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3/1/04 - CHINA HUMAN RIGHTS - 2004-03-03

China has released Tibetan Buddhist nun Phuntsog Nyidron from prison. This is good news. She had been held for nearly fifteen years and was one of China’s longest serving political prisoners.

Unfortunately, thousands of others remain in Chinese prisons for political or religious reasons. Some were convicted under a law on so-called “counter-revolutionaries” that was abolished in 1997. Others are in jail from the days of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989, or for democratic activism or protest since then.

Chinese authorities have made numerous new arrests in the past year. In November, He Depu was sentenced to eight years in prison for writing essays on the Internet and having ties to the China Democracy Party. As his wife, Jia Jianying, said, “This is the basic right of every citizen.”

China has arrested democracy activists, people using the Internet to advocate reforms, H-I-V/AIDS activists, protesting workers, lawyers defending dissidents, and others seeking to take advantage of the space created by earlier reforms. In addition, China’s harsh repression of the Falun Gong movement continues, and the government has tried to use the war on terrorism to justify its crackdown on Muslim Uighurs.

Other Chinese human rights violations include severe restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and travel. In some areas, religious services have been broken up and church leaders have been jailed. China’s coercive birth-control policy has led at times to forced abortions and forced sterilizations, especially in rural areas.

China’s human rights violations are a focus of U.S. diplomacy, says Lorne Craner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor:

“We are still talking to China, but we have, over the past year, not had much progress in our own dialogue. And that has come against a backdrop of continued arrests."

That is why, says Mr. Craner, the U.S. is considering sponsoring a resolution on China at the United Nations Human Rights Commission this month in Geneva.