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Yolvas
16-12-04, 22:04
Muslim religious leaders unjustly suppressed in war on terror


Michael Kozak, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.


Serious human rights abuses continue in China, and government authorities have unjustly suppressed Muslim religious leaders in the name of the war against terrorism, according to Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary for the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Kozak discussed China's human rights record during a December 14 hearing before the House International Relations Committee.

"In 2004, serious human rights abuses continued in China, including torture, and mistreatment of prisoners, incommunicado detention, and denial of due process," Kozak said. "Authorities remained quick to suppress religious, political or social groups that they perceived as threatening to government authority or national stability."

The Chinese government has used the international war on terror as a justification for cracking down on Uighur Muslims who "peacefully expressed dissent" and on independent Muslim religious leaders, Kozak testified.

A crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners has also continued, he added, along with violence against women in the form of coercive birth limitation policies, including forced abortions and sterilizations.

Continued detentions and arrests of individuals discussing sensitive subjects on the Internet, health activists, labor protestors, defense lawyers, journalists, Catholics loyal to the Vatican and Protestant house church members are "a very discouraging development," Kozak said.

He described the case of Mao Hengfeng, a civic activist who violated China's one-child policy and who pursued justice on various housing and pension issues. Since 1989, Kozak told the committee, Mao has suffered numerous detentions and undergone physical abuse in punishment for her activities. She is currently being detained along with fellow activists Zhang Cuiping, Liu Hualin and other inmates who are described as "politicals," he said.

Mao's involuntary confinements in psychiatric hospitals are "a shocking example of the abuse of psychiatric facilities in China," Kozak said. He noted that the nongovernmental organization "Human Rights in China" has reported that official statistics show a relatively high proportion of so-called "political" cases among psychiatric hospital patients in China.

Kozak stressed that the United States remains committed to human rights in China and is supporting activities in China to reform the judicial system, improve public participation, and strengthen civil society; it spent $13.5 million for these programs in fiscal year 2004.

In addition, he said, the Bush Administration has pressed China to honor its international commitments and its own constitution in respecting religious freedom.

"[W]e will continue to call for China to make the right choices and to understand clearly that issues affecting the dignity of every woman and man will not go away," Kozak said. "As long as we continue to have concerns about human rights, worker rights and religious freedom, and as long as China is unable or unwilling to address them, we will not realize the full potential of the U.S.-China relationship."

Following is the text of Kozak's opening remarks, as prepared for delivery:





Testimony of Acting Assistant Secretary Michael G. Kozak
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Before the
House International Relations Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
December 14, 2004

Chairman Smith and Members of the Committee, thank you for holding this full Committee hearing on China's one-child policy and human rights abuses. We appreciate your making time this late in the Congressional session to look at this important subject. I am pleased to testify here today with Assistant Secretary Gene Dewey and Joe Donovan, Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs and Acting EAP DAS. Assistant Secretary Dewey, as head of the Bureau for Refugees, Population and Migration, has responsibility within the State Department on population issues and his testimony will provide details on China's birth control policy. In my testimony I will provide you with an update of the overall human rights situation and the case of Mao Hengfeng. In 2004, serious human rights abuses continued in China, including torture, and mistreatment of prisoners, incommunicado detention, and denial of due process. Authorities remained quick to suppress religious, political or social groups that they perceived as threatening to government authority or national stability, often detaining those seeking to exercise their fundamental freedoms on state secret charges.

The Government also used the international war on terror as a justification for cracking down on Uighur Muslims, who peacefully expressed dissent, and on independent Muslim religious leaders. Tight restrictions on freedom of speech and the press continued and the Government increased its efforts to monitor and control use of the Internet. The Government also severely restricted freedom of assembly and association and increased the repression of members of unregistered religious groups in some parts of the country. The crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners continued. And violence against women, including the imposition of a coercive birth limitation policy that resulted in instances of forced abortion and forced sterilization, continued to be a problem.

The Chinese Government did take some steps to address a number of these abuses, issuing new regulations or reforms related to the interrogation of detainees, fighting corruption, extending social security, providing legal aid, and passing a law prohibiting discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. However, it remains unclear to what extent these reforms will be implemented and the impact they will have on the lives of average Chinese citizens. We will, of course, continue to press for implementation. It is not enough for reforms to be on the books.

And, in a very discouraging development, we continue to see detentions and arrests of those seeking to take advantage of the space created by reforms, including arrests of individuals discussing sensitive subjects on the Internet, health activists, labor protestors, defense lawyers, journalists, Catholics loyal to the Vatican, and Protestant house church members. During the past year, the authorities also harassed and abused many who raised public grievances, including petitioners to the central government, and there were large numbers of detentions of individuals protesting forced evictions and workplace and health issues.

Mao Hengfeng, about whom the committee has expressed deep concern, is just such an activist. In addition to actively pursuing her own claims on a variety of housing and pension issues, she has tenaciously fought on behalf of other civic activists and the lawyers who seek to defend them in court.

She has paid a heavy price.

The Department has provided your committee staff with a detailed summary of her activities, detentions, and involuntary incarcerations in psychiatric hospitals. Today, I would like to briefly discuss the most relevant parts of her case history because they highlight four particularly serious abuses of the Chinese system: its coercive family planning policies; the abuse of administrative detention, particularly the continued use of "Re-education Through Labor"; the forced incarceration of citizens in psychiatric hospitals, and the use of torture to get detainees to confess to crimes or recant their beliefs.

In 1987, Ms. Mao gave birth to twins and asked her work unit to provide additional housing for her growing family and mother. The work unit refused to provide housing for her mother, and the dispute continued until 1989, when Mao became pregnant with her third child. At that time, Mao's work unit denied her revised claim for housing on the grounds that she was in violation of China's one-child policy. In likely retaliation for Mao's subsequent hunger strike and protests at the offices of her work unit, her work unit had Mao confined to a psychiatric facility in February 1989. During her six-day incarceration she reported that she was treated with drugs for three days in dosages she says were sufficient to affect her and her unborn child. Fortunately, she carried the child to term.

Upon her return to her office, Mao attempted to seek compensation for her mistreatment. In March 1989, she was dismissed from her job on the grounds that she "had missed too many days of work." She initiated and won a suit for wrongful dismissal, but it was overturned on appeal. During her legal battle, she became pregnant again, and, according to Ms. Mao, the presiding judge told her that if she terminated her pregnancy he would rule in her favor. Although she reluctantly did so in October 1990, the court nonetheless rejected her appeal.

In response, Mao led another protest at the court, which resulted in yet another involuntary confinement in a psychiatric facility, ordered by the court. She reported that she was suspended upside down and beaten during the month she was held, until her husband secured her release.

Ms. Mao continued to appeal her case on compensation for housing and her dismissal from her job but the courts rejected her suits several times between 1991 and 2002. She sent legal papers to the Supreme People's Court on December 11, 2002, but to date has not received a response.

In early 2004, Ms. Mao joined thousands of other petitioners from Shanghai and Beijing to bring her suits and those of others to the attention of central government authorities and delegates who were attending the National People's Congress in Beijing. In April, upon her return to Shanghai, she was detained and given an 18-month sentence in a Re-education of Labor camp, purportedly for "disturbing the peace" and scratching and tearing the uniforms of court personnel during her earlier protests in May and October 2003.

Mao is currently being detained along with fellow activists Zhang Cuiping, Liu Hualin, and other inmates who are described as "politicals." Since her incarceration, Mao has refused to be intimidated and has responded to demands that she write a letter of contrition by defiantly writing "Down with Re-education Through Labor." According to her relatives, with whom our Consulate in Shanghai has kept in close touch, she is denied her right to contact her family, held with drug addicts who are allowed to abuse her, and has been strapped down to her bed for hours at time. On one occasion she had her limbs pulled in different directions for a period of two days. Most recently, family members have reported that she is being force-fed an unidentified medicine, which turns her mouth black.

Mao's case is an example of what can and does go wrong in China.

Her experiences illustrate how China's birth policies can be used by government officials as a powerful form of punishment and coercion. Even though Ms. Mao managed to elude the system and have three children, her violation of the birth policy was used against her in her housing suit. And the judge in her wrongful dismissal suit apparently used assurances that he would rule in her favor if she terminated her pregnancy to apply heavy pressure on her to have an abortion in 1990.

Her 18-month sentence in a Re-education Through Labor camp also is illustrative of the serious abuses in China's arbitrary administrative detention system, where Chinese citizens are "sentenced" to up to three years in prison-like facilities or institutions with no judicial oversight, often for peaceful political or religious activities. Allegations of mistreatment and torture in these facilities are all too common.

Unfortunately, China has found its extensive administrative justice system a convenient mechanism with which to control dissidents and activists. The figures of the number of people incarcerated in Re-education Through Labor bear this out. In the early 1990s, 150,000 persons were in Re-education Through Labor camps. In the period 2001-2003 the number was 310,000. And according to some estimates, over 100,000 Falun Gong practitioners are serving RTL sentences.

Ms. Mao's involuntary confinements in psychiatric hospitals are a shocking example of the abuse of psychiatric facilities in China. Several years ago, the highly respected NGO, Human Rights in China, reported that official statistics showed a relatively high proportion of so-called political cases among psychiatric hospital patients. The report described several main categories of political and religious nonconformists who were often labeled "political maniacs" for being whistleblowers, persistent complainants and petitioners, and adherents of unconventional religious sects. To date, there are 20 angkang (Peace and Health) institutions for the criminally insane in China that are administered by the Ministry of Public Security. The Department has received reports of "patients" in these hospitals being given medicine against their will and forcibly subjected to electric shock treatment.

Finally, Ms. Mao's case is an example of the mistreatment and torture that is such a prevalent problem in China's prisons, detention centers and Re-education Through Labor camps.

But most of all, Ms. Mao is an example of the courage and determination of ordinary Chinese in their quest for justice, fundamental rights and a government that respects the rights and dignity of its people.

Today, China is vastly more confident, vastly more influential, and vastly more prosperous than it was when Ms. Mao began her struggle. But it is not vastly more free.

We are committed to standing with those people in China who, like Ms. Mao who are struggling for their human rights.

And we remain committed to working with China until the time when it brings its human rights practices into compliance with international human rights standards.

The depth of these commitments is well-reflected in the State Department's May 17 report to Congress on "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004."

Let me briefly summarize what the Administration has done over the past year:

-- President Bush has raised human rights in each one of his meetings with the Chinese President.

-- Secretary Powell has similarly made human rights a key part of his agenda during his conversations with Chinese officials.

-- U.S. officials -- in Washington, throughout China, in Geneva and elsewhere -- consistently highlight, publicly and privately, the need for improvements in human rights conditions. We call for the release of prisoners of conscience, and we vigorously protest detentions of those, like Mao Hengfeng, who seek to take advantage of the growing space in Chinese society.

-- In late November, Elizabeth Dugan, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in my Bureau, traveled to China and discussed the resumption of a working level dialogue with China, which the Chinese had suspended after we sponsored a resolution in Geneva last spring. We are hopeful that China will take steps that will lead to resumption of our formal Human Rights Dialogue, and that that dialogue will yield real progress. Regrettably, in 2002 and early 2003, the Chinese failed to move forward with their commitments, including those relating to visits by the U.N. Special Rapporteurs for Torture and Religious Intolerance, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Invitations have been issued, but only the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has visited.

-- We have pressed China to honor its international commitments and its own constitution in respecting religious freedom and again designated China as a country of particular concern for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

-- We are supporting activities in China to reform the judicial system, improve public participation, and strengthen civil society. In FY 2004, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is spending $13.5 million to support these programs. In 2003, we funded 13 projects, including training for criminal defense and labor lawyers, educating workers about Chinese labor law, and strengthening public hearings. The U.S. Embassy also awards small grants to members of China's NGO movement in support of democratic values. This coming year, we will fund capacity-building projects for NGOs in Shanghai, social security rights for the rural aged, labor rights protection for migrant workers and NGO-mediated public participation in environmental governance, to name just a few. We are also promoting China's compliance with international labor standards.

These are wide-ranging strategies, programs and commitments and they grow out of our conviction, as President Bush said in a speech earlier this year to the National Endowment for Democracy, that the calling of our country is to advance freedom, our duty is to support the allies of freedom and liberty everywhere, and our obligation is to help others create the kind of society that protects the rights of the individual.

Again, we will continue to call for China to make the right choices and to understand clearly that issues affecting the dignity of every woman and man will not go away. As long as we continue to have concerns about human rights, worker rights and religious freedom, and as long as China is unable or unwilling to address them, we will not realize the full potential of the U.S.-China relationship.

Thank you for your continued commitment to human rights. And thank you for convening this hearing to call attention to China's human rights record and those in China, like Mao Hengfeng, who so courageously struggle for justice and the rule of law despite the enormity of the consequences.

Thank you very much. I look forward to your comments and questions.




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Keep moving
16-12-04, 22:13
A good thing!