Two-thousand six saw the continuation of a number of disturbing human rights trends in China. At the same time, the year saw increasingly sophisticated and well-publicized efforts by a small, loosely-organized group of lawyers, legal academics, right activists and journalists, whose aim is to pursue social justice and constitutional rights through litigation. These individuals have sought to work within China's legal system to protect the rights of their fellow citizens, many of whom have been victims of official corruption.
The Chinese government's reaction to this "rights protection" movement has been disappointing. Human rights activists, internet writers, journalists and academics continue to be subject to detention, house arrest, arrest and criminal conviction, often on questionable grounds. The threat of harassment, loss of jobs, and reprisals against family members served to intimidate many who would otherwise seek to air their grievances or work to safeguard their fellow citizens' rights.
One of the best know cases is that of Chen Guangcheng -- a blind legal activist who documented abuses of China’s birth limitation policies. He was sentenced in August 2006 to more than four years in prison on questionable charges of obstructing traffic and destroying public property. An appeals court ordered a retrial, but Mr. Chen's original verdict was simply re-imposed by the same court that originally convicted him. Proceedings throughout his trial, retrial and appeal were marred by serious violations of due process, including physical attacks on Mr. Chen's wife, and the alleged use of coerced testimony.
The United States has raised its concerns about Mr. Chen's case, as well as others who have been targeted for their peaceful activities in support of their and others' rights. U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey says that the U.S. is urging the Chinese government -- as the U.S. urges others -- "to respect the rights of their citizens to advocate peacefully for the rights of their fellow citizens. No one," says Mr. Casey, "should suffer for simply expressing their views, for raising concerns about government policies, and for advocating for the redress of grievances."