The U.S. State Department has released its latest human rights reports. In the words of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Barry Lowenkron, "As the worldwide push for greater personal and political freedom grows stronger, it is being met with increasing resistance from those who feel threatened by change."
A disturbing number of countries passed or selectively applied laws and regulations against non-governmental organizations and the media. China, said Mr. Lowenkron, is a case in point.
According to the human rights report, journalists in China are consistently harassed, detained, arrested, and imprisoned for reporting unfavorably on the government. In August 2006, a Beijing court sentenced reporter Ching Cheong of the Singapore Straits Times to five years in prison for alleged espionage. He had reportedly been working on a story about a former Chinese government leader.
In a further attempt to control the flow of information, the Chinese government continues its efforts to restrict internet access and content. Authorities consistently block access to sites they deems controversial, such as those discussing Taiwan and Tibetan independence, underground religious and spiritual organizations, democracy activists, and the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
The report says freedom of religion continues to be seriously circumscribed in China, particularly for members of religious organizations and spiritual groups not sanctioned by the state. But despite continuing tight enforcement of regulations implemented in 2005, the numbers of religious practitioners, both in official and unofficial organizations, continued to grow.
Another longstanding human rights abuse in China is coercive family planning. The penalties for violating the law leave some women little choice but to seek abortions. There continue to be credible reports of forced sterilizations and abortions, even though such practices violate China's own laws and regulations.
The United States is committed to standing with the courageous men and women in China who are struggling for their rights. The U.S. is committed to calling every government to account that treats the basic rights of its citizens as options rather than, as President George W. Bush put it, "the non-negotiable demands of human dignity."