Human Rights in China Still Matter; Only Accountability Will Force Leadership to Give Up History of Repression

Article excerpt

Byline: Rep. Christopher H. Smith, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Eleven years ago, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 106-286, granting permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China. I was among the vocal opponents of this legislation, citing concerns about China's egregious human rights record and the risks to U.S. businesses when trading with a country that plays by its own rules instead of abiding by the rule of law.

As chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a bipartisan body established to monitor and address the human rights concerns raised during the debates on PNTR, I know these concerns remain as relevant today as ever. However, in the years since the granting of PNTR, China has continued to abuse the fundamental human rights of its citizens while failing to establish a fair and transparent legal system. Indeed, as I wrote these words, Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo was languishing in a Chinese prison for promoting peaceful democratic reforms, but he is just one of 1.3 billion Chinese who live under the Chinese state's repression.

On Oct. 11, our commission issued its 10th annual report on China's progress in human rights and rule of law. A decade since our inaugural report documented China's failings and stagnancy in these areas, China's human rights record remains grim and has regressed in many respects.

The 2011 report notes that China's leaders have tightened their grip on Chinese society and grown more aggressive in disregarding the very laws and international standards that they claim to uphold. The government's campaign to disappear numerous lawyers and activists following pro-democracy protests elsewhere in the world - one of China's harshest crackdowns in recent memory - is but one example.

The commission's 2011 report also documents ongoing abuses in the areas of religious freedom. Protestant house church members, underground Catholics and Falun Gong members continue to risk detention and abuse for attempting to worship freely. Tibetans and Uighurs face harsh curbs on their cultures and languages in addition to religious repression.

China's implementation of the one-child-per-couple policy remains one of the most brutal and barbaric attacks against women and children ever. Through coercion, financial penalties and the use of forced abortion and sterilization, the Chinese government continues its population control program and limits the number of children women may bear. It is no coincidence that according to the World Bank and the World Health Organization, approximately 500 women committed suicide a day in China in 2009. The Nuremberg Nazi war crimes tribunal properly construed forced abortion as a crime against humanity, but nothing in human history compares to the magnitude of China's 30-year assault on women and children.

Women bear the major brunt of the one-child policy not only when they become mothers. Because of the male preference in China's society and the limitation of the family size to one child, the policy has directly contributed to what is accurately described as gendercide, the deliberate extermination of a girl - born or unborn - simply because she happens to be female. …