U.S. State Department 2015 Human Rights Report: Repression and Coercion Markedly Increased in China

The U.S. State Department released on April 13, 2016, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015. The report on China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) stated, “Repression and coercion markedly increased during the year against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest and ethnic minority issues. The crackdown on the legal community was particularly severe,” including human right attorneys. Groups including Falun Gong continued to suffer torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Regarding organ harvesting, the report pointed out, “International medical professionals and human rights advocates, however, questioned the voluntary nature of the system, which allows donations from prisoners on death row.”

The Secretary of State said during his remarks, “These are universal standards of human rights that have been adopted and accepted and are agreed to by most nations in the world, and even some nations that have agreed to them but violate them. These are the international standards… The United States is opposed to the use of torture in any form at any time by any government or non-state actor.”

Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski said during his special briefing, “Now, these reports contain a lot of unhappy stories from many countries. And they come at a time when it seems that authoritarian governments, beginning with influential powers like Russia and China, are striking out with particular ferocity against the freedoms of expression, association, and the press… In China, given all of the hardships that people working for better governance there now face, we think it is especially important to stand by the lawyers being imprisoned for doing their jobs, by the religious minorities persecuted for their faith, the activists and journalists being abducted—in some cases from other countries—for speaking out.”

Severe Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers

The report states, “Starting in July, authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on the legal community, detaining more than 300 lawyers and law associates on charges ranging from ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ to ‘inciting subversion of state power.’ Many of them were held for months under ‘residential surveillance at an undisclosed location,’ without access to attorneys or to their family members, in violation of criminal procedure laws.” These “disappeared lawyers” included Wang Yu, Li Heping, Xie Yanyi, Zhang Kai, and others. Wang and Li are still in custody.

“Human rights lawyers reported that authorities did not permit them to defend certain clients, or threatened them with punishment if they chose to do so. The government suspended or revoked the licenses of lawyers or their firms to stop them from taking sensitive cases, such as defending prodemocracy dissidents, house-church activists, Falun Gong practitioners, or government critics. Some lawyers declined to represent defendants in politically sensitive cases, and such defendants frequently found it difficult to find an attorney.”

Continued Repression of Falun Gong

The following are some excerpts regarding Falun Gong,

“Authorities used administrative detention to intimidate political and religious activists and to prevent public demonstrations. Forms of administrative detention included ‘custody and education’ (for women engaged in prostitution and those soliciting prostitution), ‘custody and training’ (for minor criminal offenders), and ‘legal education’ centers for political and religious activists, particularly Falun Gong practitioners.”

“Family members of activists, dissidents, Falun Gong practitioners, journalists, unregistered religious figures, and former political prisoners were targeted for arbitrary arrest, detention, and harassment.”

“The government continued to refuse re-entry to numerous citizens considered dissidents, Falun Gong activists, or ‘troublemakers.’”

“The government also automatically censored e-mail and web chats based on a list of sensitive key words, such as ‘Falun Gong,’…”

“International medical professionals and human rights advocates, however, questioned the voluntary nature of the system, which allows donations from prisoners on death row.”

Chinese version available