The U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report covers internationally-recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each year the U.S. Department of State submits reports on all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress in accordance with U.S. law.
This year’s Human Rights Report on the People’s Republic of China enumerated many human rights problems. These included extrajudicial killings, executions without due process and enforced disappearance. Some prisoners were held incommunicado, or illegally incarcerated at unofficial holding facilities known as “black jails,” at times for prolonged periods.
Prisoners were tortured to coerce confessions. Lawyers, journalists, writers, dissidents, petitioners, and others who sought to peacefully exercise their rights under the law were harassed and detained, and too frequently, the legal process was marked by a lack of due process: that is, the courts paid no heed to the defendants’ legal rights. The legal system was politicized, and at times, resorted to closed trials and administrative detentions.
The freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel were restricted, and the government failed to protect refugees and asylum seekers, even as it pressured other countries to forcibly return to China refugees and asylum seekers. Non-governmental organizations were restricted and under close scrutiny.
There was wide-spread discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities. China’s coercive birth-limitation policy in some cases resulted in forced abortion or forced sterilization. Independent unions were prohibited; there was no protection for workers’ right to strike, and forced labor, including prison labor, was exploited. Corruption remained wide-spread.
According to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in the preface of the 2012 Human Rights Reports, “It is in our interest to promote the universal rights of all persons. Governments that respect human rights are more peaceful and more prosperous. They are better neighbors, stronger allies, and better economic partners.
Governments that enforce safe workplaces, prohibit exploitative child and forced labor, and educate their citizens create a more level playing field and broader customer base for the global marketplace.
“The United States,” Mr. Kerry said, “stands with people and governments that aspire to freedom and democracy, mindful from our own experience that the work of building a more perfect union – a sustainable and durable democracy – will never be complete.”