Written evidence submitted by Sarah Cook,
Student at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University
1. I am a student reading for an LLM in
Public International Law with a focus on human rights at the School
of Oriental and African Studies.
2. I am currently conducting research on
rule of law in China and have volunteered extensively for non-governmental
organizations working on human rights in China and assisting victims
3. I am submitting this memo in order to
bring to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee evidence
I have come across in my research, including internal Chinese
Communist Party documents. I hope this information will prove
helpful to the committee in evaluating the accuracy of the FCO's
Human Rights Annual Report (henceforth "Annual Report")
and the effectiveness of UK policy to promote human rights and
rule of law in China.
4. This submission will focus on evidence
relating to a sustained crackdown in 2006 on three groups largely
omitted from the FCO report: human rights defenders, Falun Gong
adherents, and individuals distributing an editorial series entitled
Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party.
5. While the Chinese authorities' surveillance,
arrest and torture of human rights defenders is not a recent development,
restrictions on individuals engaging in legitimate human rights
work reached new heights in 2006. Several prominent lawyers
and activists were sentenced to prison in secret trials or placed
under house arrest during the year, leaving few free to engage
in human rights work.
This crackdown was the government's response to a "rights
protection" movement that involved lawyers using litigation
to seek redress for victims of abuse and increase government accountability,
as well as increased activist cooperation as illustrated by a
"Relay Hunger Strike for Human Rights" carried out in
The cases of two activistsChen Guangcheng and Gao Zhishengas
well as a recent CCP directive to lawyers are provided here as
evidence of this pattern of abuses. This is followed by an analysis
of the FCO's treatment of this issue in the Annual Report.
6. Chen Guangcheng, a blind, self-taught
lawyer, attempted in 2005 to sue officials in Shandong province
who had carried out illegal forced abortions and sterilization
on thousands of women in the Linyi region. His clients included
several women who suffered forced abortions in their ninth month
of pregnancy. He was placed under house arrest from September
2005 to March 2006, when he was arrested. In August 2006, just
one month after his case was raised in the UK-China human rights
dialogue, Chen was sentenced to four years and three months in
prison in what Amnesty International and others have termed a
"grossly unfair trial."
Violations of international fair trial standards included: the
trial lasting only one day, it being closed to Chen's wife and
the public, and Chen's defense lawyers being barred from attending.
Chen appealed his sentence but the lower court's decision was
upheld in January 2007 following another closed door trial. He
is currently serving the four year and three month sentenced and
is at risk of torture.
7. Gao Zhisheng, who was named one of China's
top 10 lawyers in 2001, has in recent years litigated cases on
behalf of dispossessed farmers, coal miners, underground Christians,
and fellow rights activists. From October to December 2005, after
several failed attempts to filed court cases on behalf of Falun
Gong adherents who had been tortured, he published an open letter
to China's top leaders calling for religious freedom and an end
to the "barbaric" persecution of Falun Gong.
8. In the following months, the Chinese
authorities escalated pressure against Gao, which included: revocation
of his license to practice law, 24-hour surveillance of him and
his family, beatings and at least one assassination attempt. In
response to such rights abuses against him and other activists,
he initiated a "Relay Hunger Strike for Human Rights"
in February 2006. In the upcoming months, he continued to
regularly post statements online publicizing human rights violations
in China. He was arrested in August 2006 when visiting his sister
and several days before he reportedly intended to monitor Chen
Guangcheng's trial. Gao was held incommunicado until December,
when he was sentenced in a secret trial to three years in prison
for "inciting subversion". His sentence was suspended,
however, and he was released, apparently due to international
pressure and the publication of his case. He currently remains
under house arrest, deprived of political rights, a legal license
and any possibility of continuing his human rights work.
9. The arrests and trials of Chen and Gao
do not appear to be isolated cases, but rather part of a pattern
of increasing restrictions on lawyers attempting to use litigation
to advance human rights. A central indication of this was a series
of government directives issued in March 2006, called "Guiding
Opinions on Lawyers Handling Mass Cases". According to
Human Rights Watch (HRW), the regulations systematize local authorities'
intervention in cases involving 10 or more plaintiffs.
They thus infringe on lawyers' independence by requiring them
to accept "guidance" from government judicial bureaus,
often the same agencies responsible for the violations in the
first place. An equally significant block to lawyers taking on
such cases is the need for attorneys to get their firms' permission
to accept the case and the declaration that lawyers will be held
liable if disputes "intensify".
10. The regulations thus significantly limit
the development of rule of law or government accountability in
China and have been widely criticized in the Chinese legal community.
For example, Zhang Sizhi, a well-known scholar reportedly called
them "a disaster" that was "sending the legal profession
back to the situation of the 1980s." Following the regulations'
publication, several lawyers confided to HRW that they had come
under pressure from colleagues to stop working on certain cases
because of fear of government reprisal. In some case, lawyers
were forced to quite their firms.
11. Despite the abovementioned evidence,
the FCO makes no significant mention of the emergence of the "rights
protection" movement or the CCP's crackdown against human
rights defenders, events which are arguably among the most important
developments regarding human rights in China in 2006. That the
FCO recognizes Chen's contribution to exposing forced abortions
and raised his case during the July 2006 meeting is commendable
and important. However, without further information regarding
Chen's case or focusing attention on Gao's cases and the broader
pattern of abuses against human rights defenders, the report risks
distorting the actual situation and the CCP's resistance to progress.
12. In addition, the Chinese authorities'
intensification of the crackdown against Chen and other lawyers
followed a UK-China dialogue session focused on the role of defense
lawyers and would indicate the CCP's lack of good faith in engaging
in such a dialogue. In contrast, the lessening of Gao Zhisheng's
punishment following public statements by lawyers,
governments and academics, suggests that public support for human
rights defenders is a more fruitful avenue for offering them protection.
13. The FCO report mentions in two places
the plight of Chinese citizens who practice Falun Gong, an exercise
and spiritual discipline banned in China in 1999, stating that
Falun Gong adherents face harassment, detention and mistreatment.
While this is technically accurate, it also a gross understatement
of the severity and scale of abuses facing those who practice
Falun Gong in China. While it is impossible to obtain a fully
accurate picture of the population of China's prisons and labour
camps, the information that is available indicates that Falun
Gong adherents are arguably the most severely persecuted group
in China. For example, according to a HRW report on petitioners
in China published in 2005:
"Several petitioners reported that the longest
sentences and worst treatment were meted out to members of the
banned meditation group, Falungong, many of whom also petition
in Beijing. Kang reported that of the roughly one thousand detainees
in her labor camp in Jilin, most were Falungong practitioners.
The government's campaign against the group has been so thorough
that even long-time Chinese activists are afraid to say the group's
name aloud. One Beijing petitioner said [in 2005]: "Petitioners
are usually locked up directly. But the worst is [she whispers]
Falungong. They have terrible treatment, not like the others".
14. The FCO's statements do not reflect
the continued systematic nature of the campaign against Falun
Gong and the thoroughness with which it is carried out. Provided
below are several examples of individual cases (with photographic
evidence) and internal CCP documents that point to a much broader
pattern of abuse than what is apparent from the FCO's report and
subsequent policy on this issue.
15. The case of Gao Rongrong, a 37-year-old
Falun Gong practitioner from Liaoning Province, was featured in
Amnesty International's 2006 Annual Report. Gao died in custody
in June 2005 after being detained in the Longshan Re-education
through Labour camp in Shenyang City of Liaoning Province. According
to Amnesty International, "on 7 May 2004 Gao Rongrong was
discovered reading Falun Gong material inside Longshan RTL facility,
and subjected to seven hours of torture at the hands of officials
demanding to know where she had acquired the material. This prolonged
torture allegedly involved using electric-shock batons on Gao
Rongrong's face and neck and reportedly caused her severe blistering
and difficulties with her eyesight." Photos taken of her
before her detention and 10 days after the above-mentioned torture
session are available at http://www.amnestymiami.org/Newslet/72005.pdf
16. In October 2005, the Falun Dafa Information
Centre published photographs it had obtained from China documenting
the injuries suffered by Wang Yunjie, another woman from Liaoning
Province. The photos show the blistering, infection and disfiguration
of Wang's breast, reportedly incurred after guards in Masanjia
Labour camp shocked her breasts with electric batons for over
30 minutes (available at http://www.faluninfo.net/Downloads/FDI_Press/FDI-051028-PH.htm).
Wang reportedly died in July 2006 from her injuries.
17. Official speeches and documents: In
addition to the testimonies of individual torture victims, both
public statements and internal CCP documents
suggest that the CCP's campaign continues in full force, particularly
when the authorities fear public displays of civil disobedience,
such as around national holidays. Examples include a 9 May 2006
speech by Jiao Yongle, Secretary of the Political and Judicial
Committee of Huoqiu County in Anhui Province, in which Jiao ordered
officials to "First of all, continue [to] `Strike Hard' on
`Falun Gong' organizations."
18. Another example is a 6-10 Office document
circulated in April 2006. Excerpts pointing to elements of
the continued campaign against Falun Gong are included below.
The full text of the English translation is attached in Appendix
(a) Threats of punishment for those not sufficiently
resolute in the "struggle" against Falun Gong: "Various
relevant townships and units must fully understand the seriousness
of the struggle against Falun Gong ... Investigations will be
resolutely conducted against those who have caused problems because
of slackness in the mind, no implementation of the measures, and
sloppy work." There is no evidence in similar documents of
any intention to punish those who engage in torture of Falun Gong
adherents, in violation of China's international and domestic
(b) Covertly exercising tight control and
surveillance over citizens known to have practiced Falun Gong
in order not to attract public or international attention: "Prevention
and control should adopt appropriate methods so that internally
controls are tight and externally all appear slack, thus preventing
negative effects. Regular visits must be made to those who truly
have been converted but investigation should be made indirectly
so that they may feel they live in a relaxed environment".
(c) Mobilizing other segments of society
to enable large-scale monitoring of Falun Gong adherents: "Each
township and each relevant institution must mobilize its security-oriented
households, country patrol team, community hygienic members, taxi
drivers, postmen, security control men to participate in the patrol
prevention and control work. Conduct massive prevention and massive
control so as not to give Falun Gong elements a single chance
[to distribute information or carry out acts of civil disobedience]."
19. The above evidence suggests that the
FCO's documentation and analysis of the persecution against Falun
Gong adherents is seriously lacking. Describing the severe torture
suffered by Falun Gong adherents as mere "mistreatment"
is both disrespectful and irresponsible. Moreover, the lack of
understanding of the scale of the campaign limits the FCO's ability
to analyse the effectiveness of its policy on this issue.
20. One element of the intensified crackdown
on both Falun Gong and human rights defenders has been their involvement
in the publication and spread of the "Nine Commentaries
on the Communist Party", a series of editorials highly
critical of the CCP that was published by an independent overseas
Chinese newspaper in November 2004. Initially, the document was
circulated among the Chinese community overseas and in Hong Kong,
but soon penetrated into Mainland China and began spreading.
21. Within weeks of the publication of the
Nine Commentaries, a phenomenon emerged where people began to
renounce their association with the CCP or related organizations,
expressing the wish to distance themselves from the Party. Soon
a website was set-up to which people could submit such statements
and by the end of February 2005, over 70,000 postings were recorded.
The pace of withdrawals accelerated, with approximately 20,000
resignation statements recorded each day. In February 2007, the
total number topped 19 million.
22. The act of withdrawing appears to be
largely symbolic, with many people from Mainland China using aliases
to sign their statements for fear of government reprisal. In some
instances, people explain in their posting that they will implement
their decision by ceasing to pay party dues or to perform CCP-related
functions at their job. A cursory survey of statements posted
in October and November 2005 revealed a wide variety of professions,
from laid-off workers to middle-level Party officials to chemical
engineers, as well as a diversity of locations. Several high-ranking
officials and prominent dissidents like Gao Zhisheng have also
renounced their Party membership.
23. Almost immediately after the publication
of the Nine Commentaries, the CCP perceived its spread
as a threat. Following a January 2005 nation-wide order of the
Ministry of Public Security,
authorities across China began implementing a variety of measures
aimed at countering the document's spread. These include sentencing
those who distribute it to prison, confiscating copies of the
book, and blocking access to almost all internet sites that mention
24. According to a news item on People's
Net, in November 2005, a Falun Gong practitioner named Tan Xiuxia
from Shizuishan City in the Ningxia Hui Nationality Autonomous
Region was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison by the
Dawukou District Court of Shizuishan City. She was reportedly
sentenced for having distributed flyers and VCDs related to Nine
Commentaries in the Zhengtong Residential Area.
25. During the same month, the website of
the Financial Department of Xixiu District in Guizhou Province
published a document that gave the following directives among
stop the spreading of Nine Commentaries ...
(4) Educate our employees and officials not
to listen, believe, read and spread the Nine Commentaries. Instead,
report to the CCP office and turn in the booklet. Those who keep
and further distribute Nine Commentaries will be punished; the
active one will receive criminal charge."
26. Two months later, in January 2006, a
government website in Harbin City cited an order to "set
the utmost top priority to prevent and crackdown on production
and distribution of the Nine Commentaries."
Similar statements appeared in May 2006 on government websites
in Anhui and Guangdong Provinces.
27. The Chinese authorities have also put
significant effort into blocking internet access to the document.
According to a report issued by the Open Net Initiative (a collaborative
project between research centres at the University of Toronto,
Harvard Law School, and Cambridge University) on internet filtering
in China: "Sites listed in response to a search for the `Nine
Commentaries,' a highly critical evaluation of the Chinese Communist
Party published by the Epoch Times, were also nearly totally inaccessible."
The study found that 90% of Chinese-language sites related to
the Nine Commentaries were blocked, as well as 16% of their corresponding
English-language sites. This was significantly more than the percentage
of most other Chinese-language human rights- and democracy-related
sites that were blocked (see figure below taken from the above-mentioned
28. Despite the above evidence available
in the public domain, the FCO's report makes no mention of this
nation-wide effort to suppress freedom of expression and discussion
of political reform.
29. Taking the above evidence into account,
several conclusions and recommendations can be drawn regarding
UK policy on human rights in China:
(a) Considering the intensification of abuses
against human rights defenders, Falun Gong adherents and others,
even after such issues were addressed in dialogue sessions, the
FCO should conduct a thorough re-evaluation of the use of private
dialogues as the primary means of promoting human rights in China.
(b) Protecting human rights defenders and
publicly condemning their harassment and arrest should form a
key element of UK policy on human rights in China because of the
short and long term implications for Chinese society that the
arrest of prominent activists has on the realization of fundamental
rights. As HRW has said: "training programs for improving
judicial administration will have little effect without complementary
political support for lawyers in China working to advance rule
of law". In this respect, a subheading of the annual report
should be dedicated to the status of human rights defenders.
(c) The ongoing persecution and severe torture
of Falun Gong adherents demonstrates the need for FCO policy and
training to reach beyond the traditional prison system to re-education
through labour camps and the use of torture to force renunciation
of beliefs rather than solely the extraction of evidence for use
during a trial. Considering the scale and severity of the violations
against Falun Gong, pressing the CCP to cease the campaign should
be a central focus of UK policy. As such, the group should also
have its own subheading in the annual report.
8 Amnesty International, "China: Background briefing
on rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng," 22 December 2006, available
at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA170662006 Back
Amnesty International, "China: Amnesty International fears
for missing hunger-strike activists," 22 February 2006, available
at: http://amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=16891 Back
Amnesty International, "China: Chen Guangcheng is prisoner
of conscience," 24 August 2006, available at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGASA170482006?open&of=ENG-CHN Back
Amnesty International, "China: Fear for safety/death threats:
Gao Zhisheng," 19 January 2006, available at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA170012006?open&of=ENG-CHN Back
Op cit "Background briefing". Back
Human Rights Watch, "A Great Danger for Lawyers: New Regulatory
Curbs on Lawyers Representing Protesters," available at:
See for example open letter circulated by the Human Rights Law
Foundation and signed by international lawyers in Appendix A. Back
Human Rights Watch, "We Could Disappear at Any Time: Retaliation
and Abuses Against Chinese Petitioners," available at http://hrw.org/reports/2005/china1205/6.htm Back
The documents have been leaked to overseas NGOs by officials
secretly opposed to the persecution policy or from former security
personnel who have defected from China. Back
Huoqiu Law Education Web: "Jiao Yongle's Speech at the County
Political-Judicial Operations Conference", 10 May 2006, see
World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong
(WOIPFG), "Investigation on CCP Persecuting People Spreading
the Nine Commentaries," 3 October 2006, available at http://www.zhuichaguoji.org/en/index2.php?option=content&task=view&id=169&pop=1&page=0 Back
The county and province name have been removed in order to protect
the source. If additional information or a copy of the Chinese
original is needed, please contact the author. Back
"Special action plan for nation-wide public security offices
on prevention and suppression of Falun Gong's reactionary propaganda
to incite public to read Nine Commentaries" 24 January
2005, referred to in several other internal documents. See ibid
report of WOIPFG. Back
Ibid, Ningxia Page on People's Net, 17 November 2005. Back
Ibid. Xixiu District Financial Department website: Financial
Department Official Document (11 November 2005). Back
Ibid. Harbin City Government Website's Departmental Trend of
Political and Judiciary Committee section: "Nangang District
has intensified the effort to prevent and control evil cult during
`Three Holidays and Two Meetings' period", Harbin, China,
13 January 2006. Back
The sites tested were the top 100 sites returned from a Google
search engine for the relevant terms. Open Net Initiative, "Internet
filtering in China in 2004-05: A Country Study": http://www.opennetinitiative.net/studies/china/toc3b Back