Human Rights - Schools Project

Human Rights in the
People's Republic of China
Since Mao Zedong
China has functioned as a one-party state – CPC dominates social, economic
and political life.
Political Opposition
CPC keeps tight control over a huge country and a massive population …
although in some ways this has begun to loosen in recent years.
Nevertheless all demands for major political reform discouraged and crushed.
e.g. The Chinese Democracy Movement demanded the introduction of real
democracy with its call for The Fifth Modernisation published in the late 1970s.
--- but the movement was crushed and never recovered from massacre of
approx 2,000 democracy supporters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Under the current leadership the crackdown on
major political opposition has continued …
e.g. in 1998 a new China Democracy Party demanded freedom of speech and free
elections … immediately made illegal by state - leaders thrown in jail.
On the other hand, recent years have seen a dramatic rise in labour disputes with
workers protesting through their official trade unions about poor working conditions,
low wages and corrupt management. This growth in trade union action has been
tolerated by the leadership.
However, independent trade unions (like those in the UK) not permitted in China
and the actions of existing unions are limited by the state.
More than half a million foreign enterprises registered in China but few have trade
unions. This threatens CPC control over the factory floor so it has demanded that
trade unions now be set up in privately run enterprises (e.g. Wal-Mart reluctantly
allowed its 31,000 Chinese workforce to form unions in 2006).
Meanwhile in Hong Kong …
Hong Kong - shows Chinese leadership can be flexible. However, it also shows it has
no intention of relaxing its overall political control.
HK was a British colony leased from China – handed back in 1997.
HK had enjoyed great freedom and become a successful business hub.
China wanted to maintain economic success of HK but not the freedoms its people
were used to. Compromise reached saw limitations on democracy. Half delegates to
HK’s Legislative Council directly elected - other half appointed by China.
Nevertheless HK people have political and religious freedoms not enjoyed by fellow
Chinese. Protest marches allowed - Chinese Democracy movement and the religious
Falun Gong group tolerated in HK but not in the rest of China.
However, Beijing sets shape and timing of elections in HK - an indication China will go
so far when it sees advantages but not allow a threat to its overall power & control.
China’s Human Rights Record …
Amnesty International criticises China for lack of political rights and arrest of dissidents.
Ethnic minorities…
… in some areas minorities claim China is destroying their culture while the Chinese military
crush protests (e.g. Tibet and Xinjiang). Leadership policy is to encourage Chinese people
to migrate to these areas so locals become outnumbered (in Xinjiang the native Uighurs are
now less than 50% of the population.)
Religious groups …
… claim China persecutes them. However, China claims new laws passed in 2005 provide
legal protection for religious groups.
e.g Chinese govt recognises a group known as ‘the patriotic Catholic Church in China’.
However, is not recognised by the Vatican and the Pope is not allowed to appoint bishops –
some other Christian churches claim their members have been attacked by security forces.
Also, the Falun Gong group aims to improve the mind and spirit but China has classified it
as an evil cult. It has been banned and must now operate underground. Western Falun
Gong members have been jailed just for displaying a banner in Tiannanmen Square.
Some additional points:
Trials / Prisons / The Death Penalty
Serious trials are often short - (often only 2 or 3 hours) - and unsatisfactory by UK standards.
Over the years many dissidents have ended up going to prison for criticising the authorities
and demanding changes to the way the country is run.
The network of prisons, labour camps and ‘hospitals’ is called the Laogal. All prisoners are
forced to do hard-labour and political thought reform is used – (some say ‘brainwashing).
Chinese legal system uses death penalty – estimated 10,000 executed each year.
Amnesty International has severely criticised this widespread use of the death penalty.
Some additional points:
The one-child policy
Introduced in 1979 to tackle social, economic and environmental problems due to rapid
population growth – most urban couples can have one child – financial penalties if ignored
Around 250 million births prevented – However controversial policy because of increase in
abortions and even infanticide (child murders) by parents who have a daughter but want a
Nevertheless, a 2008 survey suggests around 75% of Chinese population support policy –
many accept it has helped make China more prosperous and overcome food shortages.
Moreover, the regulations surrounding the one-child policy have been relaxed to some
extent in recent years.