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China Human Rights - History

China Human Rights - History


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The constitution states citizens “enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration,” although authorities generally limited and did not respect these rights, especially when they conflicted with CCP interests. Authorities continued tight control of print, broadcast, electronic, and social media and regularly used them to propagate government views and CCP ideology. Authorities censored and manipulated the press and the internet, particularly around sensitive anniversaries.

Freedom of Expression: Citizens could discuss many political topics privately and in small groups without official punishment. The government, however, routinely took harsh action against citizens who questioned the legitimacy of the CCP. Some independent think tanks, study groups, and seminars reported pressure to cancel sessions on sensitive topics. Those who made politically sensitive comments in public speeches, academic discussions, or in remarks to media, or posted sensitive comments online, remained subject to punitive measures.

In January the government abruptly shut down the website and social media accounts of the Beijing-based think tank Unirule. Its members, a group of prominent economics experts known for outspoken views on government economic policy, responded with a letter protesting the “obvious aim of silencing Unirule totally” and calling for greater government tolerance of NGOs. Government censors promptly removed the letter from the internet.

On March 31, Foshan Intermediate Court sentenced Su Changlan for subversion of state power for using the internet and social media to post online messages in support of Hong Kong’s 2014 prodemocracy Occupy Central Movement. The court found her guilty of incitement to subvert state power and sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment. Su had campaigned for the land rights of local farming communities. As Su’s sentence included time served, she was released in October (see section 1.c.).

On May 26, He Weifang, a law professor at the elite Peking University and the lawyer for Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, announced that government pressure compelled him to close his Weibo microblog and his accounts on the private messaging system “Weixin” (aka WeChat). Over the past decade, he had developed an online following of millions and was known for criticizing the country’s lack of freedom of speech and judicial independence.

In September, Guangzhou authorities detained Peng Heping because he helped publish a poetry anthology in honor of the late political prisoner and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. Peng was charged with “illegal business activity.”

In a sign of the level of sensitivity around public discourse, censors blocked several versions of the Winnie the Pooh cartoon on social media because internet users (“netizens”) used the symbol to represent President Xi Jinping. The government similarly blocked the use of a popular but offensive nickname for North Korean President Kim Jong Un. Internet searches for this name returned the message, “according to the relevant laws, regulations, and policies, the search results have not been displayed.” Authorities arrested and tried a man in Jilin for “incitement to subvert state power” for posting selfies to his social media accounts wearing a T-shirt referring to President Xi as “Xitler.” In a similar case Guangdong authorities arrested a man for reposting a negative comment about Xi Jinping on the messaging app WhatsApp.

The legislature passed a law in November criminalizing disrespect for the national anthem in public, punishable by up to three years in prison and loss of political rights. The new law mirrors existing laws that punish public desecration of the flag with imprisonment.

Press and Media Freedom: The CCP and government continued to maintain ultimate authority over all published, online, and broadcast material. Officially, only state-run media outlets have government approval to cover CCP leaders or other topics deemed “sensitive.” While it did not dictate all content to be published or broadcast, the CCP and the government had unchecked authority to mandate if, when, and how particular issues were reported or to order that they not be reported at all. In a widely reported 2016 visit to the country’s main media outlets, President Xi told reporters that they were the “publicity front” of the government and the Party and that they must “promote the Party’s will” and “protect the Party’s authority.”

The government continued to strictly monitor the press and media, including film and television, via its broadcast and press regulatory body, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT). The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) also closely regulated online news media. All books and magazines continued to require state-issued publication numbers, which were expensive and often difficult to obtain. As in the past, nearly all print and broadcast media as well as book publishers were affiliated with the CCP or government. There were a small number of print publications with some private ownership interest but no privately owned television or radio stations. The CCP directed the domestic media to refrain from reporting on certain subjects, and traditional broadcast programming required government approval.

Journalists operated in an environment tightly controlled by the government. While the country’s increasingly internet-literate population demanded interesting stories told with the latest technologies, government authorities asserted control over those new technologies (such as livestreaming) and clamped down on new digital outlets and social media platforms.

Because the Communist Party does not consider internet news companies “official” media, they are subject to debilitating regulations and barred from reporting on potentially “sensitive” stories. According to the most recent All China Journalist Association report from 2016 on the nation’s news media, there were 232,925 officially credentialed reporters working in the country. Only 1,158 worked for news websites, with the majority working at state-run outlets such as xinhuanet.com and Chinadaily.com. This did not mean that online outlets did not report on important issues--many used creative means to share content--but they limited their tactics and topics since they were acting outside official approval.

Violence and Harassment: The government frequently impeded the work of the press, including citizen journalists. Journalists reported being subjected to physical attack, harassment, monitoring, and intimidation when reporting on sensitive topics. Government officials used criminal prosecution, civil lawsuits, and other punishment, including violence, detention, and other forms of harassment, to intimidate authors and journalists and to prevent the dissemination of unsanctioned information on a wide range of topics.

Family members of journalists based overseas also faced harassment, and in some cases detention, as retaliation for the reporting of their relatives abroad. A journalist could face demotion or job loss for publishing views that challenged the government. In many cases potential sources refused to meet with journalists due to actual or feared government pressure. In particular, academics--a traditional source of information--were increasingly unwilling to meet with journalists.

Uighur webmaster Nijat Azat continued to serve a sentence for “endangering state security.” Fellow Uighur webmaster Dilshat Perhat was scheduled to be released, but there was no information on his case at year’s end. During the year additional journalists working in traditional and new media were also imprisoned.

In June police in Sichuan Province arrested and charged citizen journalist Yang Xiuqiong with “illegally providing state secrets overseas” for her work on the banned citizen rights website 64 Tianwang. Other site contributors, including its founder, Huang Qi, were arrested in 2016 and remained in jail. On July 4, a court in Mianyang, Sichuan, rejected 64 Tianwang contributor Wang Shurong’s appeal of a six-year sentence for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” Lian Huanli, also a volunteer for the website, had been missing since May, according to media reports.

On August 3, a court in Dali, Yunnan, sentenced citizen journalist Lu Yuyu to four years’ imprisonment for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Authorities arrested Lu and his partner, Li Tingyu, in June 2016 after they spent several years compiling daily lists of “mass incidents”--the official term for protests, demonstrations, and riots--and disseminated their findings via social media. Public security officials reportedly beat Lu, who later went on a hunger strike to protest his treatment and lack of access to his attorney. The government tried Li in a secret trial, then released her in April without announcing a formal verdict.

A pair of Voice of America (VOA) reporters were assaulted and detained for four hours under false pretenses while trying to cover the trial of jailed dissident blogger Wu Gan in Tianjin on August 14. As they approached the courthouse, they were accosted by 10 plainclothes individuals, physically detained and had their laptops and cameras confiscated. The police took them to jail and accused them of beating one of the persons who had detained them. They were released with their personal effects four hours later--after their photographs were deleted.

Foreign journalists based in the country continued to face a challenging environment for reporting. According to information collected in December by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), the vast majority of respondents did not believe reporting conditions in the country met international standards. More than one-third of journalists believed that conditions had deteriorated compared with the previous year, an acceleration since 2016, when 25 percent of journalists believed conditions had deteriorated year over year. Similarly, the percentage of journalists reporting government officials had subjected them to interference, harassment, or violence while reporting increased from 57 percent to approximately two-thirds.

Restrictions on foreign journalists by central and local CCP propaganda departments remained strict, especially during sensitive times and anniversaries. Foreign press outlets reported that local employees of foreign news agencies were also subjected to official harassment and intimidation and that this remained a major concern for foreign outlets. Almost one-third of FCCC members who responded to FCCC inquiries reported authorities subjected their Chinese colleagues to pressure or violence. In addition FCCC members reported physical and electronic surveillance of their staff and premises.

While traveling in Hunan Province in April to report on a story of a petitioner who was attempting to travel to Beijing to lodge a protest, BBC correspondent John Sudworth and his team were physically assaulted by a group of men who refused to identify themselves; the journalists’ camera equipment was also broken. Later, in the presence of uniformed police officers and government officials, the same men forced the BBC team to sign a written confession and apology, under threat of further violence.

On August 23, plainclothes officers detained Nathan VanderKlippe, a Globe and Mail reporter, while he reported in Xinjiang and held him for several hours. The police temporarily seized his computer and examined the photographs on his camera’s memory card. After releasing him, they then followed him 120 miles to his hotel.

In November authorities in Xinjiang detained and interrogated two foreign journalists, holding them overnight and demanding the journalists turn over pictures and documents. They finally released the journalists in the morning and then followed them on the train to their next destination, where the local police and foreign affairs office again harassed them and blocked them from all hotels. Authorities spent the night keeping them awake in the lobby of a hotel, as they were “not allowed to sleep here.”

On December 14, security guards in Beijing beat two South Korean journalists attempting to cover the visit of South Korean president Moon Jae-in; one of the journalists was hospitalized.

Foreign Ministry officials once again subjected a majority of journalists to special interviews as part of their annual visa renewal process. During these interviews the officials pressured journalists to report less on human rights issues, referencing reporting “red lines” that journalists should not cross, and in some cases threatened them with nonrenewal of visas. Many foreign media organizations continued to have trouble expanding or even maintaining their operations in the country due to the difficulty of receiving visas. Western media companies were increasingly unwilling to publicize such issues due to fear of stirring up further backlash by the government.

On October 25, authorities blocked journalists from the New York Times, the Economist, the BBC, and the Guardian from entering a press event where the Communist Party revealed its new Politburo members. Authorities allowed other foreign journalists to attend but excluded these journalists, ostensibly because of past reporting.

Authorities continued to enforce tight restrictions on citizens employed by foreign news organizations. The code of conduct for citizen employees of foreign media organizations threatens dismissal and loss of accreditation for those citizen employees who engage in independent reporting. It instructs them to provide their employers information that projects “a good image of the country.” Several FCCC members reported that security officials summoned local assistants for meetings that the assistants found extremely intimidating.

Media outlets that reported on commercial issues enjoyed comparatively fewer restrictions, but the system of postpublication review by propaganda officials encouraged self-censorship by editors seeking to avoid the losses associated with penalties for inadvertently printing unauthorized content.

Chinese-language media outlets outside the country reported intimidation and financial threats from the government. For example, the owner of the Vision China Times in Australia said that Chinese officials repeatedly threatened Chinese companies that advertised in his newspaper. In one case Ministry of State Security officials stopped by the company every day for two weeks. Other Chinese-language outlets signed deals with the Chinese News Service, which is the second-largest state-owned news agency in China.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The State Council’s Regulations on the Administration of Publishing grant broad authority to the government at all levels to restrict publications based on content, including mandating if, when, and how particular issues are reported. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs daily press briefing was generally open, and the State Council Information Office organized some briefings by other government agencies, journalists did not have free access to other media events. The Ministry of Defense continued allowing select foreign media outlets to attend occasional press briefings.

Official guidelines for domestic journalists were often vague, subject to change at the discretion of propaganda officials, and enforced retroactively. Propaganda authorities forced newspapers and online news media providers to fire editors and journalists responsible for articles deemed inconsistent with official policy and suspended or closed publications. Self-censorship remained prevalent among journalists, authors, and editors, particularly with post facto government reviews carrying penalties of ranging severity.

The CCP Central Propaganda Department ordered media outlets to adhere strictly to the information provided by authoritative official departments when reporting on officials suspected of involvement in graft or bribery. Throughout the year the Central Propaganda Department issued similar instructions regarding various prominent events. Directives often warned against reporting on issues related to party and official reputation, health and safety, and foreign affairs. For example, after a North Korean nuclear test, the Propaganda Department directed media companies to disable the comments function on all social media platforms, ordered media outlets to downplay the news, and decreed they follow Xinhua’s lead in reporting. The orders included instructions for media outlets not to investigate or report on their own. The CAC and SAPPRFT strengthened regulations over the content that online publications are allowed to distribute, reiterating long-standing rules that only state-licensed news media may conduct original reporting.

In the first half of the year, provincial authorities inspected Hunan TV, one of the country’s most watched channels, and warned the network it focused too much on entertainment and failed to comply with the CPC’s requirement that media outlets bear the flag of the Communist Party.

In September the SAPPRFT issued more than a dozen new guidelines on television content. The general thrust of these guidelines was to prohibit negative reporting about government policies or officials. Additionally, the SAPPRFT planned to ramp up production of “a large number of television dramas that sing the praises of the party, the motherland, the people, as well as its heroes.”

The FCCC reported it was still largely impossible for foreign journalists to report from the TAR, other Tibetan areas, or Xinjiang without experiencing serious interference. Those who took part in government-sponsored trips to the TAR and other Tibetan areas expressed dissatisfaction with the access provided. Of those who tried to report from the Tibetan area, more than 75 percent reported problems in both Tibet, which is officially restricted, and Xinjiang, which ostensibly does not have the same restrictions on reporting. Foreign reporters also experienced restricted access and interference when trying to report in other sensitive areas, including the North Korean border, at places of historical significance to the founding of the Communist party, sites of recent natural disasters, and areas--including in Beijing--experiencing social unrest.

Authorities continued to block electronic distribution of the VOA and Radio Free Asia. Despite attempts to block access, the VOA and Radio Free Asia had significant audiences, including human rights advocates, ordinary citizens, English language teachers and students, and government officials.

Overseas television newscasts, largely restricted to hotels and foreign residence compounds, were subject to censorship. Individual issues of foreign newspapers and magazines occasionally were banned when they contained articles deemed too sensitive. Articles on sensitive topics were removed from international magazines. Television newscasts were blacked out during segments on sensitive subjects.

Politically sensitive coverage in Chinese, and to a lesser extent in English, was censored more than coverage in other languages. The government prohibited some foreign and domestic films deemed too sensitive or selectively censored parts of films before they were released. Under government regulations, authorities must authorize each foreign film released in the country, with the total number of films not to exceed 38.

Authorities continued to ban books with content they deemed inconsistent with officially sanctioned views. The law permits only government-approved publishing houses to print books. The SAPPRFT controlled all licenses to publish. Newspapers, periodicals, books, audio and video recordings, or electronic publications could not be printed or distributed without the approval of the SAPPRFT and relevant provincial publishing authorities. Individuals who attempted to publish without government approval faced imprisonment, fines, confiscation of their books, and other punishment. The CCP also exerted control over the publishing industry by preemptively classifying certain topics as state secrets.

In March the government issued a ban on the sale of foreign publications without an import permit. The new rules affect the popular online shopping platform Taobao, which is banned from offering “overseas publications,” including books, movies, and games, that do not already have government approval. The ban also applies to services related to publications. According to a statement on the company’s website, “Taobao has embargoed sales of foreign publications.”

A Zhejiang court in February convicted a pair of booksellers for selling banned books. Dai Xuelin, a Beijing-based social media editor at the Guangxi Normal University Press, and his business partner Zhang Xiaoxiong were sentenced to five years and three and one-half years, respectively, in prison for running an “illegal business operation” because they resold books published in Hong Kong that were not authorized for sale in the mainland.

Following the death in July of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, the government censored a broad array of related words and images across public media and on social media platforms. Besides his name and image, phrases such as “rest in peace,” “grey,” quotes from his writings, images of candles, and even candle emojis were blocked online and from private messages sent on social media. Attempts to access censored search results resulted in a message saying the result could not be displayed “according to relevant laws, regulations, and policies.”

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government tightly controlled and highly censored domestic internet usage. According to an official report released in July by the China Internet Network Information Center, the country had 751 million internet users, accounting for 54.3 percent of its total population. The report noted 19.92 million new internet users in the first half of the year, with approximately 201 million going online from rural areas. Major media companies estimated that 625 million persons, mainly urban residents, obtained their news from social and online media sources.

Although the internet was widely available, it was heavily censored. The government continued to employ tens of thousands of individuals at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communications and online content. The government also reportedly paid personnel to promote official views on various websites and social media and to combat those who posted alternative views. Internet companies also employed thousands of censors to carry out CCP and government directives on censorship.

During the year the government issued a number of new regulations to tighten its control over online speech and content. The regulations increased government oversight over internet livestreaming, bulletin board services, instant messaging applications, group chats, and other online services. The government also finalized draft regulations that strengthened government control over internet news information services; it had not yet finalized draft regulations issued for public comment during 2016 that would further strengthen government oversight over online publishing.

The Cybersecurity Law, which took effect in June, allows the government to “monitor, defend, and handle cybersecurity risks and threats originating from within the country or overseas sources.” Article 12 of the law criminalizes using the internet to “creat[e] or disseminat[e] false information to disrupt the economic or social order.” The law also codifies the authority of security agencies to cut communication networks across an entire geographic region during “major security incidents,” although they had previously exercised this authority prior to the law’s passage.

The CAC finalized regulations on Internet News Information Services that require websites, mobile apps, forums, blogs, instant communications services, and search engines to ensure that news coverage of a political, economic, diplomatic, or commentary nature conforms to official views of “facts.” These regulations extended longstanding traditional media controls to new media--including online and social media--to ensure these sources also adhere to the Communist Party directive.

In June the Beijing Cyberspace Administration forced companies to close celebrity gossip social media accounts, citing new rules designed to create an “uplifting mainstream media environment.” Included in the closing was “China’s Number One Paparazzi” Zhou Wei, who had more than seven million followers on his Weibo microblog account. References to homosexuality and the scientifically accurate words for genitalia were also banned. Writers who cover lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex; gender; and youth health issues expressed concern over how to proceed without being shut down.

New CAC regulations on livestreaming came into effect on July 15. All live-streaming platforms, commercial websites, web portals, and apps were required to register with CAC. Licensed central media and affiliations are not required to register. Throughout the year the government published details of its crackdown on live-streaming content, detailing its efforts to shut down dozens of offending live-streaming accounts.

The SAPPRFT set out further limits in September on posting audio and visual material to social media. The new rules require a special permit for transmission of audiovisual materials on blogging platforms such as Weibo and instant messaging platforms such as WeChat. Platform managers were made directly responsible for ensuring user-posted content complies with their permit’s scope. This includes television shows, movies, news programs, and documentaries, which many netizens consumed exclusively through social media channels. The rules prohibit the uploading of any amateur content that would fall under the definition of news programming.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued two directives during the year restricting the use of unauthorized virtual private network (VPN) services as part of the government’s longstanding crackdown on online speech and content. The ministry’s move was targeted at individual rather than enterprise VPN users. Ministry officials acknowledged during a July 25 press conference the need for major corporations and other users to retain access to authorized VPN services. Nonetheless, many smaller businesses, academics, and others expressed concern over the integrity of communications transmitted using authorized VPN services. The directive reflected a more aggressive stance towards unauthorized VPN use.

The new rules and regulations issued during the year--combined with the massive online presence of citizens who must live under these restrictions--severely restricted internet freedom. The regulatory tightening imposed by security services and propaganda officials resulted in an internet management model that permits some internet traffic for commercial gain while severely curtailing political opinion.

GreatFire.org, a website run by activists tracking online censorship in the country, reported that thousands of domains, web links, social media searches, and internet protocol addresses that it monitored in the country remained blocked. In addition to social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the government continued to block almost all access to Google websites, including its email service, photograph program, map service, calendar application, and YouTube. Other blocked websites included Pinterest, SnapChat, Picasa, Wordpress, and Periscope, among many others. While countless news and social media sites remained blocked, a large percentage of censored websites were gambling or pornographic websites.

Government censors continued to block websites or online content related to topics deemed sensitive, such as Taiwan, the Dalai Lama, Tibet, the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, and all content related to the Panama Papers. Many other websites for international media outlets, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, remained perennially blocked, in addition to human rights websites, such as those of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In addition, in July the last two major Chinese-language news websites originating outside the country were blocked--Financial Times Chinese and Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao. With their departure, all Chinese-language newspaper websites available on the mainland fell under the control of the Communist Party.

Authorities continued to jail numerous internet writers for their peaceful expression of political views. In August blogger and activist Wu Gan, known by his pen name “Super Vulgar Butcher,” was tried in a Tianjin court for “subversion of state power.” Wu spent two years in pretrial detention without access to the lawyers his family hired, and there was evidence he was tortured during that incarceration. His father was also detained for part of that time but later released without charge. Prior to his trial, Wu released a video statement denying any wrongdoing and calling his trial a “farce.” His trial was held in secret, and afterward the court released a statement stating that Wu “recognized that his behavior violated criminal law.” On December 26, the court sentenced Wu to eight years in prison followed by five years’ deprivation of political rights. Following the verdict, Wu released a statement restating he was tortured and identifying the perpetrators of this mistreatment. Family and friends believed his long detention and his lengthy sentence were due to his refusal to confess to any crimes and retract his accusations of torture.

In addition there continued to be reports of cyberattacks against foreign websites, journalists, and media organizations carrying information that the government restricted internet users in the country from accessing. As in the past, the government selectively blocked access to sites operated by foreign governments, including the websites or social media platforms of health organizations, educational institutions, NGOs, social networking sites, and search engines.

While such censorship was effective in keeping casual users away from websites hosting sensitive content, many users circumvented online censorship by using various technologies. Information on proxy servers outside the country and software for defeating official censorship were available. In July, Apple Inc. removed VPN services from its app store in the country. Encrypted communication apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp were regularly disrupted, especially during “sensitive” times of the year, such as during the period prior to the 19th Party Congress.

Government officials were increasingly willing to prosecute individuals for using VPN software. In Guangzhou a Dongguan court sentenced a local citizen to nine months’ imprisonment and fined him 5,000 yuan ($758) as punishment for selling VPN software.

The State Secrets Law obliges internet companies to cooperate fully with investigations of suspected leaks of state secrets, stop the transmission of such information once discovered, and report the crime to authorities. This is defined broadly and without clear limits. Furthermore, the companies must comply with authorities’ orders to delete such information from their websites; failure to do so is punishable by relevant departments, such as police and the Ministry of Public Security.

Following President Xi’s calls for establishing an alternative form of global internet governance at CAC’s December 2015 World Internet Conference, the government continued its international diplomatic efforts towards the establishment of a new, government-led multilateral system to replace the existing multistakeholder system that currently includes a variety of international stakeholders, including representatives from business and civil society. The CAC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs both released major cyberpolicy strategies during the year that called for adoption of the multilateral approach, and the government encouraged members of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) to support its internet governance agenda during summit events that it hosted. The government’s 2017 World Internet Conference, held December 3-5, again included calls for countries to adopt an “internet sovereignty” model that would increase government censorship power.

The government continued to introduce new measures implementing a “Social Credit System,” which is intended to collect vast amounts of data to create credit scores for individuals and companies in an effort to address deficiencies in “social trust,” strengthen access to financial credit instruments, and reduce public corruption. Unlike Western financial credit-rating systems, the government’s Social Credit System is designed also to collect information on academic records, traffic violations, social media presence, quality of friendships, adherence to birth control regulations, employment performance, consumption habits, and other topics. This system is also intended to result in increased self-censorship, as netizens would be liable for their statements, relationships, and even for information others shared on social media groups. Netizens’ credit scores decline when they express impermissible ideas, spread banned content, or associate with anyone who does so, and a decline in score means a loss of access to information-sharing applications and websites. An individual’s “social credit score,” among other things, quantifies a person’s loyalty to the government by monitoring citizens’ online activity and relationships. Points are awarded and deducted based on the “loyalty” of sites visited, as well as the “loyalty” of other netizens a person interacts with.

In September the government announced new regulations that place responsibility on the organizers of chat groups on messaging apps for ensuring that impermissible content is not shared on the group chat. Under these new rules, the creator of a WeChat group, for example, could be held liable for failing to report impermissible content shared by anyone in the chat group. According to an announcement by the CAC, the companies that provide chat platforms are responsible for tracking and assigning “social credit ratings.” Users with low social credit scores lose the privilege of creating groups, and even the ability to use the platforms, a significant loss now that a majority of young persons use messaging platforms for not only social but also many economic interactions.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

The government continued restrictions on academic and artistic freedom and on political and social discourse at colleges, universities, and research institutes. Restrictive SAPPRFT and Central Propaganda Department regulations and decisions constrained the flow of ideas and persons.

The government and the CCP Organization Department continued to control appointments to most leadership positions at universities, including department heads. While CCP membership was not always a requirement to obtain a tenured faculty position, scholars without CCP affiliation often had fewer chances for promotion. Academic subject areas deemed politically sensitive (e.g., civil rights, elite cronyism, civil society, etc.) continued to be off-limits. Some academics self-censored their publications, faced pressure to reach predetermined research results, or were unable to hold conferences with international participants during politically sensitive periods. Foreign academics claimed the government used visa denials, along with blocking access to archives, fieldwork, or interviews, to pressure them to self-censor their work. The use of foreign textbooks in classrooms remained restricted, and domestically produced textbooks continued to be under the editorial control of the CCP.

The CCP requires undergraduate students, regardless of academic major, to complete political ideology coursework on subjects such as Marxism, Maoism, and Deng Xiaoping thought. The government declared 2017 to be the “Year of Education Quality on University Ideological and Political Lessons,” and 29 prominent universities were inspected to assess their promotion of Marxist theory and socialist core values. State media reported the government dispatched more than 200 “experts” to at least 2,500 college and university classes nationwide to inspect and attend ideological and political classes. A Financial Times report in June suggested these inspections focused on universities with Western ties.

The government also placed new regulations on private K-12 schools. A Wall Street Journal article stated such changes were motivated by the central government’s desire to have more influence in education by requiring a CCP presence in these schools. As of July international students were also required to take political theory classes.

In June, Education Minister Chen Baosheng stressed that higher education institutions needed to better promote Marxist theory and “socialist core values.” Two Chinese professors were fired for criticizing Mao Zedong in online posts in January and June.

In December 2016 Xi Jinping chaired the National Ideology and Political Work Conference for Higher Education and called for turning the academy into a “stronghold that adheres to party leadership.” Xi stressed that “China’s colleges and universities are institutions of higher learning under the Party’s leadership; they are colleges and universities with Chinese socialist characteristics.” Xi further asserted that strengthening the role of Marxism in the curriculum was needed to “guide the teachers and students to become staunch believers in the socialist value system.” Xi specifically called on professors to become “staunch supporters of the Party’s rule.”

Authorities on some occasions blocked entry into the country of individuals deemed politically sensitive and, in some cases, refused to issue passports to citizens selected for international exchange programs who were considered “politically unreliable,” singling out Tibetans, Uighurs, and individuals from other minority nationality areas. A number of other foreign government-sponsored exchange selectees who already had passports, including some academics, encountered difficulties gaining approval to travel to participate in their programs. Academics reported having to request permission to travel overseas and, in some cases, said they were limited in the number of foreign trips they could take per year.

Academic censorship was on the rise during the year, and the CCP’s reach increasingly extended beyond the country’s physical borders. In a case that made international headlines, in August the Cambridge University Press excluded 300 articles and book reviews from the online version of its prestigious China Quarterly periodical available in the country. It was responding to a demand by the General Administration of Press and Publication, which threatened to shut down the website if the articles were not removed. The articles touched on a broad set of themes, including Taiwan relations, the Cultural Revolution, the crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, and government policies towards ethnic minorities. After widespread criticism, Cambridge University Press reversed its decision and reposted the articles. According to the Financial Times, this case led academics to fear that universities would be forced to make concessions or lose access to the country’s lucrative market.

In September a foreign researcher announced that government authorities were systematically erasing historical records as part of their process of digitization. While working through the digitization of historical documents, they deleted Chinese journal articles from the 1950s that contradict explanations of party history promoted by President Xi. These databases are a primary source for academic research by domestic and foreign academics.

The CCP actively promotes censorship of Chinese students outside the country. A New York Times opinion article asserted that Chinese students on Australian campuses tended to self-censor and monitor each other, threatening free and open debate on campus. A Chinese commencement speaker at the University of Maryland who criticized China and Chinese authorities was excoriated in Chinese social media, and the student later apologized for her comments. The New York Times stated that the 150 chapters of the Chinese Student and Scholar Associations “…have worked in tandem with Beijing to promote a pro-Chinese agenda and tamp down anti-Chinese speech on Western campuses.” A Time article reported Taiwan universities signed agreements with mainland Chinese counterparts promising to avoid teaching sensitive content to secure lucrative fee-paying students from China. The government stated it would no longer fund scholars going to the University of California San Diego after a commencement speech there by the Dalai Lama.

Many intellectuals and scholars exercised self-censorship, anticipating that books or papers on political topics would be deemed too sensitive to be published. Censorship and self-censorship of artistic works was also common, particularly artworks deemed to involve politically sensitive subjects. Authorities frequently denied Western musicians permission to put on concerts in China. In July the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture prohibited Justin Bieber from performing in order to “maintain order in the Chinese market and purify the Chinese performance environment.” The government continued to forbid public performances of Handel’s Messiah, according to an August report by the Economist. Authorities also scrutinized the content of cultural events and applied pressure to encourage self-censorship of discussions.


Who are the Uyghurs and why is China being accused of genocide?

Human rights groups believe China has detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will over the past few years in a large network of what the state calls "re-education camps", and sentenced hundreds of thousands to prison terms.

There is also evidence that Uyghurs are being used as forced labour and of women being forcibly sterilised. Some former camp detainees have also alleged they were tortured and sexually abused.

The US is among several countries to have accused China of committing genocide in Xinjiang. The leading human rights groups Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have published reports accusing China of crimes against humanity.

China denies all allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, claiming its system of "re-education" camps are there to combat separatism and Islamist militancy in the region.


Martial Law Declared

On May 13, a number of the student protesters initiated a hunger strike, which inspired other similar strikes and protests across China. As the movement grew, the Chinese government became increasingly uncomfortable with the protests, particularly as they disrupted a visit by Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union on May 15.

A welcome ceremony for Gorbachev originally scheduled for Tiananmen Square was instead held at the airport, although otherwise his visit passed without incident. Even so, feeling the demonstrations needed to be curtailed, the Chinese government declared martial law on May 20 and 250,000 troops entered Beijing.

By the end of May more than one million protesters had gathered in Tiananmen Square. They held daily marches and vigils, and images of the events were transmitted by media organizations to audiences in the United States and Europe.


The development of Human Rights in Communist China

Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, its Communist Party leadership has repressed dissident political views and organized political opposition. Nevertheless, today’s China is not the China during the rule of Mao Zedong (1949-1976), when people were persecuted and imprisoned not only for what they said, but for who they were. In the early 1950s, Mao launched a campaign against landlords and entrepreneurs whom he called the remnants of feudalism and capitalism. In 1957, he persecuted China’s intellectuals, because he did not trust them and believed they were conspiring against him. In the late 1950s, he launched a massive campaign in the countryside, called the Great Leap Forward, in an effort to transform China into a true Communist utopia in his life time. This campaign led to the death of thirty million Chinese peasants. And in 1966-76, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution against his own Communist Party and any person in authority, who he believed was conspiring against him. In the process, he catapulted China into anarchy and chaos.

After Mao’s death in 1976, China was led by Mao’s Long March colleague, Deng Xiaoping. He moved China to a market economy and into the international arena, resulting in the growth of China’s economy by 9/10% a year for over thirty years. Though China continued to be a one-party sate led by the Communist Party, it moved from a totalitarian to an authoritarian political system. The Communist Party continued to rule, but China’s economic reforms made it possible for individuals to support themselves without the state’s permission, which allowed for more freedom in the personal, economic, artistic, and intellectual lives of the Chinese people. In this freer atmosphere, it was possible for individuals and groups to try to assert their political rights.

Such efforts began in the late 1970s, led by former Red Guards, the educated youth, whom Mao had mobilized to rebel against authority during the Cultural Revolution. But they had caused so much havoc that Mao then sent them to the countryside to learn from the peasants. In the countryside, far away from teachers and families, they began to form their own groups, think for themselves and question authority. Consequently, when they returned to the cities after Mao’s death in 1976, they started a movement in Beijing, called the Democracy Wall movement. They used methods that they had learned in the Cultural Revolution, such as putting up wall posters, engaging in political debates and printing pamphlets, except that this time they called for political as well as economic reforms. Deng Xiaoping allowed the Democracy Wall movement, which spread to virtually every major Chinese city, to continue for several months because it buttressed his campaign against the Maoists still in government. But once the Maoists had been purged, he then crushed the Democracy Wall movement and imprisoned their leaders.

The next attempt to assert political rights in China began with the 1989 student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. On April 15, thousands of students marched from their university campuses to the Square demanding political rights as well as calling for an end of corruption and rising inflation. When urban workers tried to join the movement, the students initially tried to block their participation because they knew that the greatest fear of the Chinese leadership was a Solidarity-like movement as occurred in Poland in 1980 that had spelled the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and the Communist states of Eastern Europe. The students, however, could not control the movement as it spread to China’s major cities and was joined by ordinary urban citizens. When Deng began to hear shouts from the streets of “Down with Deng Xiaoping” and “Down with the Communist Party,” he feared another Cultural Revolution. He then sent in the troops on June 4, six weeks after the movement began, to crush the demonstration. The troops violently repressed the movement and imprisoned its leaders.

Despite the violent crack-down on the 1989 demonstrators, another new political development occurred in its aftermath. With the continuing dynamic growth of China’s economy, a rising new entrepreneurial class began to develop in the 1990s. Members of this class were not a bourgeoisie in the Western sense of an independent entrepreneurial class, because in order to start and sustain their economic endeavors they had to have connections with local party officials. In fact, China’s most successful entrepreneurs were inducted into the party. Nevertheless, there were other members of China’s rising middle class, such as defense lawyers, journalists and public intellectuals, who attempted to assert their political rights. Journalists wrote about peasant protests against local officials’ confiscation of their land for modernization projects. Lawyers defended the journalists and others who criticized the political system. And public intellectuals wrote articles and engaged in debates calling for political reforms. They were sometimes detained and arrested, but still continued to criticize publicly the party’s policies and call for political rights. Most important, for the first time in the Communist period, intellectuals joined with ordinary people in efforts to achieve political and economic rights.

In June 1998, another new political phenomenon occurred-an effort to establish an opposition political party, called the China Democracy Party. It was led by the leaders of the Democracy Wall and 1989 demonstrations. They first registered the China Democracy Party as an NGO in several cities. Despite government censorship and filtering, with the help of the Internet and cell phones, they were able to coordinate their actions and in just six months the China Democracy Party had become a nation-wide political party. This effort was different from other attempts to establish alternative political groups in that its members were not just intellectuals they included workers, farmers and small entrepreneurs. The China Democracy Party existed for almost six months until the party sharply cracked down and imprisoned its leaders in late 1998. Nevertheless, despite its suppression, a precedent had been set for the establishment of an opposition party.

The make-up of the China Democracy Party’s leadership also revealed another important change in the post-Mao era. Its leaders, veterans of past political movements, had been released from prison due to pressure from the international community. Whereas it had little impact on Mao, international pressure does influence the decisions of China’s post-Mao leaders. They want to be accepted as respected members of the international community. Also due to international pressure, China has signed the UN Covenant on Social and Economic Rights in 1997 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1998. The Covenant on Social and Economic Rights has been passed by China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress but the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has not been passed. Nevertheless, like the dissidents in the former Soviet Union, China’s human rights activists cite the latter covenant as justification for demanding political rights.

Thus, though China’s government is authoritarian and those demanding human rights continue to be imprisoned and abused, there have been changes in the post-Mao era, making it possible periodically to launch efforts to achieve such rights. Despite repeated government crack-downs on any unauthorized political activities, individuals and small groups continue to seek political rights and for the first time in the People’s Republic, intellectuals are joining together with ordinary people in such endeavors. So far, they not been successful, but neither have they been defeated.

Merle Goldman, is Professor Emerita of Boston University and an Associate of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard. Her most recent book is “From Comrade to Citizen: The Struggle for Political Rights in China” She is also the author of a booklet, published by the Association of Asian Studies in 2007, “Political Rights in Post-Mao China,” designed to be used by high school teachers and students and undergraduates.


POLICY BRIEF #50

As the tenth anniversary of the crackdown on student protestors in Tiananmen Square approaches, Beijing’s nervousness is obvious. The government has quelled activity that appears to challenge the supremacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), notably the attempts of a small group of activists to establish an opposition party. It has also tightened control on some social and religious groups whose broadening membership could metastasize into political movements. In response, the United States has redoubled its efforts to censure China in the international community. These initiatives, such as the unsuccessful sponsorship of a China resolution at the annual meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), have symbolic value but little effect on Beijing’s human rights performance. The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade increased bilateral tensions, and Beijing hastened to suspend the U.S.-Chinese dialogue on human rights. American policymakers should use this hiatus to reassess U.S. human rights policy toward China.

Since the Chinese government’s suppression of the Tiananmen Square movement, the United States and China have, with few exceptions, held opposing positions on human rights issues. The American policy community has been locked into a zero-sum debate on China, which is broadly (but inadequately) defined as engagement versus isolation and carrots versus sticks. Both these dynamics were at play in the attempt to link human rights with trade in 1993-94. This effort foundered equally because of Beijing’s refusal to yield to demands for improvements and American business opposition to the linkage.

China’s seeming intransigence is rooted in more than the regime’s determination to maintain political control. Washington and Beijing disagree on issues of both priority and proportion in human rights. American concerns about Chinese human rights include religious and reproductive rights, but the overwhelming focus remains on the right to political expression and activity. In contrast, Beijing gives highest priority to raising the living standards of its citizens, on which the party’s popular support now depends. Exacerbating the difference in priorities, some Americans believe China should follow the path of the Soviet bloc in the 1980s, when political change preceded economic reform and led to the collapse of communism. The Chinese government and many ordinary Chinese stress the negative outcomes of that transition: economic chaos in Russia and communal violence in the former Yugoslavia.

Some Chinese are also bewildered by the growing emphasis of human rights in U.S.-Chinese relations after the cold war. The U.S.-Chinese rapprochement took place during the last years of the Cultural Revolution, but Washington did not protest the widespread abuses of Maoist rule at that time. By U.S. count, approximately 2,000 political prisoners remain in China, 7 percent of whom were imprisoned during the Tiananmen crackdown. But during the Anti-Rightist campaign of the late 1950s, more than 800,000 Chinese were sentenced to “reform through labor” for political crimes. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, 400,000 people were jailed for political offenses, and one out of every three Chinese inmates was a political prisoner. This problem of proportion puzzles even ordinary Chinese. Although the shift in U.S. policy toward greater priority on rights is found in numerous countries, Beijing regards the heightened U.S. concern for rights as an attempt to undermine Chinese prestige and power in the international community.

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Hong Kong in the Shadow of China

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Renminbi Internationalization

Suspicions about the underlying motives of U.S. human rights policy are not confined to old-guard ideologues who waged anti-Western campaigns decades ago. They are evidence of a wide vein in the Chinese psyche which has been ambivalent about close relations with the West since the Opium Wars of the 1840s. Many Americans were startled when Peking University students, who had been the standard bearers in Tiananmen Square, probed for the “hidden agenda” behind U.S. human rights policy during President Clinton’s address there last year. More significantly, the anti-American demonstrations in the wake of the Belgrade embassy bombing were based in the Chinese university population. Because of the Tiananmen Square movement and the replica of the Statue of Liberty brandished at that time, the American public had been inclined–incorrectly–to view Chinese students as uniformly pro-American.

Ironically, Washington and Beijing have found themselves to be strange bedfellows on some international human rights issues. Last summer the United States and China were in a slim minority of governments opposing the draft treaty for an International Criminal Court, albeit for different reasons. Last month, the two countries attempted to block a resolution at the UNHRC calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

Is Civil Society Emerging?


Mental health and disabilities

China has been criticised for its treatment of people with disabilities. Human Rights Watch has called protections "inadequate" and says that people face serious discrimination in employment and education. Campaigners say that some efforts have been made to address this. In 2014 it was announced that China would allow Braille or electronic university entrance exams. But Human Rights Watch says that there are still problems with the practicalities.

The Mental Health Law says that hospitalisation should be voluntary except in cases where individuals pose a danger to themselves or others. But campaigners say that there are still loopholes in the law. A woman called Gu Xianghong was detained in a Beijing psychiatric hospital for five weeks after petitioning the authorities, Amnesty said.

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Freedom of religion and belief

Regulations, effective as of 1 February, stipulated that religious groups must “follow the leadership of the Communist Party of China… persist in the direction of sinicization of religion, and practise core socialist values”. The government sought to bring religious teachings and practices in line with state ideology and to comprehensively strengthen control over both state-approved and unregistered religious groups. Reports documented the destruction of thousands of cultural and religious sites, particularly in the north-west of China. The state’s repression of religion in Xinjiang and Tibet remained severe. People were arbitrarily detained for ordinary religious practices that authorities deemed “signs of extremism” under the “De-extremification Regulations”.


China Poses an 'Existential Threat' to International Human Rights, Says Rights Group After Director Barred From Hong Kong

C hina poses an &ldquoexistential threat&rdquo to the international human rights system, according to a new report released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW) after the organization’s executive director was denied entry to Hong Kong at the weekend. &ldquoIt&rsquos not simply a suppression at home, but it&rsquos attacks on virtually any body, company, government, international institution that tries to uphold human rights or hold Beijing to account,&rdquo HRW&rsquos executive director Kenneth Roth told TIME ahead of the report&rsquos release.

That&rsquos the message Roth intended to highlight in Hong Kong on Wednesday, where World Report 2020, HRW&rsquos annual survey of the global state of human rights, was originally due to be launched in Hong Kong. &ldquoI had hoped to hold this press conference in Hong Kong but the Chinese authorities had a different idea and they blocked me at the airport,&rdquo Roth said during a press conference held instead in New York. &ldquoThis is the first time I have been blocked entering Hong Kong.&rdquo

Roth said he had been in Hong Kong to release a report on gender discrimination in the Chinese job market less than two years ago. He said he believes this year was different because the Chinese government &ldquomade the preposterous claim that Human Rights Watch is inciting the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.&rdquo

However, Hong Kong authorities denied Roth, who is a U.S. citizen, from entering the city on Sunday the following day, China&rsquos Foreign Ministry defended the decision. Roth tells TIME that upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, he was immediately stopped by immigration agents and held in a room for around two hours by three agents.

&ldquoIt was clear the decision was being made someplace else, and then it became clear that it was in Beijing,&rdquo says Roth, who has entered Hong Kong on past occasions. When told that he would be denied entry, Roth asked for justification. &ldquoThe only thing they would say was that it was for &lsquoimmigration reasons&rsquo.&rdquo

&ldquoThe Chinese government is terrified of admitting this genuine desire for democracy on territory that they rule,” said Roth during the press conference. He said that China is concerned “what&rsquos happening in Hong Kong might spread to the mainland.&rdquo &ldquoThat&rsquos really the big fear.&rdquo

China’s detention of a million members of the Uighur ethnic minority group in Xinjiang province, and an &ldquounprecedented regime of mass surveillance&rdquo designed to suppress criticism are among the human rights violations described in the mainland, while the report also Beijing&rsquos intensifying attempts to undermine international human rights standards and institutions on a global scale.

The effective barring of Roth from entering Hong Kong is not an isolated incident, happening days after a U.S. photographer covering the pro-democracy protests was also banned from entering the financial hub. &ldquoI think it’s worth stressing that what happened to me pales in comparison to what is happening to the pro-democracy protesters on the streets of Hong Kong. They’re the ones who are facing tear gas, beatings and arrest, and I just had another 16 hour flight [back to New York],&rdquo Roth says. &ldquoBut what it does reflect is a real worsening of the human rights situation in Hong Kong.&rdquo

The semi-autonomous territory has been rocked by pro-democracy protests since June 2019, triggered by a controversial extradition bill that has since been withdrawn. Over the past seven months, the city has been rocked by escalating force as of early December, official figures stated since the protests began more than 6,000 protesters have been arrested, and police have fired around 16,000 rounds of tear gas and 10,000 rubber bullets.

At a press briefing on Monday after the incident involving Roth, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that &ldquoallowing or not allowing someone&rsquos entry is China&rsquos sovereign right,&rdquo adding that foreign NGOs were supporting &ldquoHong Kong independence separatist activities.&rdquo

&ldquoThe justification they put forward was laughable, and insulting to the people of Hong Kong,&rdquo says Roth. &ldquoThey don&rsquot need me to tell them to take to the streets &mdash they are looking to defend their own human rights, their own political freedoms and their own rule of law.&rdquo In December, China announced that it would impose sanctions on several U.S.-based NGOs, including HRW, in retaliation for legislation aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong. Roth says Beijing&rsquos explanation for barring him shows how fearful the authorities are of demonstrations in the city, and is an attempt to persuade those in the mainland not to emulate the pro-democracy protests. &ldquoThey simply cannot admit to people on the mainland that hundreds of thousands Chinese citizens would take to the street in opposition to the increasingly dictatorial rule that is coming from Beijing.&rdquo

The incident, as well as the broader obstacles to HRW&rsquos work in China and Hong Kong, &ldquois part of a trend in which the Chinese government is trying to impede efforts to defend core human rights principles,&rdquo says Roth. The Chinese government has attempted to deter, track and deport journalists and foreign investigators from reporting on forced indoctrination and detention of at least a million Uighur Muslims in internment camps in China&rsquos western province of Xinjiang, highlighted in Roth&rsquos lead essay in the HRW report. On Monday, Chinese state media reported that the semi-autonomous region of Tibet would introduce forthcoming regulations to &ldquostrengthen ethnic unity&rdquo echoing language used in regulations introduced in Xinjiang four years ago.


THE FORUM

Wake up, stand up to CCP

After the exposé on the Chinese Communist Party's infiltration of our businesses and institutions, it is extraordinary that infant formula supplier, Bellamy's, is to be sold to a Chinese business with a guarantee of majority Australian board representation. It seems naive to think the CCP will not be working behind the scenes for an eventual takeover.

Will someone connected to this deal join a Chinese company as a highly paid consultant? This happened in 2016 when former trade minister Andrew Robb joined the Landbridge Group, which is closely connected with the Chinese government, as a high-level consultant after the signing off on a 99-year lease of Port Darwin in 2015. (He has since left Landbridge.) What will it take for the government and business community to stand up to the CCP?

Henry Gaughan, Richmond

Once lost, never regained

Why is it advantageous to Australia and its people to willingly sell vast expanses of land to overseas buyers only to lose what can be generated from that land? If ownership of the land, and therefore what can be produced from it, is so desired by overseas nations, why isn't it more important to Australians? What is lost can never be regained.

Judith Eppinger, Narre Warren North

So many seeking asylum

I am all for granting Chinese spy Wang Liqiang asylum, but why is his claim more valid than those who have languished in offshore detention for so many years?

Matt Dunn, Leongatha

Was Home Affairs asleep?

How could so much alleged Chinese interference into the governance of this country be possible when we have the super Department of Home Affairs? Perhaps Peter Dutton and the Coalition missed the cues because they were too busy bashing sick refugees, African gangs, unions, climate scientists, pensioners, the unemployed and other groups too weak to effectively respond to these "thugs" in suits.

Kim van den Berghe, Tolmie

What makes a good cafe?

Leaving a cafe having paid $29 for two bad coffees, a small milkshake and a croissant was infuriating, though judging from the surly workers and depressed atmosphere we were not the only ones having a bad experience.

"Wages and the wash-up" (Good Food, 26/11) makes it clear that some people feel they have a "right" to own a successful business. They do not.

If terrible restaurants closed, or better still never opened, more cash would flow to those ones that operate with passion, integrity and business sense. Complying with wages law would be much easier. Also, balance sheet figures are meaningless without context. If wages are now 41per cent, on average, of revenue, might it be because an industry historically rife with wage theft increasingly complies with the law? I would argue this is a good thing.

Maureen McCarthy, Castlemaine

Time to put customers first

In light of the ongoing mismanagement and greed that is currently being exposed in the banking system, a big shift needs to occur. Banks should no longer be allowed to hide behind their alleged care and concern for their shareholders. By delisting all banks from the Australian stock exchange, the shift in care will be to their true shareholders, the trusting people who bank with them. Then we might see banking become a service industry.

Joan Noone, Hampton

Westpac customers' role

Are our authorities investigating the bank customers who apparently were sending large amounts of money overseas to support either terrorism or child abuse? The 23million breaches allegedly committed by Westpac are surely only part of the problem.

Judy Kevill, Ringwood

Develop a 'service ethic'

I agree with Clare Cooper about the need for a radical rethinking of aged care – and carers (Letters, 23/11). Some European countries consider aged care the complex specialty that it is. They insist on considerable training, including psychological education, even for part-time carers.

With required qualifications – and responsible regulation – would then come better wages and committed staff who respond to a service ethic, rather than shareholder priorities (low wage realities). And to encourage compassion, why not offer trainee health sector workers concessions on their student loans for their part-time work, as some countries do? Monocultural retirement villages can also be placed next to schools and early childhood facilities to encourage a two-way appreciation.

Steve Liddle, Surrey Hills

More honesty, less stress

It is good that 10,000 more home care packages for elderly Australians are to be provided (The Age, 26/11). However, I suspect many more could be created, without the government needing to spend any more money, if the information provided to applicants were more upfront about the constraints.

The information coyly suggests that "you may be asked to pay a contribution to the cost of your care". This sounds fair. But in reality, these packages are quite severely means tested, as applicants only discover after they have gone through several time-consuming, bureaucratic processes. This must be very costly in terms of public service time, not to mention the emotional cost to stressed applicants only to discover that it has been a waste of time. Tell people upfront, and in detail, about the means test, reduce the number of unsuccessful applications, and use the money saved to create more packages.

Muriel Porter, Camberwell

Reintroduce studentships

Tony Wright wrote about a far-sighted Victorian government scheme last century which provided generous studentships for people to study at university in order to become teachers (The Age, 23/11). At the time there was a severe shortage of teachers. Similar action is needed today to create teachers to work in science, maths and other areas of shortage.

Richard Trembath, Mount Eliza

Married? You're a temp.

In 1962 I was awarded a studentship that enabled me to undertake a university degree my family could not otherwise have afforded the fees and other expenses entailed. As Tony Wright relates, it contracted me to working in secondary schools for three years after I graduated. And yes, the Education Department had the final say as to where it sent me – generally, we were sent into country high schools.

Tony says it was not until 1956 that married women in Victoria were officially permitted to teach on a permanent basis. After I married in 1970, I had to resign from permanency and become a "temporary" teacher in order to continue teaching in government schools. This resulted in my losing the associated benefits that permanency provided. Progress was slower than Tony thought

Virginia Reddaway, Glen Iris

Protecting kids in cars

We are alerted when we accidentally leave our lights on in a vehicle. Manufacturers must design an automatic warning if a child is left alone in any vehicle. Artificial intelligence with cameras and sensors could be part of a compulsory national child warning system.

John Candido, Ivanhoe

History of Macedon Lodge

I read with interest Chris Roots' article, "Williams set to shut Macedon Lodge" (Sport, 25/11). He says Lloyd Williams' passion for the Melbourne Cup "led him to create Macedon Lodge to target the race that stops the nation every year". In fact, he purchased it in 2007 from its founder, my late husband Kurt Stern.

Maureen Howard, Toorak

Importance of our voices

Yes, Dr Tarquin Oehr (Letters, 23/11), I, too, have been noticing those hard, scratchy voices in some young women, and wondering what started the outbreak. Trained as a speech pathologist many years ago, I would say they are deliberately tensing their vocal cords. But why any girl would cultivate such an unattractive habit beats me. Don't they know that voice is a huge part of sex appeal and, indeed, all interpersonal relationships?

It is not surprising that a larynx would show wear and tear from this misplaced attempt to sound sophisticated. (My own idiotic affectation was to smoke cigarettes until I grew up, in my thirties.)

Anne Riddell, Mount Martha

Let's introduce a curfew

Over the past few years, I have noticed a gradual and persistent increase in helicopter flights over the inner-metropolitan suburbs. They fly at low levels and produce an unacceptable level of noise, often late at night and in the small hours of the morning. This has involved media organisations desperate to be first to a car crash, heliports being built into high-rise apartment buildings, time-poor billionaires keen to make another billion and emergency flights.

The police air-wing and emergency air ambulances can be excluded from my complaint but the media, the exceptionally rich and "boys with toys" need to show some concern and courtesy towards those of us who live on the flight paths. Restricting all but emergency and essential helicopter flights to hours similar to Sydney Airport might be a good start.

Roger Cook, Richmond

The �nce' we need

It has been suggested that terrorists might light bushfires as a means of terrorising Australians (The Age, 25/11). With that possibility in mind, why not put some of the huge defence budget towards a fleet of water bombers of our own? They are sure to get a lot more active service than those items on order that are likely to be superseded before delivery.

Wendy Knight, Little River

Change and flexibility

"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change" (Stephen Hawking). Have you done an IQ test lately, Scott Morrison?

Bill Farrell, West Wodonga


Section 7. Workers’ Rights

A. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law does not provide for freedom of association, and workers are not free to organize or join unions of their own choosing. The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the only union recognized under the law. Independent unions are illegal, and the law does not protect the right to strike. The law allows for collective wage bargaining for workers in all types of enterprises. The law further provides for industrial sectorwide or regional collective contracts, and enterprise-level collective contracts were generally compulsory throughout the country. Regulations require the government-controlled union to gather input from workers prior to consultation with management and to submit collective contracts to workers or their congress for approval. There is no legal obligation for employers to negotiate or to bargain in good faith, and some employers refused to do so.

The law provides for legal protections against discrimination against the officially sanctioned union and specifies union representatives may not be transferred or terminated by enterprise management during their term of office. The law provides for the reinstatement of workers dismissed for official union activity as well as for other penalties for enterprises that engage in antiunion activities. The law does not protect workers who request or take part in collective negotiations with their employers independent of the officially recognized union.

All union activity must be approved by and organized under the ACFTU, a CCP organ chaired by a member of the Politburo. The ACFTU and its provincial and local branches continued to establish new constituent unions and add new members, especially among workers in technology companies and in the transportation and service sectors. The law gives the ACFTU financial and administrative control over constituent unions empowered to represent employees in negotiating and signing collective contracts with enterprises and public institutions. The law does not mandate the ACFTU to represent the interests of workers in disputes.

The ACFTU and the CCP used a variety of mechanisms to influence the selection of trade union representatives. Although the law states trade union officers at each level should be elected, ACFTU-affiliated unions appointed most factory-level officers, often in coordination with employers. Official union leaders were often drawn from the ranks of management. Direct election by workers of union leaders continued to be rare, occurred only at the enterprise level, and was subject to supervision by higher levels of the union or the CCP. In enterprises where direct election of union officers took place, regional ACFTU officers and local CCP authorities retained control over the selection and approval of candidates. Even in these cases, workers and NGOs expressed concern about the credibility of elections.

The law does not expressly prohibit work stoppages and does not prohibit workers from striking spontaneously. Although some local authorities tolerated strikes protesting unpaid or underpaid wages, reports of police crackdowns on strikes continued throughout the year. For example, on March 7, police in Wuxi, Jiangsu beat and arrested a group of striking workers calling for unpaid year-end bonuses. Disputes over wage and benefit arrears caused the majority of the 800 strikes and collective protests recorded during the year tracked by the Hong Kong-based labor rights NGO China Labor Bulletin.

In cases where local authorities cracked down on strikes, they sometimes charged leaders with vague criminal offenses, such as “inciting subversion of state power,” “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” “gathering a crowd to disturb public order,” or “damaging production operations,” or detained them without any charges. For example Guangdong labor activist Ling Haobo, arrested in June 2019 in Heyuan, Guangdong, was sentenced and imprisoned in September for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” The only legally specified roles for the ACFTU in strikes are to participate in investigations and to assist the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in resolving disputes.

Enforcement was generally insufficient to deter wide-scale violations of laws designed to protect workers’ rights. Labor inspectors lacked authority and resources to compel employers to correct violations. While the law outlines general procedures for resolving disputes, procedures were lengthy and subject to delays. Local authorities in some areas actively sought to limit efforts by independent civil society organizations and legal practitioners. While some local government authorities took steps to increase mediation or arbitration, other areas maintained informal quotas on the number of cases allowed to proceed beyond mediation to arbitration or the courts. According to the China Labor Statistical Yearbook, in 2019 local labor dispute arbitration committees handled 894,053 cases, of which 195,063 were related to the termination of employment contracts.

Despite relatively high levels of union registration, genuine freedom of association and worker representation did not exist. The ACFTU constituent unions were generally ineffective in representing and protecting the rights and interests of workers. Workers generally did not view the ACFTU as an advocate, especially migrant workers, who rarely interacted with union officials.

China Labor Bulletin reported workers throughout the country engaged in wildcat strikes, work stoppages, and other protest actions and claimed the workers’ actions were indicative of the ACFTU’s inability to prevent violations and resolve disputes. Media reported a number of protests at factories throughout the country and a number of worker protests in the construction, service, and retail sectors.

The government targeted labor activists, students, and others advocating for worker rights during the year. For example, four Jasic Technology factory workers–Li Zhan, Liu Penghua, Mijiuping, and Yucong–who were part of a larger effort by workers to form a union in 2018 to respond to low pay and poor working conditions, remained in custody at year’s end. Other workers, labor organizers, and students who supported the effort to organize also faced threats, charges, and arrests. The International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Committee on the Freedom of Association noted concern regarding the reports of government harassment, intimidation, arrests, and physical abuse in the Jasic case.

Coordinated efforts by governments at the central, provincial, and local levels, including censorship, surveillance, harassment, detention, and the imposition of travel restrictions on labor rights defenders and restrictions on funding sources for NGOs, disrupted labor rights advocacy. For example, on March 26, a labor activist published photographs of hundreds of sanitation workers in Henan protesting wage arrears on a popular social media site but was pressured by local authorities to delete the contents less than 24 hours later. On February 16, a labor activist who provided free masks to sanitation workers in Beijing after the outbreak of COVID-19 was detained and held for 123 days. The activist had previously worked to defend the legal rights of migrant workers forcibly evicted from their residences in Beijing in 2017.

B. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced and compulsory labor. The law provides a range of penalties depending on the circumstances, including imprisonment, criminal detention, administrative blacklisting, and fines. Penalties were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. The law was not effectively enforced.

The PRC used state-sponsored forced labor in detention camps, prisons, and factories in and outside Xinjiang.

There is evidence of forced labor exacted by the use of force, threats of detention or other abusive practices against workers laboring in the camps, large industrial parks, and residential locations in Xinjiang. There are also reports of individuals “graduating” from “vocational training centers” and then being compelled to work at nearby facilities or sent to factories in other parts of China.

China’s State Council issued a white paper on employment and labor rights in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on September 17, 2020, in which it acknowledged that the Chinese Government has provided “vocational training” to an average of 1.29 million workers in Xinjiang every year from 2014 to 2019.

Xinjiang government documents indicate the existence of a large-scale PRC government plan, known as the “mutual pairing assistance” program, where 19 cities and provinces, mostly in eastern China, have established factories in Xinjiang. There is significant risk that these factories are using camp labor and other exploitative labor practices.

Persons detained in internment camps in Xinjiang (see section 6) were subjected to forced labor. The detainees worked in factories producing garments, hair accessories, and electronics and in agricultural production, notably picking and processing cotton and tomatoes. In March an Australian Strategic Policy Institute report stated the PRC government transferred Uyghur and other ethnic minorities from Xinjiang to technology, clothing, and automotive factories across the country conditions for many transferred workers strongly suggested forced labor. A New York Times investigation published on April 15 stated some Chinese companies used forced labor to produce personal protective equipment. In December a Center for Global Policy report detailed the PRC’s coercive labor training and transfer schemes that led to forced labor of nearly half a million people in the Xinjiang cotton harvest.

A December 2020 Jamestown report used evidence from public and nonpublic Chinese government and academic sources indicating that labor transfers of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang to other regions and other provinces are part of a state-run scheme to forcibly uproot them, assimilate them, and reduce their population. Using Chinese government documents, the report estimates that up to 1.6 million transferred laborers are estimated to be at risk of being subjected to forced labor as a result of the government policy that intends to “displace” populations deemed “problematic” by the government.

Chinese-flagged fishing vessels subjected workers from other countries to forced labor. On August 26, an Indonesian social media outlet posted a video of three Indonesian fisherman pleading for rescue from a PRC-flagged fishing vessel. The fishermen claimed they were subjected to physical violence, forced to work 20-hour days, and not paid for their work.

Although in 2013 the NPC officially abolished the re-education through labor system, an arbitrary system of administrative detention without judicial review, numerous media outlets and NGOs reported forced labor continued in prisons as well as drug rehabilitation facilities where individuals continued to be detained without judicial process. An August, Epoch Times article stated prison labor was used in apparel, artificial flowers, and cosmetic production in Shenyang, Liaoning.

There were reports of forced labor in other provinces in the production of items such as bricks, coal, and electronics.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/ .

C. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law specifies administrative review, fines, and revocation of business licenses of enterprises that illegally hire minors and provides underage working children be returned to their parents or other custodians in their original place of residence. The penalty is imprisonment for employing children younger than 16 in hazardous labor or for excessively long hours, but a gap remained between legislation and implementation despite annual inspection campaigns launched by local authorities across the country. Laws aimed at stopping child trafficking may not apply to boys ages 14-17. Penalties were commensurate with those for analogous serious crimes such as kidnapping.

During the year there were reports of children working, often unpaid, in factories, at schools, and as athletes and models. Abuse of the student-worker system continued. There were multiple reports of schools and local officials improperly facilitating student labor in factories producing electronics and apparel.

Also see the U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

D. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law provides some basis for legal protection against employment discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, race, gender, religious belief, disability, age, and infectious or occupational diseases. Various government ministries also have decrees prohibiting gender discrimination during recruitment and hiring. Enforcement clauses include the right to pursue civil damages through the courts. Penalties were commensurate to analogous laws. Some courts were reluctant to accept discrimination cases, and authorities at all levels emphasized negotiated settlements to labor disputes. There were few examples of enforcement actions that resulted in final legal decisions.

The government did not effectively enforce the laws. Discrimination in employment was widespread, including in recruitment advertisements that discriminated based on gender, age, height, birthplace, marital status, disability, physical appearance, and health status (see section 6).

Age discrimination in hiring and retention continued. The mandatory retirement age for women was 50 for those in blue-collar jobs and 55 for those in white-collar jobs. The retirement age for all men was 60.

In August local media reported the technology conglomerate Tencent “persuaded” employees older than 35 to resign to reduce staff and cut costs. Tencent downgraded or transferred employees with open-ended contracts who refused to resign. Layoffs at Huawei during the year were similarly targeted at employees older than 34.

Workplace discrimination against women and LGBTI employees was common. In a survey of the LGBTI workplace experience, 20 percent of respondents affirmed they had experienced discrimination due to their sexual orientation, and approximately 10 percent of respondents said their employers included sexual minorities as a protected group in their diversity policies.

Several transgender workers filed lawsuits during the year after they were fired by their employers. In January a Beijing court ordered ecommerce company Dangdang to rehire a transgender woman after the company fired her when she took a leave for gender reassignment surgery.

In April, Human Rights Watch found 11 percent of the government’s civil service job advertisements specified a preference or requirement for men in 2018 and 2019 advertisements, 19 percent specified such a preference or requirement. Other examples of discrimination included job advertisements seeking pretty women, preferring men, or requiring higher education qualifications from women compared with men for the same job. Survey results showed women were less likely to be invited for interviews or called back for a second round of interviews. In interviews some women were asked whether they had or planned to have children and how many children they had.

There was employment-related discrimination based on geographic origin. NGOs and media reported some employers discriminated against job applicants from Wuhan city and Hubei, the province where COVID-19 was first detected. There also were multiple media reports businesses fired or failed to renew contracts for workers who had contracted the virus. The Supreme People’s Court released guidance instructing lower courts not to support employers’ claims of dismissing workers for COVID-19-related reasons, including individuals who tested positive for the disease, were quarantined, or hailed from COVID-19 “hot spots.”

The hukou system remained the most pervasive form of employment-related discrimination, denying migrant workers access to the full range of social benefits, including health care, pensions, and disability programs, on an equal basis with local residents.

E. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage, but the law requires local and provincial governments to set their own minimum wage rates for both the formal and informal sectors according to standards promulgated by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. By law employees are limited to working eight hours a day and 40 hours per week work beyond this standard is considered overtime and must be paid at a premium.

The Ministry of Emergency Management sets and enforces occupational safety regulations. The National Health Committee sets and enforces occupational health regulations. The law requires employers to provide free health checkups for employees working in hazardous conditions and to inform them of the results. The law also provides workers the right to report violations or remove themselves from workplace situations that could endanger their health without jeopardy to their employment. By law identifying unsafe conditions is the responsibility of OSH experts, not workers.

Labor and social security bureaus at or above the county level are responsible for enforcement of labor laws. Companies that violate wage, hour, occupational safety, and health regulations face various penalties, including suspension of business operations, rescission of business certificates and licenses, or entry onto publicly available, local government-maintained “blacklists.” The Guangdong Human Resources and Social Security Department released “blacklists” of companies that had repeatedly not paid owed wages. A June 28 list documented a company in Zhongshan that owed nearly one million yuan ($147,000) in wages to 124 employees.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar laws such as fraud or negligence. The number of inspectors was insufficient to enforce compliance. Inspectors did not operate in the informal sector. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced visits and may initiate sanctions.

The government seldom enforced overtime laws, and 72-hour workweeks were common for a wide range of workers. Governments at various levels continued efforts to prevent arrears and to recover payment of unpaid wages and insurance contributions. According to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, it prosecuted 25,635 cases of nonpayment of wages during the year, helping workers recover 340 million yuan ($51.9 million) of unpaid wages. Prosecutions resulted in 1,375 arrests.

Nonpayment of wages including overtime and premium pay was exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak in many areas. On February 7, a Nanjing doctor reportedly died of exhaustion after working 18 straight days. Multiple labor NGOs reported problems such as delayed wage payments and unpaid social safety net benefits were widespread during the outbreak. In Wuhan sanitation workers were threatened with fines equivalent to twice their daily wages for missing work, according to a labor NGO’s worker interviews. Local media reported on a February 17 protest by construction workers in Wuhan who had built the Huoshenshan COVID-19 hospital in 10 days. Workers said they had not been paid, worked 12-hour shifts with no breaks, were provided only one protective mask and bottle of water per day, and were exposed to COVID-19. Following the protest, one construction worker was confirmed to be infected with the virus.

Unpaid wages have been an acute problem for decades due to the prevalence of hiring subcontracted low-wage domestic migrant workers. Subcontracting made rural laborers susceptible to delayed payment or nonpayment for their work, prompting them to join in collective action. Even with contracts, migrant workers in particular had less access to benefits, especially social insurance. On September 11, subcontracted construction workers in Guilin, Guangxi, threatened to jump off a building unless they were paid for their work.

Companies relocated or closed on short notice due to the COVID-19-induced global economic downturn, often leaving employees without adequate recourse for due compensation. In March the Guangdong provincial government ordered the Dongguang Fantastic Toy Company to pay workers owed wages when the export-oriented manufacturer suddenly closed.

Workers in the informal sector worked longer hours and earned less than comparable workers in the formal sector. Workers in the informal sector often lacked legal and social benefits covered under labor contracts. Informal work was particularly prevalent for internal migrants and domestic workers 90 percent of an estimated 35 million domestic workers lacked formal work agreements and protections.

Informal “employee sharing,” in which a company temporarily borrowed another employer’s workers, increased following the COVID-19 outbreak and led to labor disputes.

According to media reports, occupational diseases were prevalent and underreported. Patients came from many industries, including coal, chemical engineering, and construction. By the end of 2018, more than 870,000 cases of black lung disease had been reported.

Workplace accidents and injuries were particularly common and deadly in the coal industry. According to the Ministry of Emergency Management’s Administration of Coal Mine Safety, there were 48 coal mine accidents causing 74 deaths from January through June. On February 24, a coal dust explosion in Shandong killed three miners. A February 29 coal mine collapse in Luoping, Yunnan, left five dead. On August 20, seven individuals died when methane gas exploded in a coal mine in Shandong.

Work accidents were also widespread in other industries. Media and NGO reports attributed them to a lack of safety checks, weak enforcement of laws and regulations, ineffective supervision, and inadequate emergency responses. On May 16, an explosion at a glue factory in Jiangsu killed two workers and injured eight others. On May 20, a wood plant collapse in Guangxi killed two persons and injured 27. On June 14, a total of 19 individuals died when a truck transporting liquefied natural gas exploded in Wenling, Zhejiang.

Workers in the gig economy were considered contract workers and not under the protections of the labor law. There were reports of app delivery drivers injured or killed on the job. On September 9, the magazine Renwu exposed how online platform algorithms created dangerous conditions for delivery drivers, including by shortening delivery times and issuing penalties for delays. The report prompted two major delivery firms to extend delivery times and reduce penalties for late deliveries.


Watch the video: Η Ιστορία των Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (July 2022).


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