China's Human Rights Regression; Compliance Rhetoric Has Improved, but Actual Freedoms Have Not
Byline: Rep. Christopher H. Smith, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Saturday marked both International Human Rights Day and one year since Chinese intellectual Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting human rights and democracy in China. Human Rights Day, which commemorates the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), is an occasion to affirm our commitment to advancing the values of human rights common to us all. Nobel Laureate Liu's continued imprisonment in a Chinese jail is a stark reminder of the urgency of this task.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines fundamental human rights standards, such as the freedoms of expression, association and religion and freedom from arbitrary detention. The Chinese government - a signatory to the declaration - disregards its obligations to uphold those rights and continues to punish citizens who defend them. Mr. Liu is a case in point.
Chinese authorities took Mr. Liu into custody in December 2008, one day before Chinese citizens released Charter 08, a treatise calling for political reform and human rights protections in China. Authorities cited Mr. Liu's involvement in the charter and six essays he had written as the basis for sentencing him in 2009 to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power, the longest known sentence for that crime. The case was marred by severe violations of due process under both Chinese and international law.
Mr. Liu's crime was speaking out against Chinese government repression and promoting peaceful reform. Other Chinese citizens are held in prison or under house arrest for acts such as worshipping in house churches, organizing labor protests, petitioning against official abuses or challenging China's barbaric one-child-per-couple policy.
Chinese citizens who aim to defend their rights, promote reform or advocate on behalf of others - actions that embody the very spirit of the UDHR and Human Rights Day - have been particularly vulnerable in the past year. As democracy movements brought new freedoms in other parts of the world, Chinese authorities launched one of the harshest crackdowns in recent memory against lawyers and activists.
Other rights advocates, like Mr. Liu, were the victims of earlier repression and continue to suffer in detention, their whereabouts unknown, or under illegal house arrest. Authorities disappeared lawyer Gao Zhisheng in 2009 for his efforts defending workers and religious believers. Local authorities currently hold blind, self-trained legal advocate Chen Guangcheng under extralegal house arrest following more than four years in prison for his work to expose abuses and the coercion inherent in the one-child-per-couple policy. …