China Increases Censorship of Media, Human-Rights Report Says

Washington - China has increased its controls over political activists and the media, according to the State Department's latest Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

"There was a trend towards increased harassment, detention, and imprisonment by government and security authorities of those perceived as threatening to government authority. The government also adopted measures to control more tightly print, broadcast and electronic media, and censored online content. Protests by those seeking to redress grievances increased significantly and were suppressed, at times violently, by security forces" in 2005, according to the report.

The report presented a long list of human-rights problems in China, including:

• Denial of the right to change the government;

• Physical abuse resulting in deaths in custody;

• Torture and coerced confessions of prisoners;

• Harassment, detention and imprisonment of those perceived as threatening to party and government authority;

• Arbitrary arrest and detention, including nonjudicial administrative detention, re-education-through-labor, psychiatric detention and extended or incommunicado pretrial detention;

• Detention of political prisoners, including those convicted of disclosing state secrets and subversion, those convicted under the now-abolished crime of counterrevolution and those jailed in connection with the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations; and

•  House arrest and other nonjudicially approved surveillance and detention of dissidents.

Even if they manage to avoid imprisonment and related abuses, Chinese citizens suffered significant curtailments of personal freedom and privacy. The government monitors citizens' mail, telephone and electronic communications and uses a coercive birth-limitation policy. In 2005, China increased restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, closed newspapers and journals, banned politically sensitive books, periodicals and films and jammed some broadcast signals, according the report.

The State Department also found that over the course of the year, governmental restrictions continued on freedom of assembly, including detention and abuse of demonstrators and petitioners; religious freedom, extending to control of religious groups and harassment and detention of unregistered religious groups; and freedom to travel, especially for politically sensitive and underground religious figures.

Other abuses listed in the report included:

• Forcible repatriation of North Koreans and inadequate protection of many refugees;

• Severe government corruption;

• Increased scrutiny, harassment and restrictions on independent domestic and foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO) operations;

• Trafficking in women and children;

• Societal discrimination against women, minorities and persons with disabilities;

• Cultural and religious repression of minorities in Tibetan areas and Muslim areas of Xinjiang;

• Restriction of labor rights, including freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively and worker health and safety; and

• Forced labor, including prison labor.

On the positive side, the government returned authority to approve death sentences to the Supreme People's Court, supported local experiments to record police interrogation of suspects and limited the administrative detention of minors, the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

In March 2005, government officials stated that family Bible studies in private homes need not be registered with the government and said that the law permitted religious education of minors, although problems continued in both areas.  The government adopted amendments to the law protecting women's rights and interests, including one outlawing sexual harassment, and ratified International Labor Organization Convention 111 prohibiting discrimination in employment.

For more information on U.S. policy, see The United States and China and Human Rights.

The China section of the State Department's 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices is available on the State Department Web site.