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News ::
China (english)
26 Mar 2003
Freedom of association and the right to strike
In March 2002, large and well-organized worker demonstrations in several northeastern cities protested non-payment of back wages and pensions, unilateral rollbacks of severance agreements, absence of a social security safety net, and managerial corruption. Officials responded with arrests, attacks on unarmed protestors, and threats to fire workers whose relatives were participating. In December 2002, two worker-representatives in Liaoyang, Liaoning province, were charged with subversion, which carries potentially severe penalties.
For several months after their detentions, the men had no access to defense counsel, and following the trial, the men's families were warned against communicating with the foreign media. China continues to deny workers the right to free association as guaranteed in China's constitution and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, ratified by China.

Freedom of belief
In July 1999, Chinese authorities moved to dissolve Falungong and to arrest its leaders. A massive crackdown followed, hundreds were imprisoned and thousands sent without judicial review to reeducation-through-labor camps. The government labeled Falungong a cult, thus outside the purview of protected state-controlled religious organization. In addition, the government closed Christian churches, Muslim mosques, and Tibetan monasteries which resisted state control, and arrested clergy and laity who refused to comply with government edicts.

Freedom of expression
The Chinese authorities continue to progressively restrict the Internet in violation of the right to free expression. Broadly-worded decrees prohibit posting of information that violates the constitution, undermines the unity of the country, threatens social order, spreads rumors, promotes superstition, or injures the reputation of state organs. Regulations require Internet service providers to use only domestic media news postings, to record information useful for tracking the viewing habits of users, and to acquire the capacity to copy users' e-mails. Thousands of Internet cafes have been closed; foreign search engines have been shut down or selectively blocked; and dozens of activists arrested or sentenced to terms as long as eleven years.

Judicial proceedings
The legal rights of defendants are routinely compromised by police officials, prosecutors, and judges. Although the 1996 Criminal Procedure Law revisions added to defendants' rights, there is no presumption of innocence; defendants are denied timely access to counsel and to counsel of their own choosing; defense counsel's ability to gather and present evidence is severely limited in both the pre-trial period and during the trial itself; and although torture is officially prohibited, evidence obtained during torture is permitted at trial. Cases in point are those of Lobsang Dhondrup, reported to already have been executed, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan spiritual leader sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, in connection with a series of bombings. China also maintains a system of administrative justice which permits incarceration of thousands of citizens each year for up to three years without benefit of judicial review.
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