had repeated reports of individuals being
detained for taking to the streets and protesting--and when I
say taking to the streets and protesting, for the most part I
mean peacefully protesting, going out and shouting statements,
handing out leaflets.
Then the following year, in Urumqi, an initial
demonstration that turned into a very violent demonstration,
for which many people have been detained. The fact that in
these two years you've had incidents of that scale only
increases the likelihood that we're talking about most of these
detainees on state security charges being either Tibetans or
Uyghurs. We're talking numbers well into the hundreds in both
Chairman Dorgan. Mr. Cohen, you have been observing China
back to the 1960s, as I understand it, and written about it.
Give me your assessment of where we are at this point. We're
having a hearing about human rights abuses and political
prisoners. Still, in all, these issues are a subset of a
country that has changed enormously.
So give me your assessment of where we are with China, what
you expect these human rights abuses to mean to the future of
China. Give me your assessment.
Mr. Cohen. The Party is the victim of its own conflicting
policies. It's a paradox. On the one hand, since December 1978
when Deng Xiaoping and company decided they needed to have a
great economic development, they decided they needed a formal
legal system--not one that would subject themselves to law, but
create a legal system. They had virtually nothing then.
In 30 years, what they have done is impressive in terms of
laws, regulations, other norms that come from international
agreements, bilateral and multilateral, in terms of the
reestablishment of strong institutions like the courts, the
prosecution, arbitration organizations, in terms of legal
education, which was nothing when I first went to China.
I remember in 1973, writing in the Harvard Law School
Bulletin, ``The first thing to know about the Chinese legal
system, legal education, is that there isn't any legal
education.'' Now you have over 700 law departments and law
schools, hundreds of thousands of people imbibing the rule of
law ideology, often American style,
because the tens of thousands of law professors they now have
essentially believe in what we have accomplished and what other
democratic countries have accomplished.
You now have about 200,000 judges, 180,000 prosecutors,
170,000 lawyers, hundreds of thousands of legally trained
people who, while not called lawyers, are staffing government
agencies at every level in China. You have these law professors
who are influential law reformers. Every business now that
amounts to anything has to have legal advice, many of them have
In other words, in 30 years there is an overlapping series
of legal elites that didn't exist before. This is a broad
constituency for law reform. Things are bubbling up, and these
are the people, many of whom are frustrated by the post-17th
Party Congress--you might say conservative, or I might say
They're upset by being displanted, supplanted by Party
hacks taking over their jobs. So this is impressive. The
leadership has responsibility for creating this system and they
have amended the Constitution to foster human rights, to
respect property rights, et cetera.
On the other hand, three days a week they tell their
people, don't take all this seriously. This is all bourgeois
stuff. We will have our socialist rule of law with Chinese
characteristics, and that means no real rule of law in the
sense of law governing government officials. So it's a paradox.
The intensity of that paradox is increasing.
It makes me go back to the original Hegelian-Marxist-
Leninist thought which I never had much interest in about the
unity of opposites, because you have two opposite trends in
China now. They're increasingly coming into conflict. Although
social-economic conditions are better, significantly better,
those very successes breed more people who were dissatisfied.
Chairman Dorgan. It seems to me that the ``opening'' of
China, going back some decades now, precipitated a series of
changes you've just described. One, is the desire and the
development of a market system to participate in the world
economic order, at the same time, even as you develop a market
system, you continue a Communist government with Communist
control. There are certain tensions that are automatic with
respect to that.
When you begin to integrate with the rest of the world in a
market system, inevitably your institutions come under
scrutiny, and should, and must. Because if we're going to do
business there, we need to understand, with what capability can
we do business and believe that business agreements will be
Chairman Dorgan. I was in Hanoi, Vietnam at one point,
speaking with the head of the Vietnam government, a Communist
government, and then met with the American Chamber of Commerce
in Hanoi. One of the things they said is, ``We need more
government here in Vietnam,'' the American Chamber of Commerce.
I said, ``Well, that is an unusual kind of request by a Chamber
of Commerce group.'' They said, ``What we mean by that is you
can't do business in areas unless you have the ability to write
contracts, have administrative law, go to court to enforce
agreements, and so on. It's the only way you can really do
So when you open up a country like China or Vietnam, you
must have those kinds of capabilities in place and the
institutions with which to enforce the rule of law. Then those
institutions will come under intense scrutiny. That's what is
That's why we have circumstances where substantial things
have changed, China has moved, no question about that, the
standard of living for the average Chinese has improved some,
and we understand all the impact of that on the world.
There are probably several hundred million people in China
who now aspire to drive an automobile at some point, and will
be looking for a gas station once a week as well, just as they
see the rest of the world doing. So all of these things have an
impact on us, on China.
This issue of, with more scrutiny on their institutions,
which should happen and is happening, and then the scrutiny of
people like this sitting in the darkest prisons in the world on
charges that ran them off to prison because they dared question
their government. Is that of interest to our country? Sure it
I think what all of you have said today is that our
relationship with China must be a relationship in which we
understand our mutual responsibilities and we understand the
economic alliances and various things that we do together, but
we should always, in our relationship with China, continue this
scrutiny with respect to the way its institutions are working
and continue to press the issue of human rights.
We have gone into a circumstance where it's kind of up and
down, hills and valleys, on whether we're engaged in human
rights questions with respect to China in our normal
discussions or whether we kind of give human rights the
backseat treatment. There ought not be a case where our
relationship with China does not always press the issue of
human rights. That should be our requirement.
That is our responsibility, in my judgment. If you are
going to be a player in this world on the world stage, and
China certainly is, then we believe there are certain
responsibilities that attach to that position. That is the
purpose of this Commission, as I indicated earlier, to keep the
records and the stories of those unfortunate people who are now
in prison in China as political prisoners, and to also address
a range of other issues.
I wanted to just conclude today by saying that all of you
have extensive experience, and I appreciate very much your
willingness to contribute your thoughts and your experience to
the Commission's efforts to understand and evaluate this
relationship and where it's been and where it's heading. Your
sense is very important.
Dr. Wan, you perhaps bring more to this table in terms of
your personal safety and your own future than the other three.
The other three witnesses do their work in safety. If you
attempt to go back to China, I assume you have to worry about
your personal safety, so we thank you very much for your
courage and your willingness to speak out today.
We thank all of you very much for traveling here today to
Washington, DC and being a part of this hearing.
This hearing is adjourned.
[The prepared statement of Representative Levin appears in
[Whereupon, at 11:59 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Prepared Statement of Jerome A. Cohen
August 3, 2010
Chairman Dorgan and Co-Chairman Levin:
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this Hearing as
well as for the Commission's invaluable contributions to American
understanding of China.
Today's topic--``Political Prisoners in China: Trends and
Implications for U.S. Policy''--is as broad as it is important. Because
introductory statements are necessarily brief, I will only emphasize
several significant points and am confident that my distinguished
colleagues will provide more comprehensive coverage.
WHAT IS ``POLITICAL? ''
The Chinese government generally denies that any of its criminal
prosecutions are ``political.'' People are supposedly convicted for
violating specific provisions of the Criminal Law, not for their
political conduct. Yet some provisions of the Law are so vague and all-
encompassing that it is a simple matter to charge democratic activists
and a huge range of peaceful protesters with their violation,
especially since the courts are under Communist Party control.
For example, for trying to exercise the freedoms set forth in
China's Constitution, many people have been convicted of ``endangering
state security.'' We know names such as Liu Xiaobo and Hu Jia, but the
non-transparency of China prevents an accurate accounting. The
statistics we do have, however, indicate a troubling trend.
Many people who initially had no interest in political reform
became ``political'' offenders when the government suppressed their
efforts to protest property deprivations, labor abuses or religious
restrictions. Even lawyers who were not originally ``political'' have
been sent to prison for too effectively representing protesters,
activists and other controversial clients.
But ``political'' can also embrace many other types of cases. I am
sure that the American petroleum geologist Xue Feng, who last month was
sentenced to eight years in prison for ``gathering intelligence'' and
``unlawfully sending abroad state
secrets,'' thought he was engaging in commercial activity when he
helped his employer, a leading U.S. oil consulting company, purchase a
database regarding oil
resources. Yet his case became ``political'' because of its inevitable
impact on Sino-American relations and international business.
To take a very different situation, China's leadership politics was
reportedly involved in the recent prosecutions of organized crime
figures and officials who allegedly corrupted the city of Chongqing.
There are multiple reasons why the Chinese call their system for
administering justice a ``political-legal'' system.
POLITICAL TRIALS ARE MARRED BY EVEN MORE UNFAIRNESS THAN NON-POLITICAL
Despite the dedicated law reform efforts of many Chinese officials,
judges, lawyers and scholars, criminal justice is still the weakest
link in the country's burgeoning legal system. Gradually, some
improvements in the Criminal Procedure Law and Criminal Law continue to
be made, even in China's current very conservative political climate.
But in non-political cases as well as political ones, law enforcement
agencies frequently violate their country's laws or interpret them in
ways that defeat legislative purposes.
Justice in non-political cases is often marred by arbitrary arrest,
illegal search, extended incommunicado detention, torture and coerced
confession, barriers against defense lawyers who seek to meet their
detained clients, gather evidence and learn the prosecution's case, and
failure to require prosecution witnesses to come to court or to allow
defense witnesses to appear. There are also the distorting effects of
widespread corruption and protean ``guanxi,'' the networks of personal
relationships that are a dominant feature of Chinese life.
Political trials feature the same abuses plus additional ones.
Often they are closed to all but defense counsel, and even when
``open'' they are restricted to selected auditors. Lawyers who wage a
vigorous defense at trial risk sanctions against themselves, including
disbarment and prosecution. Court leaders rather than trial judges
usually make ``sensitive'' decisions, and the local Party political-
committee generally controls the entire process.
WHO ARE ``PRISONERS? ''
Punishment of political offenders is not confined to criminal
cases. Political offenders are often severely punished outside the
formal criminal justice system. Police do not need to ask any
prosecutor or judge for approval before they sentence someone to up to
three years of ``reeducation through labor'' or subject them to similar
supposedly ``non-criminal'' sanctions.
Persistent critics and petitioners with legitimate grievances
regularly suffer even less formal but harsh punishments. Some are
committed to mental hospitals, many more to notorious ``black jails.''
Moreover, many rights activists who nominally are ``free'' actually
have their freedoms denied by low-visibility police harassment and
surveillance that continue without end. Some civil liberties lawyers
avoid prison but lose their right to practice law.
Political offenders who have served their prison sentence suffer
further constraints after release if they have also been sentenced to
``deprivation of political rights'' for a period. Yet even after that
deprivation has expired, they continue to be restricted, often confined
to their home, without any legal authority or time limit, as is the
case with unfrocked Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong. In effect they are
``prisoners'' for life. I hope this will not be the fate of the blind
``barefoot lawyer'' Chen Guangcheng when his sentence of four years and
three months is completed in September. And at least one famous lawyer,
Gao Zhisheng, after disbarment, torture and a prison term, has
mysteriously been ``disappeared'' by the authorities, perhaps forever.
The many Chinese democratic activists who live outside their
country and are not allowed to return are also ``prisoners'' in a
different way because they are excluded from their own society.
So the definition of ``political prisoners'' is broad and
FOREIGNERS ARE NOT IMMUNE TO THIS UNFAIR SYSTEM, ESPECIALLY IN
In announcing this Hearing, the Commission recognized the impact
that criminal injustice can have on international commercial
cooperation with China. Foreign business personnel as well as other
foreigners are subject to the same inadequacies in China's criminal
justice legislation as the Chinese people and to many of the same
abuses that occur in implementing the laws, especially if their case
becomes ``political'' for one reason or other.
Although Americans and many other foreigners have some additional
protections under bilateral and multilateral consular agreements that
their governments have concluded with China, those agreements are
themselves imperfect and are sometimes ignored in practice by the
That is the significance of the now highly-politicized case of
American citizen Xue Feng, which is currently on appeal. It illustrates
not only some of the problems experienced by Chinese criminal
defendants but also the operation of the U.S.-China Consular Convention
that is supposed to alleviate some of those problems when Americans run
afoul of Chinese law. I attach, as Appendix 1, an ``op-ed'' article
that I recently published on the Xue case.
SHOULD THE U.S.-CHINA CONSULAR CONVENTION BE REVISED TO BETTER PROTECT
The Xue case shows the need to consider amending the Convention in
at least four ways that would enhance the protection of Americans who
fall into the hands of China's law enforcers:
(1) Reconfirm that the host state is required to notify the
sending state whenever one of the latter's nationals is placed
under ``any form of detention,'' as the Convention now puts it,
by spelling out the various forms of detention that China has
imposed on Americans over the thirty years of the Convention's
life, so there can be no excuse for failure to notify;
(2) Reduce the maximum time allowed between detention and
notification to consular officials, and between notification
and the first consular visit;
(3) Clarify that consular officials and the detainee have a
right to discuss any matters including the details of the
detainee's case; and
(4) Confirm that consular officials have the right to attend
defendant's trial even if the trial is ``closed'' to the public
Of course, the protection of individual rights is not the only
factor to be considered when contemplating revision of the Convention.
Under the Convention, Chinese nationals and officials are entitled to
reciprocal consular rights in the U.S., and some U.S. federal or state
agencies may object to the suggested proposals for enhancing individual
rights because of their impact on the handling of criminal cases
against Chinese in this country. Moreover, the Chinese government will
have its own ideas about whether and how to revise the Convention.
The Xue case revealed the need to improve one aspect of U.S.
consular assistance to Americans detained in China. From their first
visit with Xue, he reportedly asked consular officials to make his case
known to the public. Although able and conscientious, they declined to
do so, because his wife wished to keep the matter confidential. Thus,
for two years Xue lost the potential benefits that publicity might have
brought him. In future cases, our consular officials should honor the
detainee's wishes in this respect unless there is strong reason to
doubt his mental stability.
One additional benefit of seeking renewed U.S. government attention
to consular issues with China is that it will remind many members of
the Executive Branch and the Congress, not to mention the American
people, of the appalling record of both our federal and state
governments in complying with the multilateral and bilateral consular
commitments we have made to many countries. The long-standing,
irresponsible U.S. failures to notify foreign governments of their
nationals' detentions, and foreign detainees of their rights to contact
their governments, even in capital cases, place us in a poor position
to ask for compliance by other countries. Although the U.S. government
has taken steps to rectify this stupefying contempt for international
agreements and international law, the topic deserves detailed
Congressional and public scrutiny. I attach as Appendix 2 to these
remarks an ``op-ed'' article that I will publish tomorrow about the
U.S.-China Consular Convention.
``POLITICAL PRISONERS'' AND THE OFFICIAL U.S.-CHINA HUMAN RIGHTS
It is good news that the Obama and Hu Jintao administrations have
renewed the official bilateral human rights dialogue and agreed to
revive the official ``experts' dialogue.'' It is regrettable that these
meetings have often been postponed and in any event proceed at a
glacial pace inappropriate to the urgency of the problems. Like
discussions that other Western governments have conducted with China on
human rights, these discussions have been generally disappointing, at
least to most outside observers. Perhaps greater transparency might
give us a more favorable view, but I doubt it. I am glad that the
Department of State is earnestly seeking new methods of investing these
dialogues with greater significance. Heaven is wonderful, but the
problem is how to get there!
I believe that both official dialogues should take place every
quarter. The traditional desultory, and often interrupted, pace, has to
be quickened. Moreover, joint committees should be established on
various important topics, including those we discuss today, and they
should operate on a continuing basis and prepare reports for advance
submission to participants in the quarterly meetings. Although the
Chinese side shies away from discussion of concrete cases, analysis of
actual cases illuminates human rights problems more than consideration
of abstract principles.
Higher level, responsible leaders should take part in these
meetings, not merely to symbolize that the governments take these
matters seriously but also to bring the matters to the attention, and
increase the understanding, of the highest leaders and their staff,
those who make decisions.
Is it too much to hope that, on the Chinese side, one quarterly
meeting might involve the leader of the Central Party Political-Legal
Committee, usually a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, or one
of his key deputies? After all, they really run China's legal system.
Is it unreasonable to expect the participation of the President of
the Supreme People's Court in another quarterly session and of the
Procurator-General and the Minister of Justice in other sessions?
Of course, the United States would have to produce their
counterparts, and in a meaningful way. But aren't the human rights of
1.4 billion Chinese and 300 million Americans worth a higher priority
than either government has given them to date?
Thank you for the opportunity to present a few thoughts. I look
forward to the statements of the other panelists and our discussion
with the Commission.
Prepared Statement of Joshua Rosenzweig
August 3, 2010
Mr Chairman, I am privileged to be invited to participate in this
hearing and I would like to thank you, your fellow commissioners, and
the CECC staff for inviting me. Today I represent The Dui Hua
Foundation, which has been engaged for more than a decade in an effort
to uncover the names of individuals imprisoned in China for the non-
violent expression of their political and religious beliefs. Our
database of prisoner information includes the names of roughly 22,000
persons imprisoned for these reasons since 1980, of which more than
5,800 form an ``active registry'' from which we develop prisoner lists
designed to raise individual cases directly to the Chinese government
and encourage better treatment and early release.
Recent decades have seen China emerge as a global power, fueled by
strong economic growth, its importance as a trading partner, and its
key diplomatic role with regard to trouble-spots such as North Korea,
Sudan, or Iran. During this period, many Chinese have enjoyed
substantial improvements in living standards. To many developing
countries, China serves as a model for the delivery of basic education
and health care. Though not without caveats--for instance, the
ballooning gap between rich and poor--China's substantial progress in
these areas cannot be denied. However, progress in the area of civil
and political rights has unfortunately not kept up with economic and
Over the past 2\1/2\ years in particular, roughly since the
beginning of 2008, there has been a palpable sense 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 underway,
one particularly targeting members of ethnic minorities, government
critics, and rights defenders.
One manifestation of this can be seen in the recent sharp increase
in criminal proceedings for ``endangering state security'' (ESS) a
category of crime that includes vaguely defined and arbitrarily applied
offenses such as ``splittism,'' ``inciting subversion of state
political power,'' and ``trafficking in state secrets for overseas
entities.'' ESS arrests more than doubled in 2008 compared to the
previous year, and more arrests and indictments for ESS were carried
out in China in 2008 and 2009 than in the entire five-year period from
2003 to 2007.\1\ In China, arrest almost inevitably leads to trial and
trial to conviction. The most recent official statistics suggest that
as many as 1,500 Chinese were convicted on state security charges in
2009--more than 3\1/2\ times the number convicted for ESS in 2004.\2\
(Data for the period from 1998 to 2009 are included in the appendix to
Moreover, China's Supreme People's Court reports that these
individuals are being punished more harshly, with a 20 percent increase
in sentences of at least five years' imprisonment in 2009.\3\ One of
these harsh punishments was handed down to Liu Xiaobo, whose 11-year
sentence for penning a few essays critical of the government and
helping to draft the ``Charter 08'' political manifesto is the longest
sentence known to have ever been handed down in China for the crime of
``inciting subversion.'' \4\ And statistics suggest that a majority of
those punished on state security charges are members of the Tibetan and
Uyghur ethnicities, many of whom were detained for engaging in non-
violent protests against government policies.\5\
But we mustn't limit our concern to formal criminal proceedings on
state security charges, because there are other kinds of political
imprisonment in China. Charges of ``illegal business activity'' are
used against the publishers of politically themed books or distributors
of Bibles.\6\ Muckraking journalists and environmental activists are
charged with ``extortion'' or ``fraud,'' and bloggers who criticize
corruption or wrongdoing by local officials can find themselves
imprisoned for ``defamation.'' \7\ Countless practitioners of Falun
Gong or members of unauthorized Christian sects are locked away for
``using a cult to undermine implementation of the law'' and subjected
to specialized regimes of discipline and re-programming.\8\ And I have
not even yet mentioned the system of administrative incarceration known
as ``re-education through labor,'' in which so-called ``minor
offenses'' can be punished for up to three years without proper trial
and without legal counsel--a system whose survival despite violating
Chinese law testifies to its expedient value to the preservation of
The targets of political repression can expect no constitutional or
legal guarantee that their rights will be protected during the
proceedings against them. The geologist Xue Feng, an American citizen,
was held incommunicado and subjected to physical and psychological
abuse as police failed to honor their obligations under China's
consular agreement with the United States, and he languished in
detention for more than two years while procedural deadlines were
repeatedly ignored.\10\ Defense lawyers face obstacles in their
attempts to fulfill basic duties, such as meeting with
detained clients and getting access to prosecution evidence, and their
eloquent, reasoned defense statements fall on deaf ears in the
courtroom while decisions against their clients are made by external,
Party-dominated ``adjudication committees,'' sometimes before a trial
has even begun.\11\
Once imprisoned, these individuals are seldom offered any clemency,
victims of a penal system that equates good behavior with
acknowledgment of wrongdoing and requires that sentence reduction and
parole for those convicted of endangering state security be ``strictly
handled.'' \12\ Compared with a decade ago, fewer of the individuals
whose cases are raised with the Chinese authorities by Dui Hua or
through the bilateral human rights dialogues are seeing any changes to
their sentences--a situation that is especially true for Tibetans and
Uyghurs. This extends to medical parole, even for gravely ill
individuals like Hu Jia, who suffers from serious liver disease, or Li
Wangyang, an activist who has spent nearly all of the past 21 years in
prison, much of that time hospitalized because of poor health. On the
rare occasion when medical parole is granted to political prisoners, it
tends to be as in the case of Zhang Jianhong, whose health under the
burden of neuromuscular disease deteriorated to the point where he was
unable to breathe without the assistance of a machine.\13\
Perhaps the most outrageous--and telling--example of China's
worsening human rights environment has been the government's failure to
provide a credible accounting of the whereabouts of Gao Zhisheng, the
outspoken rights lawyer whose repeated criticism of government policies
and defense of Falun Gong practitioners and political activists
ultimately landed him a 2006 conviction on charges of inciting
subversion by a Beijing court. Given a suspended sentence, Gao and his
family were subjected to intense police surveillance, interrupted by a
period of detention in late 2007 in which his captors allegedly
tortured him so severely that friends said it left him ``a broken
In February 2009, shortly after Gao's wife and two children left
China to seek asylum in the United States, Gao disappeared. We now know
that for more than a year, he was secretly shuttled from location to
location and kept under police custody, during which time he was
subjected to physical and psychological abuse. After a sustained period
of pressure by the international community, Gao mysteriously reappeared
in Beijing this past April and gave two interviews: one, blessed by his
captors, in which he announced to the Associated Press he was ``giving
up activism'' and one during an unauthorized meeting with a small group
of friends and diplomats in which he described in detail his ordeal
over the past year.\14\ Several days later, Gao disappeared once more--
presumably again into the hands of security agents acting with reckless
disregard for individual rights, rule of law, or the consequence of
their actions on China's international image.
I believe that what we are witnessing today is a manifestation of a
Chinese leadership that, though it may exude confidence in its dealings
with the outside world, sees mounting signs of instability at home in
the form of petitioners seeking redress for grievances, growing numbers
of mass incidents, eruption of long-simmering ethnic tensions in Lhasa
and Urumchi, and the messy, hard-to-control Internet, with its channels
for expression of critical opinion and transmission of uncensored news.
A sense of imminent and perpetual threat has played into the hands of a
hard-line, ``stability-above-all-else'' element in the leadership, one
particularly associated with the security forces, the military, and the
propaganda apparatus. Though the factors underlying these developments
in China have been primarily domestic, confusion in the international
community about how best to engage with ``rising China'' on human
rights has clearly emboldened some Chinese leaders to pursue certain
policies despite international opposition.
For the time being, at least, China's leadership appears to be
pursuing what the Chinese scholar Yu Jianrong has called ``rigid
stability,'' instead of heeding the voices of those inside and outside
the Party who advocate taking stronger steps toward establishment of a
more legitimate rule-of-law system, one that would weaken the authority
of the security forces and see Party oversight of court decisions
receding in favor of a more independent judiciary.\15\ But as long as
the perception remains of a high level of threat from ethnic
separatists, hostile foreign forces, mass incidents, and political
subversives, this hard-line faction will try to continue to hang on to
its remaining strongholds long enough at least to have an influence
over the formation of the new leadership group at the 18th Party
Congress in 2012.
Notwithstanding the strong position of the hard-liners, proponents
of expanding civil rights and further developing rule of law in China
still have a voice, particularly via the media. On a few occasions,
backlash against local government officials' abuse of criminal
defamation charges to prosecute critics of corruption and malfeasance
have forced authorities to acknowledge they overstepped their
authority.\16\ Major media outlets have been vocal in exposing serious
problems such as the use of ``black jails'' to incarcerate petitioners,
mysterious deaths of detainees in police-run detention facilities, and
the torture of criminal suspects.\17\ There have been stirring calls
for reform to the laws governing state secrets and household
registration, and last month new rules took effect that should in
theory prevent illegally obtained evidence and testimony from being
used in criminal proceedings.\18\
In short, there appears to be a constituency within the Party (not
to mention among Chinese legal experts and practitioners and the wider
population) that supports moving more resolutely along a path of
reform, a group that may feel frustrated by the recent lack of progress
on political reform and growing reliance on
repression. An important goal of our collective human rights engagement
with China should be to support the efforts of this constituency,
particularly at such a moment when it may feel most embattled.
At this point, I would like to offer the following recommendations:
First, the bilateral human rights dialogue between the United
States and China should be enhanced and expanded. To this end, we
Doubling the frequency of the dialogue to make it a
semi-annual event. This would facilitate the establishment of
relationships with Chinese interlocutors and better reflect the
importance the US government attaches to the human rights
situation in China. A semi-annual dialogue would also match the
frequency of China's human rights dialogue with the European
Ensuring that detailed, bilingual prisoner lists an
integral part of the dialogue process. It is also essential
that the US government hold China accountable for responding to
these requests for information in a sincere and timely manner.
Establishing a working group on the rights of
political prisoners. Thanks to efforts by the State Department,
China has agreed in principle to establish working groups as
part of the bilateral human rights dialogue. The United States
should actively follow up on this agreement and propose that a
working group be established on the rights of political
The United States must be prepared to engage China critically in the
area of human rights. Disagreements can be expected, but engagement
must be about more than simply ``agreeing to disagree.'' It should
involve recognizing the value of substantive, critical discussion in
which all parties are held equally accountable for their commitments to
human rights under international law.
Second, we further recommend that the United States play a more
active role in the human rights institutions of the United Nations,
including the Human Rights Council and its process of ``universal
periodic review.'' I attended the Human Rights Council's February 2009
review of China's human rights situation and was disappointed that the
United States chose not to take the opportunity to raise its
concerns during that process. Without stronger leadership and
commitment to upholding international human rights law by the United
States, there is real reason for concern that this important
multilateral institution will continue to allow countries like China to
defend their problematic rights records by appealing to ``unique
national circumstances'' and the notion that some human rights are more
fundamental than others. The United States should also help to ensure
that the treaty-based bodies and ``expert-driven'' processes of the
United Nations continue to play a vigorous role in the monitoring and
protection of human rights in all countries, including China.
Our third recommendation concerns taking better advantage of this
Commission's fine Political Prisoner Database. In a 2008 visit to
Beijing, Commissioner Christopher Smith and former Commissioner Frank
Wolf handed over a list of Chinese political prisoners to the former
Chinese foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing. This was the first time that
members of Congress had handed over a list of prisoners derived from
the CECC database. This database is an invaluable resource, expertly
developed and maintained by Commission staff members, and we are proud
to contribute information from our own database to this project on an
ongoing basis. We would like to recommend that the Com-mission
encourage members of Congress to make more frequent use of relatively
short, focused lists as a routine part of their interactions with
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to take this opportunity to
thank you for your leadership in this area and to pay tribute to the
longstanding and close working relationship The Dui Hua Foundation has
had with this commission over the past decade. I shall be happy to
answer any questions you or other commissioners may have.
Appendix: Selected Statistics on Political Crime in China, 1998-2009
Source: Data for 1998-2008 come from China Law Yearbook (1999-2009).
For estimates, see notes 1 and 2 below.
\1\ See The Dui Hua Foundation, ``Official Data Show State Security
Arrests, Prosecutions in China Exceeded1,000 in 2009,'' (12 March
\2\ The Dui Hua Foundation, ``Supreme People's Court `Work Report'
Indicates More Trials, Heavier Sentences for Endangering State Security
in 2009'' (20 July 2010):http://www.duihuahrjournal.org/2010/07/
\4\ Verna Yu, ``Liu's Sentence a Grim Warning to Dissidents,''
South China Morning Post (27 December 2009): A1.
\5\ According to statistics collected from the Xinjiang Yearbook,
ESS trials in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region typically accounted
for between one-half to two-thirds of the national total during the
early 2000s. See The Dui Hua Foundation, Statistics on Political Crime
in the People's Republic of China: Volume 3, Occasional Publications of
The Dui Hua Foundation 23 (December 2006): 23-24. Provincial data and
anecdotal evidence suggest that allegations of espionage may contribute
another large portion of China's state security cases, especially in
predominantly Han areas. See The Dui Hua Foundation, Reference
Materials on China's Criminal Justice System 5 (June 2010): iii, 13-17.
\6\ See, for example, documents related to the case of Yang Maodong
(Guo Feixiong), in The Dui Hua Foundation, Selected Decisions From
Chinese People's Courts, Occasional Publications of The Dui Hua
Foundation 26 (June 2008) or the case of Shi Weihan, in ChinaAid,
``Christian Shi Weihan Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Printing
and Giving Away Bibles'' (11 June 2009):http://www.chinaaid.org/qry/
\7\ See, for example, the case of Qi Chonghuai, in Committee to
Protect Journalists, ``Chinese Journalist Sentenced to Four Years'' (13
May 2008): http://cpj.org/2008/05/chinese-journalist-sentenced-to-four-
years.php; the case of Wu Lihong, in The Dui Hua Foundation, Selection
of Cases from the Criminal Law, Occasional Publications of The Dui Hua
Foundation 27 (September 2008): 16-18; and the case of Fan Yanqiong et
al., in Chinese Human Rights Defenders, ``Three Fujian Digital
Activists Convicted as Thousands Gather in Landmark Protest'' (16 April
\8\ See The Dui Hua Foundation (trans.), ``Notice Regarding
Printing and Distribution of `Implementation Measures for Assessment of
Education and Conversion of ``Falun Gong'' Prisoners,' '' Reference
Materials on China's Criminal Justice System 5 (June 2010): 44-48.
\9\ See The Dui Hua Foundation, ``Professors Yu Jianrong and Jiang
Ming'an Spar Over Future of Re-Education Through Labor'' (9 July 2010):
\10\ Charles Hutzler, ``Chinese Court Sentences US Geologist to 8
Years,'' Associated Press (5 July 2010); Jerome A. Cohen, ``Justice
Denied,'' South China Morning Post (21 July 2010).
\11\ See The Dui Hua Foundation, ``A Day in the Life of a Chinese
Defense Lawyer'' (9 July 2010):http://www.duihuahrjournal.org/2010/07/
day-in-life-of-chinese-defense-lawyer.html; Maggie Chen, ``Freedom of
Speech Defence Bound to Fail,'' South China Morning Post (7 June 2010):
A6; and The Dui Hua Foundation, ``Only in China: `Adjudication
Committees' Serve Judicial System,'' Dialogue 39 (Spring 2010): 6-7.
\12\ See The Dui Hua Foundation, ``Chan Yu-lam Sentence Reduction
Sheds Light on How Prisoners Are Rewarded for Good Behavior'' (8 August
\13\ See The Dui Hua Foundation, ``Systemic Sickness: Diagnosing
the Ills of Medical Parole in China,'' Dialogue 39 (Spring 2010): 1-3.
\14\ Charles Hutzler & Isolda Morillo, ``Crusading Chinese Lawyer
Gives Up Activism,'' Associated Press (7 April 2010); Paul Mooney,
``Beijing's Mafia Justice for Lawyer They Won't Lock Up but Can't Set
Free,'' South China Morning Post (13 June 2010): A12.
\15\ See China Digital Times, ``Yu Jianrong: Maintaining a Baseline
of Social Stability'' (6 March 2010):http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2010/
(first of a multi-part series of translations).
\16\ See Joshua Rosenzweig, ``China's Battle Over the Right to
Criticize,'' Far Eastern Economic Review (May 2009): 12-15.
\17\ Andrew Jacobs, ``A Rare Chinese Look at Secret Detentions,''
New York Times (27 November 2009): A10; Human Rights Watch, ``An
Alleyway in Hell'': China's Abusive Black Jails (12 November 2009); The
Dui Hua Foundation, ``Zhejiang Daily Compiles Morose Compendium of
`Unnatural Deaths' in Detention'' (25 June 2010): http://
The Dui Hua Foundation, ``Zhao Zuohai Case Provokes Responses on Legal
Protections from Chinese Public, Government'' (2 June 2010): http://
\18\ These rules have been translated by The Dui Hua Foundation:
Prepared Statement of Wan Yanhai
August 3, 2010
Senator Byron Dorgan, Commissioners:
I am Wan Yanhai, director of Beijing Aizhixing Institute. I have
been working on HIV/AIDS prevention and care for 20 years, since 1990.
Our organization, Beijing Aizhixing Institute, or Beijing Aizhi Action
Project, has been working on HIV/AIDS, human rights, and civil society
development for 16 years--since 1994.
In the summer of 1994, I had a meaningful conversation with a
psychiatrist in Beijing that influenced my philosophy about serving the
people. When mentioning being monitored by security agencies in China,
I said that I didn't care and I could still manage my work from jail.
The senior doctor said that if I am sacrificed, nobody benefits; and if
I am sacrificed, I will not be able to work. It is a loss. To continue
to carry out my work that is helpful to others, I need to protect
This philosophy has guided my approach to dealing with security
agencies in China. Through great effort and careful attention, I have
managed to keep working in China for the past 16 years.
In the past 16 years, I was briefly detained from August 24 to
September 20 in 2002; November 25 to 28 in 2006; and December 27 to 28
in 2007. I left China because of security concerns in January 1997,
October 2002 and May of this year. But most of the time, I have been
able to continue my work in China.
Why am I sitting here, and not in prison? I have to say that I
benefited from the following factors:
1. HIV/AIDS is a public health concern, which the Chinese
government also cares about.
2. I used to work at the government health education
institute, where I became known to the public and established
good working relationships or friendships with individuals in
3. Government officials who were friendly helped.
4. International media coverage also offered some support and
But I also carefully managed my own activities and took a sensitive
approach in the language I used surrounding my work. I don't know
whether these are reasons for my success or failure. But, I'd like to
share these with you.
1. Be transparent, don't hide.
2. Comport yourself as if you are being monitored all of the
time and be sensitive to all potential risks.
3. Use a professional approach and appropriate language.
4. Avoid personally offending police and keep good
communication with them.
5. When arguing with police, do so with regards to their
logic, not the basis of their order.
6. Be aware of friends and allies inside the government, and
7. Be critical not only of China but also of the United
States and other countries.
When I was detained by the Beijing State Security Bureau for
releasing a classified document, from August 24 to September 20 of
2002, and detained by the Beijing Public Security Bureau in November of
2006, the investigations were similar, focused on our funding sources,
relationships with human rights groups and media, and information
provided for foreigners. In 2006, the focus of investigation was on my
relationships with overseas foundations and human rights activists
inside China. As a nongovernmental organization (NGO) receiving foreign
donations, I was very careful when answering questions. I insisted that
I was serving the Chinese people and China, and we happened to receive
foreign donations. And we also applied for Chinese government funding,
although not much funding has been provided for us.
While in detention, I was careful in my use of language and tone,
and tried not to offend police. Sometimes we chatted. When they asked
questions, I seriously thought about my response and then answered. I
told police officers that I was serving the people--if my work became
too difficult and dangerous, I could give up. I cooperated with a
bottom line that I should not harm a third party.
In talks over tea and meetings in my office with security agents, I
was more open and frank, and questioned security departments or
government policy in general.
As a leader of an organization, we managed the organization in a
transparent and professional way and based on the law. We anticipated
that the Chinese government will come to investigate any day.
Our work, however, has been severely damaged by government threats.
Our conference on compensation for those infected with HIV/AIDS through
blood transfusions was cancelled in November 2006. Many other events
were also cancelled. Time was wasted. We psychologically felt bad. We
stopped working a month before the Beijing Olympics for two months. We
stopped working a month before the People's Republic of China's (PRC)
60-year celebration. We had to politically sensor ourselves, which
might damage our solidarity with other organizations and people.
I left China via Hong Kong on May 6 of this year after being
harassed by multiple government agencies. In the first six months of
2010, our organization received pressure and harassment from about 10
agencies, including public security, state security, the tax
department, the department of industry and commerce where we were
registered, propaganda department, the fire department, etc.
Senators, human rights advocacy and civil society groups are
developing rapidly in China. But human rights defenders and civil
society groups are under severe surveillance and recently under attack
by the Chinese government. How can the US government make a difference?
1. US AID programs can make a difference, but currently I
don't know whether the United States has a clear strategy to
support civil society groups and human rights defenders. Should
the United States have an evaluation of its current aid
programs in China from a human rights perspective?
2. Information and Internet freedom is crucial in empowering
people and protecting people. But if people are not well
organized, information itself can't work. The United States
should strengthen its work of supporting people in their
efforts to organize in ways that are based on democratic rules
3. The United States should guarantee that US-based
businesses will not be used to persecute human rights defenders
and civil society organizations. Companies involved in
information censorship and that provide privacy information to
the Chinese government should be punished in a democratic
Prepared Statement of Sophie Richardson
August 3, 2010
Human Rights Watch has written extensively over the past several
years about the Chinese government's persecution of scholars,
activists, lawyers, and others as a means of crushing dissent. We and
others have raised many well-known cases--Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng,
Chen Guangcheng, Rebiya Kadeer, the Panchen Lama, Huang Qi, and Tan
Zuoren--and the many problems therein, ranging from baseless charges
that clearly violate the Chinese Constitution to torture in custody and
denial of access to lawyers and family members.
Human Rights Watch continues to believe, as we have since December
2008, when Liu Xiaobo was arrested, that the government's actions
toward him reflected an overall political hardening in China. The
failure of the international community and the US government to respond
forcefully then contributed to the most severe sentence passed since
the introduction of the crime of ``inciting subversion'' in the PRC
criminal code in 1997. Nor is there any doubt that Secretary of State
Clinton's statement just two months after the sentencing, that human
rights should not ``interfere'' with other aspects of the US-China
relationship, was profoundly unhelpful. The string of harsh convictions
against dissenters that followed Liu's sentence should not come as a
Today Human Rights Watch wishes to highlight two individuals whose
cases have gotten less attention but whose treatment we believe
represents an alarming development: the extraordinarily harsh sentences
given recently to those who are not dissenters or critics, but who in
many ways embody the characteristics the government says it desires.
Karma Samdrup is one of the largest private collectors of Tibetan
antiques in China. He financed an environmental protection
organization, the Qinghai Three River Environmental Protection group,
after the Chinese government began a massive effort to protect the
environment of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Over the years, the group
has won several awards for its work, and he was praised in the state-
run press. However, Karma Samdrup was arrested in Chengdu, Sichuan
Province, in January 2010 on charges of robbing graves dating back to
1998. In late June 2010, Samdrup received a 15 year sentence.
Karma Samdrup's relatives and friends believe that the revival of
the decade-old charges stems from his efforts to gain the release of
his two brothers, who were arrested in August 2009, after the local
environmental protection group they had created had tried to bring
attention to various alleged environmental abuses by local officials,
including the hunting of protected species. His two brothers are also
in jail, one serving a 21-month reeducation through labor sentence, and
the other a five-year prison sentence, both for alleged state security
offenses. This is one of the most extreme cases of arbitrary
persecution that Human Rights Watch has witnessed in decades.
Gheyret Niyaz is a Uighur journalist and the editor of a popular
website called Uighurbiz. He was detained in October 2009 on charges of
``endangering state security,'' and on July 23, 2010, received a 15
year prison sentence. His ``crime'' appears to have been giving an
interview to the foreign media after the July 2009 ethnic violence in
Xinjiang, although in those discussions Niyaz cited economic inequality
and the role of outside instigators in the unrest.
Although over the years Human Rights Watch has observed seemingly
random persecution of individuals who appeared to pose no overt threat
to the Chinese government, the charges and lengthy sentences against
Samdrup and Niyaz should ring alarms.
These two cases suggest to us another twist in the nature of
political imprisonment: that one can embody the qualities the
government proclaims it wants--apolitical, entrepreneurial, involved
only in ``soft,'' state-approved causes--and still find oneself
arbitrarily deemed a threat to state security. Put more simply, if
these people are considered threats to the state, who does not fall
into that category? How are people to avoid such charges--should they
not be in business? Should they not support government-sanctioned
causes, or turn down prizes from the government?
We must also not forget the untold number of political prisoners
whose names we do not know--those arbitrarily detained in the wake of
the March 2008 protests across the Tibetan plateau and those similarly
held in ``black jails,'' secret and illegal detention facilities used
to remove petitioners and other ``undesirables'' from city streets. We
must make a particular effort not to forget those in Xinjiang who are
the victims of enforced disappearances following the ethnic violence in
that region in July 2009 and demand account for them. And we must not
forget individuals such as Liu Xiaobo, who committed the audacious
``crime'' of asking the Chinese government to uphold its own
Constitution and laws, or Chen Guangcheng, who tried to make the
government's own legal systems function.
All of these cases lead Human Rights Watch to the conclusion that
political imprisonment in China has reached new lows of arbitrariness,
and therefore no behavior is safe--your business success today might be
a liability tomorrow; your call to end unrest last year might land you
in hot water today; your approval from the government at any point is
no guarantee of a life free of persecution.
The United States should remain profoundly concerned about the
Chinese government's persecution--until peaceful dissent is tolerated,
the country cannot be expected to be predictably transparent or stable.
But in its vast relationship with China, the ever-more arbitrary nature
of political imprisonment should serve as a reminder that many of the
United States' other goals and interests--the rule of law, a
predictable trade regime, the development of civil society--are at risk
so long as those in China who share those views are considered
potential threats by their government.
We offer the following recommendations as ways of ameliorating
First, Secretary Clinton should make a strong, explicit statement
that the United States is concerned by the noticeably worsening human
rights environment in China.
Second, the United States government and its officials should
unambiguously reject the Chinese government's attempt to force the
United States to keep silent on Tibet and Xinjiang on the basis of the
Joint Declaration's recognition of China's ``core interests.''
Third, all senior Obama administration officials should commit to
raising at least one individual case in each meeting with their Chinese
counterparts, particularly given the administration's claims to taking
a ``whole of government'' approach to the promotion of human rights in
And, finally, President Obama should welcome in the White House
former political prisoners from China to give an unequivocal signal of
support to China's fledgling civil society.
Prepared Statement of Hon. Sander Levin, a U.S. Representative From
Michigan; Cochairman, Congressional-Executive Commission on China
August 3, 2010
We hold this hearing today in order to shine a spotlight on
political imprisonment in China. As this Commission has documented, for
the last several months, the Chinese government has engaged in an
increasingly harsh crackdown on lawyers and human rights defenders.
Political repression, political imprisonment, and the tightening of
controls over criminal defense attorneys, human rights lawyers, and the
legal profession in general has led some Chinese legal experts to
conclude that the rule of law in China today is in ``full retreat.''
To promote the rule of law in China, it is vital that we publicize
and seek the release of political prisoners--people detained or
imprisoned for peacefully exercising their human rights under China's
own Constitution and laws, or under China's international human rights
obligations. These rights include peaceful assembly, freedom of
religion, freedom of association, and freedom of expression--including
the freedom to advocate for peaceful social or political change, and to
criticize government policy or government officials.
China's political prisoners include some of the country's most
capable and socially committed citizens--scholar and writer Liu Xiaobo,
labor and democracy advocate Hu Mingjun, HIV/AIDS advocate Hu Jia,
attorney Gao Zhisheng, journalist Gheyret Niyaz, environmentalist Karma
Samdrub, and thousands of others. Lawyers, labor advocates, religious
adherents, advocates for ethnic minority rights, writers, scholars,
civil society leaders, and businesspeople are in prison for exposing
corruption, poor working conditions and environmental problems, for
posting online commentary critical of the government or Communist
Party, and for trying to organize without advocating violence. They
must be released. If the Chinese government would engage these public-
minded citizens instead of making them the targets of brutal
repression, then it would unleash constructive forces in Chinese
society that are poised to address the very social problems with which
the government and Party now find themselves overburdened, including
rampant corruption, occupational safety and health, environmental
degradation, and police abuse.
Last month, this Commission completed an enhancement of its online
Political Prisoner Database. The Commission's database provides a
unique and powerful resource for governments, NGOs, educational
institutions, and individuals who research political and religious
imprisonment in China, or who advocate on behalf of political
prisoners. The enhancement roughly doubled the types of information
available to the public, enabling individuals, organizations, and
governments better to report on political imprisonment in China and to
more effectively advocate on behalf of Chinese political prisoners--and
people around the world have been doing just that. The number of
``hits'' to the database from individual users, NGOs, academic
institutions and governments around the world has increased
Stability in China is in the national interest of the United
States. The Chinese government's full and firm commitment to openness,
transparency, the rule of law, and the protection of human rights,
including worker rights and civil and political rights, marks a
stability-preserving path forward for China. Anything less than the
Chinese government's full and firm commitment to protect and enforce
these rights undermines stability in China.
The United States and China's engagement on trade and other matters
has never been as extensive as it is today. The potential of this
engagement in the future to bring prosperity and stability depends on
China's applying its laws equally and fairly, in accordance with
international human rights norms. That will require an end to political
imprisonment. This hearing and the Commission's newly enhanced
Political Prisoner Database both will play a critical role in enabling
governments, NGOs, educational institutions, and the general public
around the world to monitor China's progress toward that end.
Submission for the Record
Representative Cases From the CECC Upgraded Political Prisoner Database