Myanmar Rohingya Treatment, China NGO Crackdown Among Top US Rights Concerns: Report

By Richard Finney
myanmar-rohinga-may82015.jpg Thai border police hold 13 Rohingya migrants in Rattapum district, Songkhla province, May 7, 2015.

Human rights abuses against a Muslim minority group in Myanmar offset progress in other areas of reform during the last year, while China and other one-party authoritarian Asian states kept up a high degree of pressure on dissidents seeking change, the U.S. State Department said in an annual report on Thursday.

In Myanmar, the Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma, authorities in northwestern Rakhine state made no meaningful efforts during the year “to help Rohingya and other Muslim minority persons displaced by violence to return to their homes,” the State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014” said.

The government of the formerly military-led country also failed to establish a “fair and nondiscriminatory” process for granting full citizenship rights to the often-persecuted Rohingya, more than 16,000 of whom fled Myanmar by boat in November to seek refuge in other countries, the report said.

Restrictions on press freedoms and widespread land confiscation also remained problems during the year, the report said, adding that “government security forces allegedly were responsible for cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and mistreatment in detention and [for] systematic denial of due process and fair trial rights.”

Repression, coercion 'routine'

In China, “repression and coercion were routine,” especially against Tibetans, Uyghurs, and other ethnic minorities, and against groups and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy, the State Department said.

And though China’s government made efforts to crack down on corruption during the year, “it also convicted civil society activists associated with the New Citizens Movement in retribution for their public campaign to expose official corruption,” Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski told reporters on Thursday.

China has now also introduced draft laws on the regulation of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and on national security and terrorism “that appear to call into question its commitment to the path of opening to the world that has supported its transformation over the past three decades,” Malinowski said.

“We expressed our very serious concerns about these draft laws at the [U.S.-China] Strategic  & Economic Dialogue this week and we will continue to do so,” Malinowski said.

Vietnam, too, moved to “sharply control the registration of NGOs, including human rights organizations” during the year, while the government also strictly limited the freedoms of assembly, association, and religious practice, the State Department noted.

Political dissent, press freedom, and online expression were also harshly suppressed, the report said, adding that “there was continued police mistreatment of suspects during arrest and detention.”

'Gross violations'

North Korea meanwhile remained East Asia’s most closed and repressive country, with defectors reporting frequent occurrences of “public executions, disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture,” the report said.

North Korea’s human rights record came under close international scrutiny, however, with the February 2014 release of a report by a U.N. commission of inquiry concluding that “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations have been and continue to be committed by the DPRK, its institutions, and its officials.”

The U.N. report further concluded that in many cases, such violations constitute “crimes against humanity,” the State Department said.

Noting that the North Korean people now enjoy a greater awareness of their rights and of how people in other countries live, Malinowski pledged continued U.S. efforts to “get knowledge and information to the people of North Korea so that this trend continues.”

“Change takes time, but when it comes it often surprises us and goes very quickly,” he said.

“And I think that day will come when we see that happen in North Korea.”

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