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Uyghur
13-01-05, 15:23
Reform in China smothered by corruption: Human Rights Watch

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Government promises of legal and political reform in China were undermined in 2004 by official corruption, media censorship and enduring restrictions on freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said.

In its annual survey of human rights around the world, the New York-based watchdog said China, despite its vaunted economic dynamism, remained a "highly repressive state," particularly in the regions of Tibet and Muslim-majority Xinjiang.

"Despite efforts to strengthen the rule of law in China, the legal system itself remains a major source of rights violations," the survey said, citing a lack of judicial independence, government interference and an over reliance on confessions that promotes torture.

On a more positive note, the survey said, China recently began to hold qualifying examinations for judges and signaled its intent to amend laws to better protect suspects in detention.

"However, administrative detention, a common practice in China, still occurs without judicial process," it added.

Last year marked the 15th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square crackdown, and Human Rights Watch noted that Beijing continued to forbid any commemoration of the event, with police harassing and detaining those dedicated to securing rehabilitation of victims and compensation.

China also stepped up controls last year over the burgeoning use of the Chinese-language Internet, expanding the list of topics subject to censorship and introducing more effective methods for enforcing compliance.

Despite those restrictions, however, the Internet managed to emerge as "a powerful tool for the sharing of information and mobilisation of social activism," the survey said.

China was rattled by rising social and ethnic unrest in 2004, with a series of incidents late in the year seeing mass protests and violent clashes, often as a result of labour unrest.

"Chinese workers have yet to reap the benefits of the country's rapid economic development," the survey said, citing the skirting of minimum wage requirements and the refusal of employers to implement health and safety measures.

On the issue of ethnic unrest, Human Rights Watch said China had used its support for the US-led war on terror to leverage support for, or acquiescence in, its crackdown on the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim population in Xinjiang.

While some Uighur groups press peacefully for genuine political autonomy and others resort to violence, the Chinese authorities do not distinguish between peaceful and violent dissent, the survey said, "or between separatism and international terrorism."

The crackdown in Xinjiang has been characterized by systematic human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, closed trials, and extensive use of the death penalty, it added.

Similar, "severely repressive measures" remained in force in Tibet, with strict limits on religious and cultural freedoms and widespread, arbitrary detentions.

While praising China's increasingly prominent international role, the survey said Beijing shared responsibility for the UN Security Council's failure to impose sanctions on Sudan for its complicity in violence in the Darfur region.