Human rights in the world’s most populous nation have worsened in 2010, according to the new edition of an annual report by a congressionally mandated commission on China.
"We are deeply concerned, as the findings of this Annual Report make clear, that human rights conditions in China over the last year have deteriorated," the chairman and cochairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) wrote in a statement.
The 2010 Annual Report, which was released along with a list of more than 1,000 political prisoners currently detained or imprisoned in the country, provides members of the U.S. Congress, administration officials, and the American public with an examination of human rights and the rule of law in China.
CECC said that new trends in political imprisonment in China include tighter controls on lawyers and human rights activists, particularly those who carry out their work online or in politically sensitive locations such as Tibet and Xinjiang.
"The threat of political imprisonment affects the work of people and organizations who are engaged in human rights advocacy or who are involved in commercial activity in China, including U.S. citizens," Senator Byron Dorgan and Representative Sander Levin said in the statement.
"The chilling effects of political imprisonment result in lost opportunities for the Chinese government to make progress on, and for Chinese citizens to enjoy, the development of human rights and the rule of law."
The report said that China has achieved success in health and education, and in improved living standards for large segments of the population, compared to several decades ago.
"But the Chinese government now must lead in protecting fundamental freedoms and human rights, including worker rights, and in defending the integrity of China's legal institutions with no less skill and commitment than it displayed in implementing economic reforms that allowed the industriousness of the Chinese people to lift millions out of poverty," the report said.
As of Oct. 10, 2010, the CECC’s Political Prisoner Database contained information on a total of 5,689 cases of political or religious imprisonment in China.
Of those, 1,452 are cases of political and religious prisoners currently known or believed to be detained or imprisoned.
The remaining cases are known or believed to have been released, executed, to have died while imprisoned or soon after release, or who escaped.
London-based human rights organization Amnesty International said Beijing continues to crack down on activists and threaten them with imprisonment for speaking out about rights abuses.
“The human rights defense movement in China is growing, but those who attempt to report on human rights violations or challenge politically sensitive government policies face serious risk of abuse,” Amnesty says on its website.
“The authorities make frequent use of vaguely-worded charges to silence and imprison peaceful activists, such as “endangering state security,” “subversion of state power” and “separatism.”
Chinese activists Amnesty lists as currently in prison, detained, or missing, include pro-democracy activist Liu Xianbin, human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, environmental activist Tan Zuoren, Uyghur journalist and web editor Hairat Niyaz, and Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen.
Reported in Washington by Joshua Lipes.