Human Rights Abuses in China

I’m surprised there doesn’t seem to be a thread on this subject. Perhaps that’s because the subject is too vast. In any event, here’s one to start it out from today’s paper – another use of the “state secrets” argument to lock up innocent people.

Lawyer Who Exposed Shanghai Scandal Is Jailed for 3 Years
Published: October 28, 2003

BEIJING, Oct. 28

MT,

Do you know whether or not China still defines “human rights” differently than does the West?

The West typically defines “human rights” to mean basic socio-civil-political rights, while China used to define “human rights” as simply the right to subsistence.

From the article you posted above, it appears China still uses its own unique definition of “human rights”.

:cry:

I don’t know, tigerman. That’s an interesting question. It certainly seems that a government reserving, and exercising, the right to arbitrarily imprison on flimsy, arbitrary and solely pretextual grounds those that it finds objectionable certainly ought to qualify under any definition of the term. But it would be interesting to see how they define it. Do they have a constitution? I wonder what it says about basic rights.

english.peopledaily.com.cn/const … ution.html

Here is their Constitution. Don’t laugh too much reading it.

Thanks ludahai. Yes, that is good for a laugh. Clearly the government blatantly disregards its own constitution, not to mention international treaties that it may be a party to. Below are some of the noteworthy provisions from their constitution. There are several provisions, such as Articles 53 and 54, that are apparently used as an excuse to deprive people of their supposed rights granted under the other articles.

Article 4. All nationalities in the People’s Republic of China are equal. The state protects the lawful rights and interests of the minority nationalities . . .Discrimination against and oppression of any nationality are prohibited; any acts that undermine the unity of the nationalities or instigate their secession are prohibited. . .

Article 35. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration

Article 36. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. . .

Article 37. The freedom of person of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. . . Unlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens’ freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited; and unlawful search of the person of citizens is prohibited. . .

Article 40. The freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens of the People’s Republic of China are protected by law. No organization or individual may, on any ground, infringe upon the freedom and privacy of citizens’ correspondence except in cases where, to meet the needs of state security or of investigation into criminal offences, public security or procuratorial organs are permitted to censor correspondence in accordance with procedures prescribed by law.

Article 41. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary. Citizens have the right to make to relevant state organs complaints and charges against, or exposures of, violation of the law or dereliction of duty by any state organ or functionary . . . In case of complaints, charges or exposures made by citizens, the state organ concerned must deal with them in a responsible manner after ascertaining the facts. No one may suppress such complaints, charges and exposures, or retaliate against the citizens making them. . .

Article 53. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China must abide by the constitution and the law, keep state secrets, protect public property and observe labour discipline and public order and respect social ethics.

Article 54. It is the duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to safeguard the security, honour and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honour and interests of the motherland.

“respect social ethics”
What the f#ck does that mean? You could search the legal canon of pretty much every country with the rule of law and not find anything like that. You’d be more likely to find bacon in Israel.

China, like a lot of developing countries, has a lot of nice sounding, idealistic laws on its books. However, there is no way for the government to enforce all of them or it is not in their interests to enforce the law. Also, there are all kinds of subjective yet “legal” ways for the PRC government to deny a person his or her legal rights. You may have noticed that the PRC “constitution” repeatedly states that “citizens enjoy the right to…” I haven’t read the thing recently, but there is a rather creative part that describes what a “citizen” is. Basically, if you do anything “wrong,” then you are no longer a citizen. They have all kinds of ways to deny that you are a full citizen. It is taken to the point where the word has no clear meaning. Also, the idea of equal protection or reference to legal precedent is not at all accepted by the mainlanders. I have heard of many situations where two identical cases are brought to the same court (not even different courts) on different days. Perhaps the claimant in case A won. Then a week later the claimant in case B tries to use the precedent from case A in his or her argument. No dice.

The Law, however, does not exist in a vacuum in any country. In the West, the rule of law does not exist just because the government thinks this is the best system. It is also because the people and culture accept that it is in everyone’s best interests to follow the law. This brings to mind a conversation I had with some coworkers here in Guangdong. All of these people are quite well off. They all speak English and have university degrees. Some of them have enoughh money to drive cars. They are all relatively open to foreign ideas and some of them are quite critical of the PRC government and the lack of rule of law in China. In this conversation, I asked them what they would do in a certain situation:

Suppose you are driving down the street in Guangzhou and a cop pulls you over. You have broken no traffic laws, but the cop says that you were driving too fast. He says that you can either pay a traffic fine of RMB200 or just pay him a bribe of RMB50. You know that if you pay the traffic fine, he won’t be able to pocket any of it because he has to give you an official ticket. He is only using that threat to get the RMB50 from you. What should you do?

All of them said that they would pay the bribe. I asked them why. They all said they would pay the cop just because it would be cheaper. For this group of people, RMB200 is pocket change. I told them that if they pay the cop, then they are just encouraging him to squeeze people for more bribes. They all thought that that was the government’s problem, not theirs.

I thought to ask these people this question because of a conversation I had with my HK boss. While driving one day in Dongguan, he was stopped in the same way. However, he refused to pay the bribe. There was no threat of violence or anything. He just had to pay a bogus traffic fine. This is a fairly typical scheme for the cops. It works, though. 99% of mainlanders will pay. The reason is that they don’t understand that promoting the rule of law is everybody’s responsibility, not just the government’s. The government can take the lead in instilling the idea of the law or civil society, but the individual still has to take responsibility. When we criticise the PRC about this, we can’t just blame the government. We’ve got to point the finger at the people, too.

when i was talking with some chinese lawyer doing his LLM in the US, and this guy works for one of the higherups who help craft the constitution, he basically said the thing is a work in progress. i mean it’s in its 5 major rewrite at least. and i mean rewrite, not a constitutional amendment. he said the constitution is more a set of ideals, than an actual set of laws like in the US.

i’ve seen some of that stuff JT mentions. it’s like being in tijuana. the sad thing is when the damn culture is so old, and beliefs about the judicial/police/government system are so ingrained (something the communists did little or were able to change), people don’t feel it’s within their reach to make something new.

this is one of the problems of the old “4000 year culture” bullshit. it can be a crutch. when you have the old “4000 year culture” what the hell else are you going to do. i don’t see china making any significant advances ever again. (barring the few exceptions and they will be few) not with this kind of crutch.

Kenny, the PRC Constitution serves one purpose only… and that purpose is to keep the CCP in power.

I wouldn’t go so far, tigerman, as to say that it serves one purpose only. Surely another purpose is as prop in their little show for the West about how they are modernizing and democratizing and are therefore fully qualified to share in the booty of international commerce and relations.

Kenny, the PRC Constitution serves one purpose only… and that purpose is to keep the CCP in power.[/quote]

I wouldn’t say that. I think it would be more accurate to say that the document is generally ignored. There are a lot of rights described in the constitution that would mean the end of the CCP if these rights were actually respected. I think the document would have a lot more relevance to reality if the government would just put the following at the bottom:

“The CCP will enforce this ‘constitution’ to suit its own interests. Concerning the rights listed in this document, if you have pissed off and/or failed to bribe your local party boss, then you can just kiss these rights goodbye, you naive chump.”

Kenny, the PRC Constitution serves one purpose only… and that purpose is to keep the CCP in power.[/quote]

actually the constitution making process began in 1984. so it really doesnt have to do with the de facto or de juris power of the CCP. anyways, this is what the guy communicated to me and is his understanding of what the xianfa signifies, not as a Supreme Law of the Land, but as a Set of Ideals (emphasis on ideals)

In haste.

I’m no legal eagle but I did do some readings in PRC law at university. My Prof wanted to show positive examples of where the PRC was attempting to move towards a rule of law. The category he chose concerned effectively the trafficking of human beings for profit. The nabbing of girls, mostly out in Sichuan, and their sale elsewhere in the country. We read through the laws and followed their ammendments. All quite interesting stuff indeed.

We also looked at less positve examples, the statues governing re-educatiuon through labour. The re-working of that after the early 1980’s, and again after 1989 were downright spooky.

I recall looking at the constitution and it was discussed as a constant work in progress. Nice and bouncy.

Yes, that was often repeated to us too.

HG

I would… Hey, whaddayaknow… I did say that :wink:

Its not ignored at all. As Mother Theresa has posted:

[quote=“PRC Constitution Articles 53 and 54”]Citizens of the People’s Republic of China must abide by the constitution and the law, keep state secrets, protect public property and observe labour discipline and public order and respect social ethics.

It is the duty of citizens of the People’s Republic of China to safeguard the security, honour and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honour and interests of the motherland.[/quote]

The continuing arrests and convictions of individuals on what we would call “trumped-up” charges illustrates the CCP’s active use of these catch-all ambiguous Articles whenever it believes that it needs to protect itself.

[quote=“Jive Turkey”]I think the document would have a lot more relevance to reality if the government would just put the following at the bottom:

“The CCP will enforce this ‘constitution’ to suit its own interests. Concerning the rights listed in this document, if you have pissed off and/or failed to bribe your local party boss, then you can just kiss these rights goodbye, you naive chump.”[/quote]

That’s partly what Articles 53 and 54 say, in other words.

the word constitution in china will never mean the same as in the US.
in fact many scholars argue the word xianfa should not even be translated as “constitution”. there just isn’t the same historical legal development and subtext that goes with the english word as it does with xianfa. smoke and mirrors or cultural difference i guess.

Yes and no.

Its true that the word “constitution” (xianfa) has two meanings in Chinese. One meaning is that of any of various fundamental legal codes or any mother law. However, the other meaning refers to the highest and only fundamental law. The PRC Constitution is clearly regarded as the highest and only fundamental law of China.

China’s constitution does what all other constitutions do… that is, it establishes China’s polity and form of government, it deliniates governmental powers and limitations, and it regulates the relationship between the government and the general population.

There is no question that the PRC Constitution refers to a constitution such as we understand the meaning of “constitution”.

Anyway, my point is that until the most recent “rewrite” in 1982, the PRC Constitution never even attempted to make a distinction between the CCP and the Chinese State. One of the most recent amendments to the PRC Constitution stipulates that the CCP shall lead all other political parties in running China. China’s Constitution still serves to legitimize and maintain the rule of the CCP.

OK, it’s bad enough when China’s govt lies to and deprives its own citizens of rights they are supposedly entitled to under their constitution. But a more serious matter, in my mind, is when they enter into agreements with other countries agreeing to uphold certain standards and then disregard them. The below link lists a few international human rights treaties China is a party to:

iso.hrichina.org/iso/article_lis … gory_id=84

Those treaties include the following:

Year of ratification Covenant/Convention
2001 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
1992 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
1988 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
1981 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
1980 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

From the CRC:
Article 14: States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Article 15: States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
[Note: maybe those rights only apply to children.]

From the CERD:
In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. . .
Article 2: States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races . . .
[Note: the CERD makes no exceptions for Tibetans or Uighur Muslims]

I don

Maybe it’s just how I see it, but I feel a country committing wrongful acts against its people in violation of its own constitution is like domestic violence. It’s terrible, but outsiders may feel qualms about interfering. But committing those acts in violation of treaties with other countries, even if they are fluffy treaties, is a different matter. Now it’s no longer internal. If they’ve broken their agreement with my country I clearly have a right to object and they can no longer hide behind the domestic policy defense. I agree that violations of such fluffy treaties rarely garners any attention or makes any difference, but maybe it should. It’s still breach of contract.

As for China striving harder to comply with the WTO than the treaty on not abusing children, well of course. The WTO is much more public and has much greater significance in terms of China’s economic development. Every government prioritizes those laws that it can get away with flaunting and those that it really should make an effort to observe, or at least give that appearance.

The thing about the “domestic violence” argument is, not everybody in China wanted to be domesticated. A whole lot of people in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and elsewhere (maybe here soon) think they are in what amounts to a forced marriage.

I think the root of the problem is the very concept of “China.” Other countries should fight China with whatever means at their disposal, with the goal of destroying it like the Soviet Bloc. Then they should carve it up like Africa, and prevent future generations from ever again thinking of themselves as one people. That’s the only way others will be safe.

[quote=“Screaming Jesus”]The thing about the “domestic violence” argument is, not everybody in China wanted to be domesticated. A whole lot of people in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and elsewhere (maybe here soon) think they are in what amounts to a forced marriage.

I think the root of the problem is the very concept of “China.” Other countries should fight China with whatever means at their disposal, with the goal of destroying it like the Soviet Bloc. Then they should carve it up like Africa, and prevent future generations from ever again thinking of themselves as one people. That’s the only way others will be safe.[/quote]

I don’t dispute that the idea of “China” as a nation within its present borders is nonsensical. Chinese nationalism is as mythological as any. However, why should other countries carve it up? I’m from the States. How would it serve the national interests of the U.S. to carve up China? Can you weigh the benefits against the costs to the U.S. or other developed countries?