View Full Version : A Response to the China's 'White Paper' on Human Rights (I)

03-05-05, 14:15
In Paper, In Practice

TYC [Sunday, May 01, 2005 15:58]

A response to the China's 'White Paper' on Human Rights


The release of the two successive ‘White Papers' by the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China (PRC) this April vindicates the truth of the maxim, “ It entails a thousand lies to conceal a lie”. Chinese Communist Party(CCP), in its 56 oppressive years of rule, has in a customary drive to delude the world, released over a forty-three ‘White Papers', a record by any regime in this modern times. The recent heightened spree to churn out series of ‘white papers' is yet another desperate bid to enhance its global credibility. But the leaders of China had utterly failed to realize the wisdom that the very necessity to substantiate, and justify persistently, reveals a gross underlying faux pas.

The White Paper of the 13 th April entitled, “China's Progress in Human Rights in 2004” begin with the wild and fictitious assertion of the year 2004 being “ an important year for China in building a well-off society in an all-round way…that saw progress in human rights undertakings…. And...realize the goal of establishing a government under the rule of law after making sustained efforts .”

Despite these proclamations, China remains indicted for a sheer lack of freedom, human rights and rule of law in every human rights reports the world over, primarily by UNCHR, US States Departments, Parliaments of European Union, Australia, Italy, Canada and Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Laogai Research Foundation, Tibet Information Network, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, National Labour Committee, Independent Tibet Network, China Rights Forum, Uygyur Information Agency, Cardinal Kung Foundation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Falun Dafa Information Centre, Free Church for China, China Aid Association and innumerable media, scholars and NGOs. The reports unanimously criticized China as “a highly repressive state” where the government routinely violates basic freedoms. These reports and the testimonies of the people coming into exile etc speak in stark contrast to the China 's White Paper sham; that of sad ground realities in practice conflicting those in paper.

The White Paper unequivocally claims that China is a modern State with democracy, freedom and rule of law in practice, guaranteeing prosperity and peace to the Chinese people. And to buttress this argument, the “White Paper”, as always, rattles off an impressive list of statistics. But these are mostly fudged with sparse grounding. The authenticities of the Chinese official figures are, invariably, questionable, as they are routinely fudged to bolster China as an attractive proposition for investors. Even former Premier Zhu Rongji once admitted the unreliability of Chinese Government statistics. Zhu said, “The statistics are manipulated by the local authorities for their own self interest”. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), also, undertake similar statistical manipulation with greater aplomb.

1. Democracy or Pseudo Democracy in China ?

The White paper's effort to project a pseudo democracy in China with the statement of, “ promoting democracy in political affairs and… exercising its democratic rights ” , is in contradiction with former President Jiang Zemin's speech in December 1998, where he made a categorical declaration to the entire nation that China would never tread the path of democracy. Likewise, President Hu Jintao, in a nationally televised address on 16th September 2004 also expressed his reluctance to embrace Western-style multiparty democracy by saying, "History indicates that indiscriminately copying Western political systems is a blind alley for China," He further pointed out the failure of "China's bourgeois republic system" under Sun Yat Sen's some 60 years ago as proof that China is not suited to democracy. Even the popular author, Steven W Mosher argued that the western beliefs that China is headed for Democratic change are based on wishful thinking. China is not only the world's most populous nation, but also one that is avowedly hostile to democracy in general.

On April 26, 2004, Beijing came out openly and declared the barring of the popular elections for Hong Kong 's chief executive in 2007, and ruled out any expanded use of democratic voting for the legislature in 2008. Experts believe that one of the objectives of adoption of the anti-secession law early this year is a clear attempt to nib the bud of people's aspirations for more freedom and democracy in Hong Kong , China and Taiwan .

Nonetheless, to justify itself of a prevalent democratic practice in China , The ‘White Paper' cited, “ The National People's Congress (NPC) and the local people's congresses at various levels are the organs through which the people exercise state powe r.” But in reality, the NPC enacts a drama of democracy, which doesn't enjoy any real authority over the policy directions, law etc. that it approves. The people's congresses are not subject to any liability to the people and are not answerable to the people for its decisions, which otherwise forms the true essence of democratic representations.

The much-vaunted People's Congress is clearly a constitutional farce and matters the least when it comes to the actual formulation of state policies and enactment of laws. Any degree of representation in such congresses along with holding of nominal posts in its standing committees is more of a necessity of constitutional fiction than true democratic representation.

China has not met even the minimum of requirements to qualify for acceptance as a democratic country. Jasper Becker points out, “ China is now one of the last countries in the world without a functioning parliament. The National People's Congress does exist but it has no building of its own, no permanent staff or offices, and it assemble for just ten days a year. During the rest of the year only members of the Standing Committee; which is made up of senior Party officials, meet. Even the uncomplimentary label of debating society usually attached to toothless assemblies or powerless political organizations cannot be applied to China 's Congress, as no debates of any kind are tolerated from the members of that body. A western correspondent at the party Congress reported that the discussions sounded like recitations and the main speech of the president was notable mostly for its vagueness”.

At the National People's Congress, which meets annually, to review and approve major new policy directions, laws, the budget, and major personnel changes- the State Council presents the initiatives for consideration only after previous endorsement by the Communist Party's Central Committee.

According to a report Titled, "The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Regime 2005, released during the 61 st Session of UN Commission on Human Rights at Geneva, the US based NGO, Freedom House, severely criticized China stating, “China remains a highly authoritarian state under the complete control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Chinese Government's pledge to uphold the rule of law has been regularly compromised by continuing widespread official corruption, Party interference in the justice system, and a culture of impunity for officials and their families. Authorities continue to censor news media. Civil society is also constrained and almost entire NGOs are government-controlled. China prohibits independent domestic human rights organizations and bars entry to international human rights organizations. Chinese citizens who contact international rights groups risk imprisonment. Chinese citizens cannot change their government democratically or express their opposition to its policies”.

The CCP holds all political power, and party members hold almost all top national and local governmental, police, and military posts. Direct elections of officials above the village level is expressly forbidden. The parliament-the National People's Congress (NPC)-elects the top officials, but the NPC itself is controlled by the CCP. There is one opposition party, the China Democratic Party, but the government suppresses its activities and it exists, for all practical purposes, in theory only. The only competitive elections in China are for village committees, which are not in any case considered government bodies, and even these are tightly controlled by the CCP.

China 's communist rulers in Beijing wield absolute power, and few people dare defy their edicts openly. But the edict from on high are as likely to be honored in breach as in compliance, with local governments reporting upwards that they have dutifully fulfilled the ambitious targets. To make these lies stick, they do everything in their power to prevent citizens from bypassing the bureaucratic ladder and asking Beijing for help.

2 . Economic Boom or Doom ?

Today, China vigorously flaunts its international market avenues to assert its presence in the international arena. Experts say, “In the history of commerce, there has been no greater hype than that generated by the China trade”. The white Paper thus categorically trumpets the success of the China 's economy stating, “ China 's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 13,650 billion Yuan, an increase of 9.5 percent over the previous year. The people's overall living standard and quality of life were improved considerably, and the consumption pattern of the society continued its shift from one of basic living to one of modern living ”. Yet the studies conducted by numerous experts reveal a grim truth of a dooming China . Beneath the veil of the rapid growth of the Chinese economy lies the question of whether or not it entails underlying dooming factors. While high economic growth is an aspect that many countries seek, it cannot be the sole aim of a nation's economy

Index estimated in June 2002 that China 's non-performing loans exceed 50% of its total bank loans. It would take China 20 years before the non-performing loan rate would be brought down to a “manageable” 5%. And that alone would cast $ 518 billion.

Moody's also released a credit rating report entitled, “ China 's Banking System: Tight Rope Walk”, stating that China 's banking system has become technically bankrupt. Some Western scholars (such Nicholas Lardy at Brookings Institution) say that China 's financial crisis is only short by one “trigger” to be set off. Far East Economic Review published “On the Road to Ruin” (Lague 2002), which talks about China 's banking problems. Not long ago, Ma Guonan, the economist from HK International Clearance Bank, said that if the Chinese government still does not solve the fundamental problems of the non-performing loans of its state banks, it is impossible for China 's economy to continue with its current growth. Studwell (2002) and Gordon Chang (2001) have both sent this kind of warning message before. The only question remains: When the disaster occurs, how serious will it be, and who will pay what is due?

“India will pip China in economic marathon” by Saubhik Chakrabarti, in Hindustan Times, 8 April, this year, analysing Sino-Indo eco-structure finds, “despite China's great leap forward in economic development which is fuelled by unrealistic and uneconomical investment of over 40% of its GDP, India's efficient capital management, firm banking system and strong and thriving private sectors will in the long run pip China”.

Mr Saubhik predicts,“ China 's invest around 40% of its GDP and it takes in more than $40 billion in foreign direct investment(FDI) every year. India invest around a quarter ofits GDP and its average annual FDI inflow is less than $4 billion. That means while China has grown much faster, it has, proportionately, used much more capital than India . If this trend continues, it advantage India in the long run. Golman Sachs says by 2020, India could outstrip China 's rate of growth. China can't bank on its banks. The ratio of non-performing assets(NPAs) to total assets- a measure of bad loans- of India's was 4% in 2002-2003 and 3.3% in 2003-2004, whereas in China non-performing loans as a proportion of total loans was 28% in 2002 and 13.2% in 2004. Considering the deficit in its social insurance and pension fund, the internal and external debt of the Chinese government would exceed its GDP of about $1,100 billion. The problem in China 's banking system is far more serious than that in Japan . The non-performing loans in Japan 's banks only account for 10% of its GDP, while for China it is 43%.

“ China 's growth, while spectacular, is being fuelled by a loan binge that could well produce a Himalayan hangover. India 's financial system, compared to China 's, is ultra safe. Its recent data indicates that private-owned registered businesses in China may finally be outnumbering state-owned enterprises (SOE's). But most private businesses are small where the average employee strength is less than 15 and average capital less than $ 150,000. India, by comparison, has a thriving private sector with a large number of super-sized, internationally competitive firms” he added.

In the Far Eastern Economic Review survey of Asian entrepreneurship conducted two years back, India ranked first with Infosys ranked first as the best firm. Ten Indian companies made it to the top, compared to only two from Mainland China. So, internal resources account for almost 60 % of China's private firms' investment. The figure for Indian firms is less than 30%. A study in 2000 by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences observed that in China “private and individual enterprises are discriminated against in numerous policies and regulations. The legal, policy, and market environment is unfair and inconsistent”. Chinese government exercises tight control over media, foreign exchange and foreign banks. Since there is no freedom of the press, Chinese people blindly believe in the words of the government that their savings in the banks are safe. Due to the foreign exchange control, everyday people cannot exchange RMB easily. Now that China has joined the WTO, it still has not let go of its strict constraint of RMB operation by foreign banks. Consequently, Chinese people have no other choice but to deposit their money in state banks.

When calculating average income, the Statistic Bureau of China did not include reports from the local provinces. In 2001, with the exception of the Yunnan province, all the local provinces reported growth rates higher than that of the national average. Upon further investigation, the Bureau of Statistics found 62,000 false reports between the months of May and October (Rawski 2002).

In addition, there are also others who question China's growth rate. These include: Lawrence Klein, winner of the Nobel economics prize, Lester Thurow of MIT, Lehman Brother of the Economists Magazine, the Moody credit agency, etc. (GaoShang 2002). Lester Thurow has pointed out that 80% of China consists of rural areas that have virtually no growth. Since cities only occupy 20% of the country, the urban areas must grow substantially in order to achieve national growth of 7%. Keep in mind, that in 2001 Hong Kong and the Chinese financial center experienced virtually no growth. How could other cities experience such a fast growth rate? Arthur Waldron reminds us that, Zhu Rongji once stated in public, “If the government had not initiated a large amount of capitol borrowing, the Chinese economy would have already collapsed in 1998.” Therefore is it possible to reach a 10% growth rate based upon government borrowing? According to Rawski's estimate, during the years of 1998 and 1999, China's growth rate fell between 2% and –2%, 2-3% in the year 2000, and 3-4% in 2001. The estimates from other economic officials vary insignificantly. Governmental officials and scholars of China have tried to provide an explanation on this issue, but it is difficult to discern the validity of their responses.

Foreign experts are not the only presently who question the economic growth. China's own, native experts also are puzzled by this phenomenon. Punai Dong, Vice Director of the Economic Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference, has mentioned eight major conflicts of the Chinese economy: (1) the economy is growing at a fast speed, but the price of the commodities continues drop and the unemployment rate is constantly rising; (2) housing prices still hold an upward trend, causing the gap between the rich urban areas and poor rural areas to enlarge; (3) Bank deposits increases, but some corporations are short on capital; (4) governmental officials still receive a raise in their salaries, while the deficit is respectively on the rise especially in some local areas. (5) Since September of 2001, the overall deficit trend continues to be strong; (6) as the coastal cities boom, a severing gap in growth of many in-land cities is developing; (7) Natural resources are progressively becoming short in supply and waste disposal is becoming a heavily impending issue; and (8) environmental pollution continues to increase.

E xpressways, skyscrapers, shopping malls and flashing lights and designer labels, new China's charms are endless. But these glitz and glamour cannot dazzle the world for long, when one finds the real China ridden with endless crisis and a gross discontentment of the people against the Government. China continues to be a nation ridden with numerous problems including human rights violation, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, high living cost, starvation, public dissent and social instability and many more. Other pressing problems include corruption, which affects every level of society, and the growing rate of HIV infection. A downside of the economic boom has been environmental degradation; China is home to many of the world's most-polluted cities.

The booming economy is not all that blooming. Over 70% of the foreign investments in China are by the nonresident Chinese from Taiwan, Hong Kong, United States and Europe. World Bank estimates over 150 million Chinese living in the abject poverty and recently it warned that the situation would soon become unmanageable with catastrophic consequences for future generations. World Bank further says three-fourth of China's rivers are polluted and more than 700 million people drink contaminated water. The Chinese government too stated that by 2030, the water supply is expected to fall below 1,700 cubic meters per person, which is dangerously low. The Government estimates that 400 of china's 668 cities are dealing with water shortages.

According to economic pundits, China's export success is not the result of indigenous creativity and manufacturing excellence, but essentially the result of the heartless exploitation of a desperate, disenfranchised and near-enslaved labor force by a cynical government and piratical international corporations. Even if China's blazing GDP growth of 9.4% this year moderates to 8% in 2005, as the Chinese Academy of Social Science predicts…. China is unable to meet its energy needs solely through domestic production. “ China has been singularly unsuccessful in its oversee ventures. They are trying to learn in a decade what it has taken big foreign companies a century to master” says Jim Brock, a Beijing based Energy Consultant.

3. Development or Destruction?

The industrial developments haven't come with a small price. A senior Chinese official; a deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration, Mr Pan Yue, told the BBC on 23 rd Sept, 2004, that China's environmental problems have reached crisis levels. He said “China's industrial development was unsustainable, because its resources could not cope. Environmental problems like pollution, acid rain and contaminated rivers have only now become a key policy issue. We've been talking about sustainable development for 12 years, but it's not been carried out properly. Now we've learnt the lesson. We need new laws and regulations; otherwise we're just talking slogans. He said previous attempts to create a cleaner environment had not been carried out properly and there would now be a raft of new laws and regulations aimed at promoting sustainable development.”

On 7 th March this year, In sheer contradiction to the White Paper's claim, Mr Pan Yue of the Ministry of Environment, speaking to a German Magazine, Der Spiegel, again acknowledged that “The Chinese Miracle will End Soon".

Mr Pan said, “ the economic strides made by China comes at a huge cost to the country's environment which will soon overwhelm the country creating millions of "environmental refugees." He further said, “We are using too many raw materials to sustain this growth. To produce goods worth $10,000, for example, we need seven times more resources than Japan, nearly six times more than the United States and, perhaps most embarrassing, nearly three times more than India. Our raw materials are scarce, we don't have enough land, and our population is constantly growing. Cities are growing but desert areas are expanding at the same time; habitable and usable land has been halved over the past 50 years. Acid rain is falling on one third of the Chinese territory; half of the water in our seven largest rivers is completely useless, while one fourth of our citizens do not have access to clean drinking water.”

Speaking of the severe deteriorating China's environment, Mr Pan further added, “One third of the urban population is breathing polluted air, and less than 20 percent of the trash in cities is treated and processed in an environmentally sustainable manner. Finally, five of the ten most polluted cities worldwide are in China. In Bejing alone, 70 to 80 percent of all deadly cancer cases are related to the environment. Lung cancer has emerged as the No. 1 cause of death. Even now, the western regions of China and the country's ecologically stressed regions can no longer support the people already living there. In the future, we will need to resettle 186 million residents from 22 provinces and cities. However, the other provinces and cities can only absorb some 33 million people. That means China will have more than 150 million ecological migrants, or, if you like, environmental refugees.”

The desert area of the Tibetan Plateau had increased by 8.3% over the past three decades, said a Xinhuanet report of Feb 16, citing a remote sensing survey launched jointly by the China Aero Geophysical Survey and Remote Sensing Center for Land and Resources (AGRS), Jilin University, Chinese Academy of Geological Survey Academy from 2003. The desert expansion is believed to have also led to the shrinking of grassland on Tibetan Plateau from 57,814sq km in the 1970s to 43,742sq km in 2002. The Tibetan Plateau has also been receiving less rainfall due to global warming and environmental degeneration. Experts also blame increased human activities for the environmental changes. Perhaps it's a wake up call for the Chinese government to do something about the unchecked influx of Chinese immigrants in Tibet.

Rural China's woes have contributed to a "floating population," officially tallied at 80 to 130 million people, who have left their rural homes in search of work in cities. The tipping point came in 1998 when Yangtse watershed reforestation project and others, affected over 350 million peasants. All this made us wonder whether the Chinese have not so much been creating an economic superpower as committing ecological suicide.

While on the subject of economic bubbles and collapsing systems, it might be noted that on June 4, 2004, the BBC reported on the growing scale of protests and demonstrations in China, “The Ministry of Public Security says last year there were more than 58,000 “mass incidents”- the term they use to describe public protests- involving three million people: that is an increase of almost 15 percent over the year before”. The report also mentions that the protesters were largely peasants and workers. Over 200 million peasants left villages for cities in the last 20 years, 25 million Chinese workers are in regular contact with life-threatening toxic dust, the progress has come with a risks. World Bank report spells out China has some of the worst soil erosion in the world.

China continues to rely on coal for 75% of its energy, spewing out some 19 million tons of sulfur dioxide a year contributing to acid rain, Barely 340 monitored Chinese cities breathe air that meets national air quality. Indoor air pollution from coal burning takes more than 700,000 lives a year; respiratory diseases cause nearly a quarter of all deaths in the countryside. A Beijinger said, “ What good is the money if you can't breathe the air?”, Two-third of the major cities are now seriously short of pure drinking water and as many as 700 million people drink water contaminated with human and animal waste at levels that don't come close to the government's minimum standard. Most of the 20 billion tons of raw sewage produced in the cities each year-only 10% of which is treated is dumped straight into rivers and lakes. According to the World Bank, 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China. They also said that more than 70% of China's rivers and lakes were polluted. If things continue the same way, within three decades, China could overtake US as the world's largest source of Greenhouse gases associated with global warming.

The Vice Minister for Water Resources, Zhai Haohui, told a symposium on water management that the provision of clean drinking water should be a priority. This is yet another sign that China is struggling to deal with the impact of its breakneck economic development. China's waterways are dying, and its rivers are running black from industrial effluent and untreated sewage. The China Daily newspaper said that about two million people had suffered diseases caused by drinking water with high arsenic content, including cancer. Yet in one recent survey, 95% of the samples tested were polluted, some with sewage. An official from the environmental watchdog openly blamed the crisis on improper policies and poor government administration. The current leadership has stressed the need to conserve the environment, but these latest figures show just how much damage has already been done.

The World Bank estimates that air and water pollution cost China US$ 54 billion per year, or about eight percent of GDP. The World Bank further estimates that, every year, just the air pollution in excess of China's own air quality standards results in 6.8 million emergency room visits, 346,000 hospital admissions, and 178,000 premature deaths. In addition, air pollution causes some 7.4 million work-years to be lost annually. The numbers here are so uniformly large that they become a bit numbing.

Mark Hertsgaard, in his book, "Blue Planet, Red Sky," predicts that the world's most populous country could single-handedly wreck the global environment . “ China can single-handedly guarantee that climate change, ozone depletion and other deadly hazards become a reality for people the world over”, Mr Hartsgaard said.