Examining the Progress of Human Rights in the Reality of China

Zhang Kai


        The Information Office of the State Council of PRC issued a white paper on Progress in China's Human Rights in 2014 on 8 June, stating that China has obtained achievements in nine aspects: Right to Development, Rights of the Person, Democratic Rights, Right to Impartial Trial, Rights of Ethnic Minorities, Rights of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment, and Foreign Exchanges and Cooperation. I would like to examine if the Paper speaks the truth.


Right to Development and Rights of the Person

        The White Paper claims that the annual income of urban and rural people has increased respectively by 6.8% and 9.2%. However, it does not recognize that CPC has implemented capitalist market economy which has led to the polarization between the rich and the poor. According to China’s Family Development Report 2015, issued by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of the State Council on 13 May, the top 20% of the annual family income is 19 times more than the lowest 20%. In addition, according to the UBS/PwC 2015 Billionaire Report, issued on 26 May, in the past five years, wealth creation has shifted from USA to Asia, particularly China. Now a new billionaire is born every week in the first season, amounted to 224 - 300 billionaires, with total assets of USD 37 trillion.

        On the other hand, China has over 100 million poor people. On 5 May, NDRC announced that the price of medicines was mainly decided by the market. That means people have to spend more money. It was reported that over hundred patients and their families demonstrated outside the office building of Chongqing Government.

In terms of Rights of the Person, it states that “China strengthened supervision over foodstuffs, improved laws and regulations on production safety, combated terrorism according to law, attached more importance to protecting the rights of the accused, detainees and criminals, and stepped up drug-control efforts to protect citizens' personal rights”. However, in reality, there are lots of cases of abuses of human rights. Dissidents are always detained, prosecuted, and sent to prison. The recent examples are human rights lawyers such as Tang Jinning, Wang Qingyin, and Yuan Xinting. Moreover, feminists such as “five sisters of human rights” were arrested because of organizing activities of against sexual harassment during 8 March Women Day.


Democratic Rights and Right to Impartial Trial

        The Paper announces to set up the Day of Constitutional Law. Ironically, Hu Jia, Beijing human rights activist, spent the day under home arrest. He wrote on his blog that “any citizen who carries placards stating Constitution, Democracy, and Liberty, walking along the roads in Beijing city, will be arrested by the police. The Party has superpower while people’s voices are suppressed.” The Paper claims that the number of netizens has achieved 650 million, so the internet has become a platform of getting information and expressing opinions. However, on 18 June 2014, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued the notice of not allowing any news report across disciplines, or any criticism without permission from the original working unit. Recently, the outspoken 21st Century Web has been forced to close down. The influential 21st Century Business Herald was required to restructure.

        According to the report by Reporters Without Borders, issued on 16 December 2014, China is the country having the largest number of journalists and net media workers in prisons. In 2014, there were 107 journalists and civil reporters in prison, amounting to 30% of the world. The Report particularly mentioned the case of Gao Yu.   On the other hand, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China recruited thousands of young volunteers of net civilization. They are required to promote the core values of socialism and to make flattery comments about CPC’s achievements.

        In terms of Right to Impartial Trial, the Paper claims that “in 2014 the people's courts at all levels concluded 2,708 state compensation cases, and decided on a compensation amount totaling 110 million yuan. China has improved the criminal victim relief system, reducing or exempting litigation fees totaling 180 million yuan, so as to protect the litigation relief rights of impoverished people.” However, many human rights activists and lawyers like Pu Zhiqiang and dissidents like Liu Xiaobo were detained or arrested without open trial.


Rights of Ethnic Minorities

        The Paper claims that “China's ethnic minorities and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities made new developments in various social programs”, and there are 358 living Buddha. But how can this prove that ethnic minorities' civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights were further guaranteed? The authentic rights of ethnic minorities should be the rights of autonomy. Under the political and economic oppression by the dominating Han ethnic group, ethnic minorities like Tibetans and Uygur people have suffered. Their desperate and armed resistances are labeled as terrorist attacks.

        Worse still, the facial appearance and clothing of ethnic minorities are strictly controlled. It was reported that Kashgar court charged a Uygur man of wearing a beard and his wife of wearing a veil and robe. It led to serious criticisms by netizens.


Rights of Women, Children and Senior Citizens

        The Paper claims that “the people’s courts at various levels concluded 1,048 criminal cases involving the kidnapping of women and children and sexual assault on minors, “the mother-to-child transmission rate of AIDS dropped to 6.3 percent”, “home care and community services now cover 70 percent” in urban and rural areas.

        However, in reality, there are still cases of women fighting against domestic violence, sexual harassment and discrimination. Gender equality is not yet achieved. Moreover, the tragedy of dead children in remote areas disclosed that the marginality become the victims of national economic growth. For example, in Bijie county of Guizhou province, four poor children committed suicide. Last year, five left-behind children were found dead near the rubbish bin. It is reported by People’s web that there are 60 million left-behind children in the countryside. The rural elderly are also suffering. According to a survey conducted by Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, 68.4% of rural old people mainly depend on their children’s earnings, the second is government subsidies and farm products, and 54.6% are still doing heavy farm work. Some are even abandoned and become beggars in the city.


Rights of Persons with Disabilities

        The Paper claims that there is “the introduction of living expense subsidies to disabled persons with financial difficulties and of nursing subsidies to those suffering from a high degree of disability”, “blind people who sat the national college entrance examinations in 2014 took the exams in braille, or with the assistance of audio device. Special staff was provided to assist them in taking the exams”. However, it is not enough. How about those suffering from “a medium or low degree of disability”? It is also necessary for the government to provide those with disabilities with jobs, in order to earn a living.


Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment

        The Paper claims that “the Chinese government gave the country's major environmental problems high priority, making considerable efforts to safeguard the people's right to a clean and healthy environment, and further exploring a new way to make ecological progress with Chinese characteristics”, “remarkable results in energy conservation and emission reduction. Punishments for activities violating environmental laws were intensified. In 2014 China made an enormous adjustment to its industrial structure, accomplishing the year's goal of abolishing outdated production capacities in 15 key industries like steel and cement”, and “the legal guarantee of the right to a clean environment was further strengthened. The channels for citizens to participate in the management of environment-related affairs were further broadened”.

        However, in reality, the majority is suffering from air and water pollution. There are mass demonstrations against pollutions happening in Jiangxi, Sichuan, Guangdong, among others. Under the Dome is a 2015 self-financed, Chinese documentary film by Chai Jing, a former China Central Television journalist, concerning air pollution in China. It was viewed over 150 million times on Tencent within three days of its release. Unfortunately, it was banned shortly afterwards by the authorities.


Foreign Exchanges and Cooperation

        The Paper claims that “China continued to take the initiative in exchanges and cooperation with other countries in the realm of human rights. It played a constructive role in the UN's human rights bodies, and endeavored to promote the sound development of human rights on the international stage”. However, there are tremendous cases of abuses of human rights as mentioned above. In order to confuse and fool UN, China is “promising to greatly increase its donations to the office in the period 2014-2017”. Yet, the truth cannot be denied.


28 June 2015