China is the oldest continuous major world civilization, with records dating back about 3,500 years. Successive dynasties developed a system of bureaucratic control that gave the agrarian-based Chinese an advantage over neighboring nomadic and hill cultures. Chinese civilization was further strengthened by the development of a Confucian state ideology and a common written language that bridged the gaps among the country's many local languages and dialects. Whenever China was conquered by nomadic tribes, as it was by the Mongols in the 13th century, the conquerors sooner or later adopted the ways of the "higher" Chinese civilization and staffed the bureaucracy with Chinese.
The last dynasty was established in 1644, when the Manchus overthrew the native Ming dynasty and established the Qing (Ch'ing) dynasty with Beijing as its capital. At great expense in blood and treasure, the Manchus over the next half century gained control of many border areas, including Xinjiang, Yunnan, Tibet, Mongolia, and Taiwan. The success of the early Qing period was based on the combination of Manchu martial prowess and traditional Chinese bureaucratic skills.
During the 19th century, Qing control weakened, and prosperity diminished. China suffered massive social strife, economic stagnation, explosive population growth, and Western penetration and influence. The Taiping and Nian rebellions, along with a Russian-supported Muslim separatist movement in Xinjiang, drained Chinese resources and almost toppled the dynasty. Britain's desire to continue its illegal opium trade with China collided with imperial edicts prohibiting the addictive drug, and the First Opium War erupted in 1840. China lost the war; subsequently, Britain and other Western powers, including the United States, forcibly occupied "concessions" and gained special commercial privileges. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking, and in 1898, when the Opium Wars finally ended, Britain executed a 99-year lease of the New Territories, significantly expanding the size of the Hong Kong colony.
As time went on, the Western powers, wielding superior military technology, gained more economic and political privileges. Reformist Chinese officials argued for the adoption of Western technology to strengthen the dynasty and counter Western advances, but the Qing court played down both the Western threat and the benefits of Western technology.
Since 1979, China has been engaged in an effort to reform its economy. The Chinese leadership has adopted a pragmatic perspective on many political and socioeconomic problems, and has sharply reduced the role of ideology in economic policy. Political and social stability, economic productivity, and public welfare are considered paramount. In these years, the government has emphasized raising personal income and consumption and introducing new management systems to help increase productivity. The government also has focused on foreign trade as a major vehicle for economic growth.
In the 1980s, China tried to combine central planning with market-oriented reforms to increase productivity, living standards, and technological quality without exacerbating inflation, unemployment, and budget deficits. China pursued agricultural reforms, dismantling the commune system and introducing a household-based system that provided peasants greater decisionmaking in agricultural activities. The government also encouraged nonagricultural activities such as village enterprises in rural areas, and promoted more self-management for state-owned enterprises, increased competition in the marketplace, and facilitated direct contact between Chinese and foreign trading enterprises. China also relied more upon foreign financing and imports.
During the 1980s, these reforms led to average annual rates of growth of 10% in agricultural and industrial output. Rural per capita real income doubled. China became self-sufficient in grain production; rural industries accounted for 23% of agricultural output, helping absorb surplus labor in the countryside. The variety of light industrial and consumer goods increased. Reforms began in the fiscal, financial, banking, price setting, and labor systems.
By the late 1980s, however, the economy had become overheated with increasing rates of inflation. At the end of 1988, in reaction to a surge of inflation caused by accelerated price reforms, the leadership introduced an austerity program.
China's economy regained momentum in the early 1990s. During a visit to southern China in early 1992, China's paramount leader at the time Deng Xiaoping made a series of political pronouncements designed to reinvigorate the process of economic reform. The 14th Party Congress later in the year backed Deng's renewed push for market reforms, stating that China's key task in the 1990s was to create a "socialist market economy." The 10-year development plan for the 1990s stressed continuity in the political system with bolder reform of the economic system.
During 1993, output and prices were accelerating, investment outside the state budget was soaring, and economic expansion was fueled by the introduction of more than 2,000 special economic zones (SEZs) and the influx of foreign capital that the SEZs facilitated. Fearing hyperinflation, Chinese authorities called in speculative loans, raised interest rates, and re-evaluated investment projects. The growth rate was thus tempered, and the inflation rate dropped from over 17% in 1995 to 8% in early 1996. In 1996, the Chinese economy continued to grow at a rapid pace, at about 9.5%, accompanied by low inflation. The economy slowed for the next 3 years, with official growth of 8.9% in 1997, 7.8% in 1998 and 7.1% for 1999. The year 2000 showed a modest reversal of this trend. Gross domestic product in 2000 grew officially at 8.0% that year.
Despite China's impressive economic development during the past two decades, reforming the state enterprise sector and modernizing the banking system remain major hurdles. During the 15th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party that met in September 1997, President Jiang Zemin announced plans to sell, merge, or close the vast majority of SOEs in his call for increased "non-public ownership." The 9th National People's Congress endorsed the plans at its March 1998 session.
Religion plays a significant part in the life of many Chinese. Buddhism is most widely practiced, with an estimated 100 million adherents. Traditional Taoism also is practiced. Official figures indicate there are 18 million Muslims, 4 million Catholics, and 10 million Protestants; unofficial estimates are much higher.
While the Chinese constitution affirms religious toleration, the Chinese Government places restrictions on religious practice outside officially recognized organizations. Only two Christian organizations -- a Catholic church without official ties to Rome and the "Three-Self-Patriotic" Protestant church -- are sanctioned by the Chinese Government. Unauthorized churches have sprung up in many parts of the country and unofficial religious practice is flourishing. In some regions authorities have tried to control activities of these unregistered churches. In other regions, registered and unregistered groups are treated similarly by authorities and congregations worship in both types of churches. Most Chinese Catholic bishops are recognized by the Pope, and official priests have Vatican approval to administer all the sacraments.
Traditionally, China's Confucian elite disparaged religion and religious practitioners, and the state suppressed or controlled organized religious groups. The social status of Buddhist monks and Taoist priests was low, and ordinary people did not generally look up to them as models. In the past, religion was diffused throughout the society, a matter as much of practice as of belief, and had a weak institutional structure. Essentially the same pattern continues in contemporary society, except that the ruling elite is even less religious and there are even fewer religious practitioners.
The attitude of the party has been that religion is a relic of the past, evidence of prescientific thinking, and something that will fade away as people become educated and acquire a scientific view of the world. On the whole, religion has not been a major issue. Cadres and party members, in ways very similar to those of Confucian elites, tend to regard many religious practitioners as charlatans out to take advantage of credulous people, who need protection. In the 1950s many Buddhist monks were returned to secular life, and monasteries and temples lost their lands in the land reform. Foreign missionaries were expelled, often after being accused of spying, and Chinese Christians, who made up only a very small proportion of the population, were the objects of suspicion because of their foreign contacts. Chinese Christian organizations were established, one for Protestants and one for Roman Catholics, which stressed that their members were loyal to the state and party. Seminaries were established to train "patriotic" Chinese clergy, and the Chinese Catholic Church rejected the authority of the Vatican, ordaining its own priests and installing its own bishops. The issue in all cases, whether involving Christians, Buddhists, or members of underground Chinese sects, was not so much doctrine or theology as recognition of the primacy of loyalty to the state and party. Folk religion was dismissed as superstition. Temples were for the most part converted to other uses, and public celebration of communal festivals stopped, but the state did not put much energy into suppressing folk religion.
During the early stages of the Cultural Revolution, in 1966 and 1967, Red Guards destroyed temples, statues, and domestic ancestral tablets as part of their violent assault on the "four olds" (old ideas, culture, customs, and habits). Public observances of ritual essentially halted during the Cultural Revolution decade. After 1978, the year marking the return to power of the Deng Xiaoping reformers, the party and state were more tolerant of the public expression of religion as long as it remained within carefully defined limits. Some showcase temples were restored and opened as historical sites, and some Buddhist and even Taoist practitioners were permitted to wear their robes, train a few successors, and perform rituals in the reopened temples. These actions on the part of the state can be interpreted as a confident regime's recognition of China's traditional past, in the same way that the shrine at the home of Confucius in Shandong Province has been refurbished and opened to the public. Confucian and Buddhist doctrines are not seen as a threat, and the motive is primarily one of nationalistic identification with China's past civilization.
Similar tolerance and even mild encouragement is accorded to Chinese Christians, whose churches were reopened starting in the late 1970s. As of 1987 missionaries were not permitted in China, and some Chinese Catholic clergy were imprisoned for refusing to recognize the authority of China's "patriotic" Catholic Church and its bishops.
The most important result of state toleration of religion has been improved relations with China's Islamic and Tibetan Buddhist minority populations. State patronage of Islam and Buddhism also plays a part in China's foreign relations. Much of traditional ritual and religion survives or has been revived, especially in the countryside. In the mid-1980s the official press condemned such activities as wasteful and reminded rural party members that they should neither participate in nor lead such events, but it did not make the subject a major issue. Families could worship their ancestors or traditional gods in the privacy of their homes but had to make all ritual paraphernalia (incense sticks, ancestral tablets, and so forth) themselves, as it was no longer sold in shops. The scale of public celebrations was muted, and full-time professional clergy played no role. Folk religious festivals were revived in some localities, and there was occasional rebuilding of temples and ancestral halls. In rural areas, funerals were the ritual having the least change, although observances were carried out only by family members and kin, with no professional clergy in attendance. Such modest, mostly household-based folk religious activity was largely irrelevant to the concerns of the authorities, who ignored or tolerated it.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The crime rate in China is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for China. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. China will be compared with Japan (Coumtry with a low crime rate) and USA (Country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1997 was 2.16 per 100,000 population for China, 1.02 for Japan, and 6.8 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1997 was not supplied for China to be compared with 1.31 for Japan and 35.92 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1997 was 8.62 for China, 2.23 for Japan, and 186.05 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1997 was 1.49 for China, 15.29 for Japan, and 382.04 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1997 was 19.35 for China, 175.70 for Japan, and 919.57 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1997 was 50.52 for China, 1117.08 for Japan, and 2886.55 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1997 was 9.26 for China, compared with 27.34 for Japan and 505.8 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 91.4 for China, compared with 1339.97 for Japan and 4922.73 for USA.
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1996 and 1997, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 2.13 to 2.16 per 100,000 population, an increase of 1.40%. The rate for rape was not supplied for 1996 or 1997. The rate of robbery decreased from 8.67 to 8.62, a decrease of .577%. The rate for aggravated assault remained the same from 1996 to 1997, there was a 0% change. The rate for burglary increased from 17.6 to 19.35, an increase of 9.95%. The rate of larceny decreased from 53.53 to 50.52, a decrease of 5.62%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 7.53 to 9.26, and increase of 22.97%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 90.95 to 91.4, an increase of .495%.
The government's efforts to promote rule of law are significant and ongoing. After the Cultural Revolution, China's leaders aimed to develop a legal system to restrain abuses of official authority and revolutionary excesses. In 1982, the National People's Congress adopted a new state constitution that emphasized the rule of law under which even party leaders are theoretically held accountable.
Since 1979, when the drive to establish a functioning legal system began, more than 300 laws and regulations, most of them in the economic area, have been promulgated. The use of mediation committees -- informed groups of citizens who resolve about 90% of China's civil disputes and some minor criminal cases at no cost to the parties--is one innovative device. There are more than 800,000 such committees in both rural and urban areas.
Legal reform became a government priority in the 1990s. Legislation designed to modernize and professionalize the nation's lawyers, judges, and prisons was enacted. The 1994 Administrative Procedure Law allows citizens to sue officials for abuse of authority or malfeasance. In addition, the criminal law and the criminal procedures laws were amended to introduce significant reforms. The criminal law amendments abolished the crime of "counter- revolutionary" activity, although many persons are still incarcerated for that crime. Criminal procedures reforms also encouraged establishment of a more transparent, adversarial trial process. The Chinese constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights, including due process, but theses are often ignored in practice.
The security apparatus is made up of the Ministries of State Security and Public Security, the People's Armed Police, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and the state judicial, procuratorial, and penal systems. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. Security policy and personnel were responsible for numerous human rights abuses.
During the year 2003, politically motivated and other arbitrary and unlawful killings occurred. The official press reported extrajudicial killings, but no nationwide statistics were available. Deaths in custody due to police use of torture to coerce confessions from criminal suspects continued to occur. Beating deaths during administrative detention also occurred and sparked public calls for reform.
Several hundred Falun Gong adherents reportedly have died in detention due to torture, abuse, and neglect since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999. For example, Falun Gong groups alleged that more than 50 persons died in custody in June through August, many from torture in detention camps.
Trials involving capital offenses sometimes took place under circumstances where the lack of due process or a meaningful appeal bordered on extrajudicial killing. NGOs reported over 1,000 executions during the year, including dozens on June 26 to mark international anti-drug day. AI reported that China executed more persons than any other country. In 2002, officials reportedly carried out over 4,000 executions after summary trials as part of a nationwide "strike hard" campaign against crime. The actual number of persons executed likely was far higher than the number of reported cases. The Government regarded the number of death sentences it carried out as a state secret but stated that the number of executions decreased during the year. Some foreign academics estimated that as many as 10,000 to 20,000 persons were executed each year.
In some areas, police targeted dissidents without family members for detention or incarceration in psychiatric facilities. With no family to notify, this practice in effect constituted disappearance.
The Government has used incommunicado detention. For example, in December 2002, the Government acknowledged that it was holding dissident Wang Bingzhang, who along with two other individuals disappeared in Vietnam on June 26, 2002. After several months of incommunicado detention, the other detainees, Zhang Qi and Yue Wu, were released but, in January, Wang was convicted on charges of espionage and terrorism and sentenced to life in prison. In February, his appeal was denied. In July, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights found that Wang's disappearance, arrest, and imprisonment violated international standards, and he asked the Guangdong Provincial High Court in September to reconsider his case. Wang also objected to being forced to attend political study sessions and went on a hunger strike in prison as a protest. At year's end, the court had taken no action.
As of year's end, the Government had not provided a comprehensive, credible accounting of all those missing or detained in connection with the suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations.
Arbitrary arrest and detention remained serious problems. The law permits authorities, in some circumstances, to detain persons without arresting or charging them, and persons may be sentenced administratively to up to 3 years in reeducation-through-labor camps and other similar facilities without a trial. Because the Government tightly controlled information, it was impossible to determine accurately the total number of persons subjected to new or continued arbitrary arrest or detention. Official government statistics indicated that there were 230,000 persons in reeducation-through-labor camps. According to a 2001 article by the official news agency, 300 reeducation-through-labor facilities have held more than 3.5 million prisoners since 1957. In addition, it was estimated that before 1996 as many as 1.7 million persons per year were detained in a form of administrative detention known as custody and repatriation; the number of persons subject to this form of detention reportedly has grown since 1996 to approximately 2 million per year. The Government also confined some Falun Gong adherents and labor activists to psychiatric hospitals. Although the crime of being a "counterrevolutionary" was removed from the criminal code in 1997, western NGOs estimated that as many as 1,300 persons remained in prison for the crime. Another 600 were serving sentences under the State Security Law, which covers the same crimes as the repealed law on "counterrevolution."
In some cases, police could unilaterally detain a person for up to 37 days before releasing him or formally placing him under arrest. Once a suspect is arrested, the Criminal Procedure Law allows police and prosecutors to detain him for months before trial while a case is being "further investigated." The Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that authorities must notify a detainee's family or work unit of his detention within 24 hours. However, in practice failure to provide timely notification remained a serious problem, especially in sensitive political cases. Under a sweeping exception, officials were not required to provide notification if doing so would "hinder the investigation" of a case. Police continued to hold individuals without granting access to family members or lawyers, and trials continued to be conducted in secret.
The Criminal Procedure Law does not address the reeducation-through-labor system, which allows nonjudicial panels of police and local authorities, called Labor Reeducation Committees, to sentence persons to up to 3 years in prison-like facilities. The committees could also extend an inmate's sentence for an additional year. Defendants were legally entitled to challenge reeducation-through-labor sentences under the Administrative Litigation Law. They could appeal for a reduction in, or suspension of, their sentences; however, appeals rarely were successful.
The Criminal Procedure Law also does not address the custody and repatriation system, which allows authorities to detain persons administratively without trial to "protect urban social order." Until they were returned to their home provinces, those detained were held in custody and repatriation centers, and could be required to pay for the cost of their detention and repatriation by working while in detention. Persons who could be detained under this provision included the homeless, the unemployed, petty criminals, Falun Gong practitioners, persons without permission to live or work in urban areas, and, in some provinces, additional categories of persons such as the mentally ill and persons with mental disabilities. According to one report, as many as 20 percent of those detained were children. If the location to which they were to be repatriated could not be determined, or if they could not be repatriated for financial reasons, persons could be sent to "resettlement farms." Those unable to work could be sent to "welfare centers." Many other persons were detained in similar forms of administrative detention, known as "custody and education" (for prostitutes and their clients) and "custody and training" (for minors who committed crimes). Persons could be detained for long periods under these provisions, particularly if they could not afford to pay fines or fees.
According to researchers, the country had 20 "ankang" institutions, high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane, directly administered by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). Dissidents and other targeted individuals were housed with mentally ill patients in these institutions. The regulations for committing a person into an ankang psychiatric facility were not clear. Credible reports indicated that a number of political and trade union dissidents, "underground" religious believers, persons who petitioned the Government for redress of grievances, and hundreds of Falun Gong adherents were incarcerated in such facilities during the year. For example, political activist Wang Wanxing, originally held for trying to unfurl a banner on Tiananmen Square to commemorate the third anniversary of the June 4, 1989 massacre, was confined in a Beijing ankang facility. Huang Jinchun, a judge in Beihai, fired from his job and admitted to a psychiatric hospital in November 1999 for refusing to renounce his belief in Falun Gong, also remained in an ankang facility at year's end. He reportedly displayed no signs of mental illness but was given daily injections of narcotics. According to NGO reports, more than 30 persons were committed during the year to the Harbin Psychiatric Hospital against their will after petitioning authorities for redress of various personal grievances. In August The Royal College of Psychiatrists sponsored a motion to expel China from the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) for using psychiatric facilities to incarcerate political prisoners; a decision was pending at year's end.
The campaign that began in 1998 against the China Democracy Party (CDP), an opposition party, continued during the year. Scores of CDP leaders, activists, and members were arrested, detained, or confined as a result of this campaign. Since December 1998, at least 38 core leaders of the CDP have been given severe punishments on subversion charges. For example, Hu Mingjun and Wang Sen, CDP leaders in Sichuan, were sentenced in May to 10- and 11-year sentences, respectively (see Section 3). In what some experts described as an attempt by authorities to tarnish the public image of the democracy movement, officials accused a number of democracy activists of soliciting prostitutes, distributing pornographic videos, or committing petty theft or other crimes unrelated to their political activities. For instance, in September Shanghai CDP activist Yao Zhenxiang was sentenced to 3 years of reeducation-through-labor for soliciting prostitutes.
Immediately before and after the 16th Party Congress in November, authorities rounded up a number of activists who had signed an open letter calling for political reform and a reappraisal of the official verdict on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. At years end, a number of these persons, including He Depu, Sang Jianchen, Zhao Changqing, Ouyang Yi, Dai Xuezhong and Jiang Lijun, remained in detention.
The authorities also used laws on subversion, endangering state security, and common crimes to arrest and imprison political dissidents, activists, and others. Li Wangyang, released from prison in June 2000 and rearrested on subversion charges in May 2001, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 2001 for "incitement to subvert state power." Li had served 11 years in prison for his role in presiding over the Shaoyang Workers Autonomous Federation, a Tiananmen-era free trade union.
Police sometimes detained relatives of dissidents.
Persons critical of official corruption or malfeasance also frequently were threatened, detained, or imprisoned. On January 25, Jiang Weiping, who had written a series of articles exposing official corruption, was sentenced to 8 years in prison for "subverting state power".
The police continued to target minority activists. As part of the nationwide strike hard campaign, many seeking to express legitimate political grievances or views were labeled splittists or separatists. For example, Xinjiang official Abulahat Abkurixit told the newspaper Xinjiang Legal in April 2001 that authorities would use the campaign to strike at Muslim separatists and illegal religious activities. After a January incident in which a jobless worker read a poem at the end of a concert in the Xinjiang People's Hall in Urumqi that allegedly obliquely advocated a separate Uighur state, Abkurixit further announced that artists, writers, performers, historians, and others who advocated separatism through art would be strike hard targets. As part of the campaign, local courts in Xinjiang meted out death sentences or long prison terms to those persons accused of separatist activity. In November 2001, Abdehelil Zunun, who had translated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into Uighur, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In early 2000, a court sentenced Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer to 8 years in prison for passing "state intelligence" information to foreigners. The state intelligence she was accused of attempting to pass consisted of newspaper articles published in the official press and a list of individuals whose cases had been handled by judicial organs.
The strike hard campaign was characterized by large-scale sentencing rallies and parades of condemned prisoners through the streets of major cities, followed by public executions. More than 4,000 persons reportedly were executed as part of the strike hard campaign during the year. According to local newspapers, on June 29, in Toksu County, Xinjiang, 5,000 persons attended a public sentencing rally in which 13 suspects were arrested on the spot, 6 common criminals were sentenced to 2 to 7 year terms, and 5 political offenders were sentenced to 3 to 5 year terms. The rally concluded when three brothers, Turdi, Muhammad, and Imin Hashim, were sentenced to death for killing two persons and executed the next day. In November harsh sentences were given to 28 Uighurs accused of separatist and terrorist activities at a combined Aksu and Uchturpan county mass rally. In April 2001, local newspapers in Sichuan Province reported that more than 3,000 criminals were sentenced publicly in 123 rallies held across the province. Of those more than 900 were "severely punished," a category that includes the death sentence and lengthy prison terms.
Journalists also were detained or threatened during the year, often for reporting on subjects that met with the Government's or the local authorities' disapproval.
Local authorities used the Government's campaign against cults to detain and arrest large numbers of religious practitioners and members of spiritual groups.
Throughout the year, the official press published numerous articles to raise public awareness of recent laws meant to enhance the protection of citizens' rights, including the Criminal Procedure Law, the State Compensation Law, the Administrative Procedure Law, and others. A number of citizens used the State Compensation Law, which provides a legal basis for citizens to recover damages for illegal detentions, to sue the Government for damages. According to a March 12 China Youth Daily article, in 2001 courts nationwide handled 6,753 such cases, and compensation was granted in 777 cases. Legal experts acknowledged that the introduction of the new law was a positive step but called on the Government to increase the amount of compensation provided to victims.
The law neither provides for a citizen's right to repatriate nor otherwise addresses exile. The Government continued to refuse reentry to numerous citizens who were dissidents and activists. For example, Chinese consular officers repeatedly refused U.S.-based dissident Yang Jianli's requests for a renewal of his passport.
The Government's refusal to permit some former reeducation-through-labor camp inmates to return to their homes constituted a form of internal exile.
The Constitution states that the courts shall, in accordance with the law, exercise judicial power independently, without interference from administrative organs, social organizations, and individuals. However, in practice, the judiciary received policy guidance from both the Government and the Party, whose leaders used a variety of means to direct courts on verdicts and sentences, particularly in politically sensitive cases. At both the central and local levels, the Government frequently interfered in the judicial system and dictated court decisions. Trial judges decide individual cases under the direction of the trial committee in each court. In addition, the Communist Party's Law and Politics Committee, which includes representatives of the police, security, procuratorate, and courts, has authority to review and influence court operations; the Committee, in some cases, altered decisions. People's Congresses also had authority to alter court decisions, but this happened rarely. Corruption and conflicts of interest also affected judicial decision-making. Judges were appointed by the people's congresses at the corresponding level of the judicial structure and received their court finances and salaries from those government bodies, which sometimes resulted in local politicians exerting undue influence over the judges they appointed and financed.
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) is the highest court, followed in descending order by the higher, intermediate, and basic people's courts. These courts handle criminal, civil, and administrative cases, including appeals from decisions by police and security officials to use reeducation through labor and other forms of administrative detention. There were special courts for handling military, maritime, and railway transport cases.
Corruption and inefficiency were serious problems in the judiciary as in other areas (see Section 3). Safeguards against corruption were vague and poorly enforced.
In recent years, the Government has taken steps to correct systemic weaknesses in the judicial system and to make the system more transparent and accountable to public scrutiny. State media reported that, from January 2002 through October 2003, prosecutors filed 7,402 cases against judicial officials nationwide, involving 8,442 officials. Of these cases, 80 percent involved suspected malfeasance and rights violations, while 20 percent involved corruption and bribery. In 1999, the SPC issued regulations requiring all trials to be open to the public, with certain exceptions, including cases involving state secrets, privacy, and minors. The legal exception for cases involving state secrets was used to keep politically sensitive proceedings closed to the public and even to family members in some cases. Under the regulations, "foreigners with valid identification" are to be allowed the same access to trials as citizens. As in past years, foreign diplomats and journalists sought permission to attend a number of trials only to have court officials reclassify them as "state secrets" cases, thus closing them to the public. Since 1998, some trials have been broadcast, and court proceedings have become a regular television feature. A few courts published their verdicts on the Internet.
Lawsuits against the Government continued to increase as a growing number of persons used the court system to seek legal recourse against government malfeasance. Administrative lawsuits rose, with more than 100,000 such cases filed in 2001, according to government statistics. Losses by plaintiffs dropped from 35.9 percent in 1992 to 28.6 percent in 2001. In 2002, the SPC established guidelines giving litigants the right to access government files to facilitate lawsuits against government bodies. Decisions of any kind in favor of dissidents remained rare.
Court officials continued efforts to enable the poor to afford litigation by exempting, reducing, or postponing court fees. On September 1, new national regulations went into effect expanding the category of cases eligible for legal aid services and permitting those eligible to obtain legal aid as early as the initial interrogation in criminal cases. Those seeking to obtain compensation from government officials became eligible for legal aid services. From 2000 to 2002, the courts waived over $387 million (RMB 3.2 billion) in litigation costs.
According to the SPC's March report to the NPC, from 1998 through 2002, 2.83 million criminal cases were tried, and 3.22 million offenders were sentenced, up 16 and 18 percent, respectively, from the previous 5-year period. In 2001, the country's courts handled 5,927,660 cases, 730,000 of which were criminal cases, a 33 percent increase over the previous year, as well as more than 100,000 appeals of administrative decisions. Some 819,000 criminal defendants were sentenced to jail terms of 5 years or more, life imprisonment, or death, during the 5-year period, accounting for approximately 25 percent of the total.
Police and prosecutorial officials often ignored the due process provisions of the law and of the Constitution. For example, police and prosecutors subjected many prisoners to torture and severe psychological pressure to confess, and coerced confessions frequently were introduced as evidence. The Criminal Procedure Law forbids the use of torture to obtain confessions, but does not expressly bar the introduction of coerced confessions as evidence. In August, new public security regulations were announced banning the use of torture to obtain confessions and prohibiting the use of coerced confessions in certain administrative cases. However, the new regulations offer no mechanism for a defendant in an administrative case to ensure that his coerced confession is disregarded. Some provinces passed further regulations noting that police who coerced defendants into confessing could be fired. Nonetheless, defendants who failed to show the "correct attitude" by confessing their crimes often received harsher sentences.
During the year, the conviction rate in criminal cases remained at approximately 90 percent, and trials generally were little more than sentencing hearings. In practice, criminal defendants often were not assigned an attorney until a case was brought to court. The best that a defense attorney generally could do in such circumstances was to get a sentence mitigated. In many politically sensitive trials, which rarely lasted more than several hours, the courts handed down guilty verdicts immediately following proceedings. There was an appeals process, but no statistics were available on the results of appeals. In practice, appeals rarely resulted in reversed verdicts.
The lack of due process was particularly egregious in death penalty cases. There were 65 capital offenses, including financial crimes such as counterfeiting currency, embezzlement, and corruption, as well as some other property crimes. A higher court nominally reviewed all death sentences, but the time between arrest and execution was often days and sometimes less, and reviews consistently resulted in the confirmation of sentences. Minors and pregnant women were expressly exempt from the death sentence. Tibetan Lobsang Dondrub was convicted of involvement in bombings in Sichuan Province without due process and executed the day after his appeal was rejected; despite assurances provided to diplomats that his case would be reviewed by the SPC, no review ever occurred (see Tibet Addendum). The Government regarded the number of death sentences it carried out as a state secret, but officials stated that the number of executions carried out decreased during the year, with a faster rate of decrease in Beijing than in outlying provinces.
The 1997 Criminal Procedure Law falls short of international standards in many respects. For example, it has insufficient safeguards against the use of evidence gathered through illegal means, such as torture, and it does not prevent extended pre- and post-trial detention (see Section 1.c. and 1.d.). Appeals processes failed to provide sufficient avenue for review, and there were inadequate remedies for violations of defendants' rights. Furthermore, under the law, there is no right to remain silent, no right against double jeopardy, and no law governing the type of evidence that may be introduced. The mechanism that allows defendants to confront their accusers was inadequate; according to one expert, only 1 to 5 percent of trials involved witnesses. Accordingly, most criminal "trials" consisted of the procurator reading statements of witnesses whom neither the defendant nor his lawyer ever had an opportunity to question. Defense attorneys have no authority to compel witnesses to testify. Anecdotal evidence indicated that implementation of the Criminal Procedure Law remained uneven and far from complete, particularly in politically sensitive cases.
The Criminal Procedure Law gives most suspects the right to seek legal counsel shortly after their initial detention and interrogation; however, police often used loopholes in the law to circumvent defendants' right to seek counsel. Defendants in sensitive political cases frequently found it difficult to find an attorney. In some cases, defendants and lawyers in sensitive cases were not allowed to speak during trials. Even in non-sensitive trials, criminal defense lawyers frequently had little access to their clients or to evidence to be presented during the trial. Defendants in only one of every seven criminal cases had legal representation, according to credible reports citing internal government statistics. Government-employed lawyers still depended on official work units for employment, housing and other benefits, and therefore many were reluctant to represent politically sensitive defendants. The percentage of lawyers in the criminal bar reportedly declined from 3 percent in 1997 to 1 percent in 2001.
Some lawyers who tried to defend their clients aggressively continued to face serious intimidation and abuse by police and prosecutors. For example, according to Article 306 of the Criminal Law, defense attorneys could be held responsible if their clients commit perjury, and prosecutors and judges in such cases have wide discretion in determining what constitutes perjury. In December, prominent Beijing defense attorney Zhang Jianzhong was sentenced to 2 years in prison on charges of assisting in the fabrication of evidence in a major corruption case. Originally denied the right to counsel, Zhang had been detained since May 3, 2002. He was due to be released in May 2004 after receiving credit for the 19 months he served in jail without a conviction. Chinese legal scholars claimed he was singled out for being too effective at representing criminal defendants, and approximately 600 lawyers signed a petition, which was submitted to the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Supreme People's Court, demanding that Zhang be found not guilty. According to the All-China Lawyers Association, since 1997 more than 400 defense attorneys have been detained on similar charges. In September, legal advisor Ma Wenlin asked the Shaanxi Provincial Higher People's Court to overturn his 1999 conviction for "disturbing social order" based on his representation of peasants in a lawsuit to reduce their tax burden. Ma was released early in May, after 4 years in prison. In August, lawyers' professional associations held a major conference on criminal defense law, continuing demands for better protection of lawyers and their legitimate role in the legal process.
In recent years, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) drafted regulations to standardize professional performance, lawyer-client relations, and the administration of lawyers and law firms. The regulations set educational requirements for legal practitioners, encourage free legal services for the general public, grant lawyers formal permission to establish law firms, and provide for the disciplining of lawyers. A growing number of lawyers organized private law firms that were self-regulating and did not have their personnel or budgets determined directly by the State. More than 60 legal aid organizations, many of which handled both criminal and civil cases, have been established around the country, and the MOJ established a nationwide legal services hotline.
The Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, and the MOJ also have issued regulations establishing standards, including an examination, for judges and prosecutors, but those regulations are not uniformly enforced. Recent regulations also require judicial or prosecutorial appointees to be law school graduates with a minimum period of experience in legal practice. However, a great number of sitting judges and procurators continued to serve despite having little or no legal training.
During the year, Chinese and foreign lawyers, law professors, legal journals, and jurists publicly pressed for faster and more systemic legal reform. Among the suggested reforms were the introduction of a more transparent system of discovery, the abolition of coerced confessions, abolition of all forms of administrative detention, a legal presumption of innocence, an independent judiciary, improved administrative laws, and adoption of a plea bargaining system.
Government officials denied holding any political prisoners, asserting that authorities detained persons not for their political or religious views, but because they violated the law; however, the authorities continued to confine citizens for reasons related to politics and religion. Thousands of political prisoners remained incarcerated, some in prisons and others in labor camps. According to human rights organizations, more citizens were in prison for political crimes during the year than at any time since 1992. The Government did not grant international humanitarian organizations access to political prisoners.
Although the crime of "counterrevolution" was removed from the criminal code in 1997, western NGOs estimated that approximately 500-600 persons remained in prison for the crime. Hundreds of others were serving sentences under the State Security Law, which covers similar crimes as the repealed crime of counterrevolution. Persons detained for counterrevolutionary offenses included labor activists Hu Shigen and Liu Jingsheng; writer Chen Yangbin; Inner Mongolian activist Hada; and dissidents Han Chunsheng, Liang Qiang, Yu Zhijian, Zhang Jingsheng, and Sun Xiongying. These prisoners rarely were granted sentence reductions or parole. Foreign governments urged the Government to review the cases of those charged before 1997 with counterrevolution and to release those who had been jailed for nonviolent offenses under the old statute. During the year, the Government held expert-level discussions with foreign officials on conducting such a review.
AI has identified 211 persons who remained imprisoned or on medical parole for their participation in the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations; other NGOs estimated that as many as 2,000 persons remained in prison for their actions at that time.
In January, the Government permitted the early release of political dissident Fang Jue, and, in March, Tibetan nun Ngawang Sandrol was allowed to leave the country. The Government also released a few other political prisoners after granting them sentence reductions, including Internet activist Qi Yanchen and labor activist Kang Yuchun. However, CDP co-founders Wang Youcai and Qin Yongmin; Internet activists Xu Wei, Yang Zili, and Huang Qi; Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer; journalist Jiang Weiping; labor activists Yao Fuxin, Xiao Yunliang, and Liu Jingsheng; Catholic Bishop Su Zhimin; house church leaders Zhang Yinan, Liu Fenggang and Xu Yonghai; Tibetan nun Phuntsog Nyidrol; Uighur historian Tohti Tunyaz; and political dissident Yang Jianli, among many others, remained imprisoned or under other forms of detention during the year. Political prisoners generally benefited from parole and sentence reduction at significantly lower rates than ordinary prisoners.
Criminal punishments could include "deprivation of political rights" for a fixed period after release from prison, during which the individual is denied the limited rights of free speech and association granted to other citizens. Former prisoners also sometimes found their status in society, ability to find employment, freedom to travel, and access to residence permits and social services severely restricted. Economic reforms and social changes have ameliorated these problems for nonpolitical prisoners in recent years. However, former political prisoners and their families frequently still were subjected to police surveillance, telephone wiretaps, searches, and other forms of harassment, and some encountered difficulty in obtaining or keeping employment and housing.
Officials confirmed that executed prisoners were among the sources of organs for transplant but maintained that consent was required from prisoners or their relatives in advance of the procedure. There was no national law governing organ donations, but a Ministry of Health directive explicitly states that buying and selling human organs and tissues is not allowed. On August 22, the first local law regulating organ donation was passed in Shenzhen. It requires all organ donations to be voluntary, prohibits the sale or trade of human organs, provides for fines of $60,000 (RMB 500,000) for violations, and grants the Shenzhen Red Cross sole authority to match donors and recipients. However, the law was expected to have limited impact due to its limited geographical jurisdiction, covering just the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. There were no reliable statistics on how many organ transplants occurred using organs from executed prisoners; however, anecdotal evidence, testimony of former officials and doctors, and the numbers of post-transplant patients seeking follow-up care in Western countries indicated that it is a significant number.
The law prohibits torture; however, police and other elements of the security apparatus employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. The Prison Law forbids prison guards from extorting confessions by torture, insulting prisoners' dignity, and beating or encouraging others to beat prisoners. While senior officials acknowledged that torture and coerced confessions were chronic problems, they did not take sufficient measures to end these practices. Former detainees reported credibly that officials used electric shocks, prolonged periods of solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, beatings, shackles, and other forms of abuse. Recommendations from the May 2000 report of the U.N. Committee Against Torture still had not been fully implemented by year's end. These recommendations included incorporating a definition of torture into domestic law, abolishing all forms of administrative detention (including reeducation through labor), promptly investigating all allegations of torture, and providing training courses on international human rights standards for police.
During the year 2003, police use of torture to coerce confessions from criminal suspects continued to be a problem. The 2002 death in custody of Zeng Lingyun of Chongqing Municipality remained unresolved. On July 26, 2002, public security personnel detained Zeng on theft charges. On July 28, his family was informed that he had died. Local officials initially told Zeng's family that he had been shot by police, and the family noticed extensive bruises and a bullet wound on the body.
Since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999, there reportedly have been several hundred deaths in custody of Falun Gong adherents, due to torture, abuse, and neglect.
The Government made some efforts to address the problem of torture during the year. Some provincial governments issued regulations stipulating that judges and police using torture to extract confessions from suspects would face dismissal. The Government announced that evidence obtained through coerced confessions would be excluded from trial in certain administrative cases (which include acts akin to certain criminal misdemeanors as well as behavior punishable through administrative detention, such as disruption to social order). Police officers who tortured suspects faced dismissal and criminal prosecution in some cases. For example, two police in Dandong, Liaoning Province, were sentenced to 1 and 2 years in jail in December, after torturing two suspects to death in 2001.
During the year, there were reports of persons, particularly Falun Gong adherents, sentenced to psychiatric hospitals for expressing their political or religious beliefs.
Conditions in penal institutions for both political prisoners and common criminals generally were harsh and frequently degrading. Prisoners and detainees often were kept in overcrowded conditions with poor sanitation, and their food often was inadequate and of poor quality. Many detainees relied on supplemental food and medicines provided by relatives, but some prominent dissidents reportedly were not allowed to receive supplemental food or medicine from relatives. According to released political prisoners, in many provinces it was standard practice for political prisoners to be segregated from each other and placed with common criminals. Released prisoners reported that common criminals have beaten political prisoners at the instigation of guards. Some prominent political prisoners received better than standard treatment.
The 1994 Prison Law was designed, in part, to improve treatment of detainees and increase respect for their legal rights; however, many provisions of this law have not been effectively implemented. Some prisoners were able to use administrative procedures provided for in this law to complain about prison conditions. The Government also has created some "model" facilities, where inmates generally received better treatment than those held in other facilities. Chinese prison management relied on the labor of prisoners both as an element of punishment and to fund prison operations (see Section 6.c.). During the year, the Government established a pilot program in some locations to separate prison enterprises from prison reform and punishment functions.
Adequate, timely medical care for prisoners continued to be a serious problem, despite official assurances that prisoners have the right to prompt medical treatment if they become ill. Political prisoners continued to have difficulties in obtaining medical treatment, despite repeated appeals on their behalf by their families and the international community. Those with health concerns included China Democracy Party (CDP) co-founders Qin Yongmin and Wang Youcai; Internet essayist Luo Yongzhang; democracy activists Hua Di and He Depu; labor activists Xiao Yunliang, Yao Fuxin, Hu Shigen, Liu Jingsheng, and Zhang Shanguang; Tibetan nun Phuntsog Nyidrol; religious prisoners Liu Fenggang and Bishop Su Zhimin; dissident Wang Bingzhang; and Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer. During the year, anti-corruption campaigner An Jun, Internet dissident Xu Wei, and dissident Wang Bingzhang allegedly went on hunger strikes in prison.
Conditions in administrative detention facilities, such as reeducation-through-labor camps, were similar to those in prisons. Two highly publicized deaths in administrative detention prompted calls for an overhaul of the system. In March, a university graduate, Sun Zhigang from Henan Province, was beaten to death in a Guangzhou city custody and repatriation center after being detained by police as a suspected illegal migrant. Sun did not have a Guangzhou residency document, and police reportedly locked him in a custody and repatriation facility because his accent revealed he was from a different province. In the facility, inmates beat him to death, and some facility employees allegedly knew of and encouraged the beating. Subsequently, criminal charges were filed against 18 persons. One staff member of the facility was executed, and several prisoners who allegedly inflicted the beating received stiff jail terms or suspended death sentences. Police involved were given mostly administrative punishments. Sun's death led to unprecedented public calls for abolition of the custody and repatriation system of administrative detention for illegal migrants, including petitions by legal scholars and National People's Congress (NPC) members. On June 22, the State Council abolished the system and called for the conversion of administrative detention centers into humanitarian relief centers to support migrants, vagrants, and the homeless. At year's end, the impact of these reforms remained uncertain.
In April, inmate Zhang Bin was tortured and beaten to death at the Huludao City Correctional Camp, a reeducation-through-labor facility in Liaoning Province, where he had reportedly been sentenced to 18 months as punishment for theft. For 30 days, 9 inmates and the inmate labor boss reportedly beat Zhang, stripped him naked, abused him with plastic pipes and hammers, applied hot peppers and salt to his wounds, and doused him in cold water. After Zhang died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital on April 16, 2 workers at the camp were indicted on criminal charges of abuse of authority. In December, inmates charged in the beating were sentenced to long prison terms, and the leader of the gang who beat Zhang was given the death penalty. Zhang's death also prompted calls for reform of reeducation through labor, including a petition by six Guangzhou-based members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, but no such reforms had been made as of year's end.
In the wake of the Sun and Zhang deaths in custody, public security officials admitted that these beating deaths were not isolated incidents. Sexual and physical abuse and extortion were reported in some detention centers. Forced labor in prisons and reeducation-through-labor camps was also common. At the Xinhua Reeducation-Through-Labor Camp in Sichuan Province, inmates were forced to work up to 16 hours per day breaking rocks or making bricks, according to credible reports.
The Government generally did not permit independent monitoring of prisons or reeducation-through-labor camps, and prisoners remained inaccessible to international human rights organizations. Although the Government agreed to invite the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Torture, this visit stalled in part because of the Government's refusal to allow him to visit prisons without advance notice (see Section 4). By year's end, the Government had not announced any progress in talks with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on an agreement for ICRC access to prisons, although there was some discussion of ICRC opening an office in Beijing. Semi-monthly working-level meetings intended to renew cooperation on the U.S.-China Prison Labor Memorandum of Understanding continued during the year (see Section 6.c). A scheduled visit by U.S. officials to discuss prison labor was postponed due to SARS.
Traditional Chinese society was male-centered. Sons were preferred to daughters, and women were expected to be subordinate to fathers, husbands, and sons. A young woman had little voice in the decision on her marriage partner (neither did a young man). When married, it was she who left her natal family and community and went to live in a family and community of strangers where she was subordinate to her mother-in-law. Far fewer women were educated than men, and sketchy but consistent demographic evidence would seem to show that female infants and children had higher death rates and less chance of surviving to adulthood than males. In extreme cases, female infants were the victims of infanticide, and daughters were sold, as chattels, to brothels or to wealthy families. Bound feet, which were customary even for peasant women, symbolized the painful constraints of the female role.
Protests and concerted efforts to alter women's place in society began in China's coastal cities in the early years of the twentieth century. By the 1920s formal acceptance of female equality was common among urban intellectuals. Increasing numbers of girls attended schools, and young secondary school and college students approved of marriages based on free choice. Footbinding declined rapidly in the second decade of the century, the object of a nationwide campaign led by intellectuals who associated it with national backwardness.
Nevertheless, while party leaders condemned the oppression and subordination of women as one more aspect of the traditional society they were intent on changing, they did not accord feminist issues very high priority. In the villages, party members were interested in winning the loyalty and cooperation of poor and lower-middle-class male peasants, who could be expected to resist public criticism of their treatment of their wives and daughters. Many party members were poor and lower-middle-class peasants from the interior, and their attitudes toward women reflected their background. The party saw the liberation of women as depending, in a standard Marxist way, on their participation in the labor force outside the household.
The position of women in contemporary society has changed from the past, and public verbal assent to propositions about the equality of the sexes and of sons and daughters seems universal. Women attend schools and universities, serve in the People's Liberation Army, and join the party. Almost all urban women and the majority of rural women work outside the home. But women remain disadvantaged in many ways, economic and social, and there seems no prospect for substantive change.
The greatest change in women's status has been their movement into the paid labor force. The jobs they held in the 1980s, though, were generally lower paying and less desirable than those of men. Industries staffed largely by women, such as the textiles industry, paid lower wages than those staffed by men, such as the steel or mining industries. Women were disproportionately represented in collective enterprises, which paid lower wages and offered fewer benefits than state-owned industries. In the countryside, the work of males was consistently better rewarded than that of women, and most skilled and desirable jobs, such as driving trucks or repairing machines, were held by men. In addition, Chinese women suffered the familiar double burden of full-time wage work and most of the household chores as well.
As there come to be both more opportunities and more explicit competition for them in both city and countryside, there are some hints of women's being excluded from the competition. In the countryside, a disproportionate number of girls drop out of primary school because parents do not see the point of educating a daughter who will marry and leave the family and because they need her labor in the home. There are fewer female students in key rural and urban secondary schools and universities. As economic growth in rural areas generates new and potentially lucrative jobs, there is a tendency in at least some areas for women to be relegated to agricultural labor, which is poorly rewarded. There have been reports in the Chinese press of outright discrimination against women in hiring for urban jobs and of enterprises requiring female applicants to score higher than males on examinations for hiring.
On the whole, in the 1980s women were better off than their counterparts 50 or a 100 years before, and they had full legal equality with men. In practice, their opportunities and rewards were not entirely equal, and they tended to get less desirable jobs and to retain the burden of domestic chores in addition to fulltime jobs.
Violence against women was a significant problem. There was no national law specifically targeting domestic violence, although amendments to the Marriage Law, adopted in April 2001, were aimed in part at providing protection against spousal abuse. NPC members claimed that most of the 33 changes to the law were designed to support the rights of women and children victimized by family violence. In recognition of the seriousness of spousal abuse, 13 provinces and provincial level cities have passed legislation to address the problem. Sociologists noted that there has been no detailed research on the extent of physical violence against women. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the reporting of domestic abuse was on the rise, particularly in urban areas, because greater attention has been focused on the problem. A July 2000 survey report by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) found that violence occurred in 30 percent of families, and 80 percent of cases involved husbands abusing their wives. Actual figures may be higher because spousal abuse still went largely unreported. The survey found that domestic violence occurred at all socioeconomic levels. According to experts, domestic abuse was more common in rural areas than in urban centers. In response to increased awareness of the problem of domestic violence, there were a growing number of shelters for victims. Rape is illegal, and some persons convicted of rape were executed. The law does not expressly recognize or exclude spousal rape.
Central Government policy formally prohibits the use of physical coercion to compel persons to submit to abortion or sterilization. However, intense pressure to meet birth limitation targets set by government regulations has resulted in instances in which local birth planning officials reportedly have used physical coercion to meet government goals. In addition, women faced a disproportionate burden due to the government's enforcement of its birth limitation laws and practices, which require the use of birth control methods (particularly IUDs and female sterilization, which according to government statistics accounted for over 80 percent of birth control methods employed) and the abortion of certain pregnancies.
According to some estimates by experts, there were 4 to 10 million commercial sex workers in the country. The increased commercialization of sex and related trafficking in women trapped thousands of women in a cycle of crime and exploitation and left them vulnerable to disease and abuse. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, one in five massage parlors in the country was involved in prostitution, with the percentage higher in cities. Unsafe working conditions were rampant among the saunas, massage parlors, clubs, and hostess bars that have sprung up in large cities. Research indicated that up to 80 percent of prostitutes in some areas had hepatitis. In light of this and, in particular, of the growing threat of AIDS among sex workers, the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee in 1998 recommended that due attention be paid to health services for female prostitutes. Although the Central Government and various provincial and local governments have attempted to crack down on the sex trade, there have been numerous credible reports in the media of complicity in prostitution by local officials. Thus far, actions to crack down on this lucrative business, which involved organized crime groups and businesspersons as well as the police and the military, have been largely ineffective.
The Government was committed firmly to children's rights and welfare through well-funded systems of public education, medical care, and protective services. The Education Department is committed to providing schooling for children between 6 and 15 years of age and provided placement services for non-Chinese speaking children. Education was free and compulsory through grade nine. The Government supported programs for custody, protection, day care, foster care, shelters, small group homes, and assistance to families.
Subsidized, quality medical care was available to all children who are residents.
At year's end, the Government was considering legislation proposed in 2001 to raise the age of criminal responsibility for children from 7 to 10 years. For the first 7 months of the year, there were 49 youths under the age of 16 who were incarcerated: 14 in prison, 9 in training centers, 24 in detention centers, and 2 in drug addiction treatment centers.
Child abuse and exploitation were not widespread. In the first 7 months of the year, there were 645 child abuse cases newly registered with the police: 265 involved physical abuse and 380 involved sexual abuse. The Government reported 99 cases of "cruelty to children" in the first half of the year; there were 181 cases in 2001, and 178 in 2000.
There are no specific laws dealing with child pornography, but child pornography is covered under other anti-pornography laws. A bill on Prevention of Child Pornography, introduced before the Legislative Council in January, would criminalize the making, production, distribution, publication, advertising, and possession of child pornography. The bill would also prohibit the procurement of children for making pornography, extend the application of certain sexual offense provisions to acts committed against children outside of Hong Kong, and prohibit any arrangement or advertising relating to commission of those acts. At year's end, the bill was still being studied in committee.
The Government provided parent education programs in all 50 of the Department of Health's Maternal and Child Health Centers. The police maintained a child abuse investigation unit to improve the treatment of victims, and laws have been passed to make it easier for child victims to testify in court using an interviewing suite for recording statements. There are substantial legal penalties for mistreatment or neglect of minors. A witness support program helped child witnesses in need. A child witness information kit in Chinese, with books explaining legal and court proceedings, helped reduce children's anxiety about testifying. A Child Care Center Law helped to prevent unsuitable persons from providing childcare services and facilitated the formation of mutual help childcare groups.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
There is no specific law prohibiting trafficking in persons; however, there are various laws and ordinances that allowed law enforcement authorities to take action against traffickers. Trafficking in persons was a problem; Hong Kong was both a transit and a destination point for trafficked persons. However, it was difficult for authorities to identify trafficking victims among the larger group of illegal immigrants.
Hong Kong was a transit point for some persons trafficked from China and other nations to third countries, despite active efforts by the Government to stop such trafficking. During the year, authorities caught 3,549 persons with forged travel documents. The most common method used to attempt to traffic persons through the SAR employed forged or illegally obtained travel documents to move through the airport. In past years, traffickers have attempted to smuggle persons in shipping containers. In 2001 the Government uncovered a trafficking ring and arrested 11 Hong Kong residents involved in a forgery operation that produced fraudulent passports.
There were reports that Hong Kong was a destination for women trafficked for the purpose of prostitution. According to a 2001 study, some of the women did not know before coming to Hong Kong that they would be pressured into serving as "escorts" for male customers of the bars where they were given jobs. Large numbers of mainland Chinese women also illegally engaged in prostitution with the reported assistance of organized criminal groups. There were reports as well that criminal elements brought in small numbers of women from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Colombia for the purpose of engaging in illegal prostitution.
The authorities sought to combat illegal prostitution by nonresidents through strict immigration controls and by arresting and prosecuting illegal prostitutes and their employers. In the first 9 months of 2001, 982 nonresident women prostitutes and a much smaller number of their employers were arrested. Most of those arrested were deported rather than formally charged.
Persons also were trafficked to the SAR for labor purposes, including domestic labor. Some foreign domestic workers, particularly from Indonesia, have been recruited abroad and brought to Hong Kong only to be placed in coercive working and living conditions. Organized criminal groups generally were behind the illicit activity and sought to profit from it through forced labor, debt bonded labor, or prostitution.
Government policies to combat fraudulent marriages that could be used to disguise trafficking in persons appeared to be producing results. Immigration officials closely scrutinized applications for the entry of foreigners to take up residence with local spouses, and in cases where the claimed relationship as husband and wife was deemed not credible, applications were rejected.
Provisions in the Immigration Ordinance, the Crimes Ordinance, and other relevant laws enabled law enforcement authorities to take action against trafficking in persons. The courts can impose heavy fines and prison sentences for up to 14 years for such activities as arranging passage of unauthorized entrants into Hong Kong, assisting unauthorized entrants to remain, using or possessing a forged, false or unlawfully obtained travel document, and aiding and abetting any person to use such a document. The Security Bureau has policy responsibility for combating migrant trafficking and oversees the police, customs, and immigration departments, which are responsible for enforcing antitrafficking laws. Law enforcement officials received specialized training on handling and protecting victims and vulnerable witnesses, including victims of trafficking.
Legal aid was available to those who chose to pursue legal proceedings against an employer, and immunity from prosecution was often made available to those who assisted in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. The Government did not provide funding to foreign or domestic NGOs for services to victims of trafficking. The Government's prevention efforts included providing pamphlets to workers about their rights; the pamphlets were widely distributed and were published in a wide range of languages.
China continued to take strong and effective measures to combat the use and trafficking of narcotic drugs in 1998. Preliminary figures indicate that during 1998 Chinese police seized record amounts of heroin, other illicit drugs, and precursor chemicals. The Chinese Government sponsored a nationwide education campaign aimed primarily at reducing drug use by youth. Narcotics enforcement cooperation between the United States and China continued to expand in 1998, with increased levels of training, professional exchanges, and tactical-level enforcement cooperation. The United States and China established a Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation and are taking steps to further develop mutual legal assistance; in general, however, China's response to U.S. requests could have been more forthcoming. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) anticipates opening an office in Beijing sometime in 1999. China is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, as well as to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its protocols, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.
Because it shares a 2,000-kilometer border with Burma, the source of most of the heroin produced in the "Golden Triangle," China has become one of the primary drug transshipment countries in Asia. Drug traffickers from other Southeast Asian nations, particularly Laos and Vietnam, have also on occasion used China as a transit route.
China is a major producer of precursor chemicals. The ephedra plant, from which the precursor chemical, ephedrine, is made, grows wild in northern China. China legally exports potassium permanganate, which is used in cocaine production. China vigilantly monitors precursor chemical exports and has in place a system of pre-export notification. China monitors all 22 of the chemicals on the 1988 UN Drug Convention Watch List. Yunnan, the province most directly affected by China's growing drug problem, goes further by monitoring exports of 28 chemicals. According to press reports, in the first ten months of 1998 Yunnan provincial law-enforcement authorities seized more than 300 tons of precursor chemicals destined for illegal use, more than the amount confiscated nationwide in all of 1997.
Although Chinese law prohibits laundering the proceeds from illegal narcotics trafficking, China's legal system and banking regulations generally have not kept pace with the country's rapid economic internationalization. Consequently, China is vulnerable to possible exploitation by drug traffickers, particularly from Burma.
Seizures of illegal drugs and narcotics-related arrests have both increased over 1997's record levels. Drug trafficking is a very serious offense in China, and many convicted traffickers were executed in 1998. The Chinese Government released revised figures showing that the number of registered drug abusers increased from a previous figure of 520,000 in 1995, the last year statistical information was reported, to 540,000 in 1998. Officials acknowledge that the actual number of users is likely significantly higher and admit they lack reliable statistics on the true extent of the problem. Most of China's counties and municipalities have reported drug abuse in their communities. The most commonly used drugs are heroin, opium, stimulants, and depressants. The production of synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine, is a growing problem in China. For the first time, police officials discovered a production facility for the drug "ecstasy" in China.
China implemented several new initiatives to strengthen its counternarcotics efforts at all levels, from apprehending and prosecuting traffickers to counteracting drug addiction and abuse. China is committed to achieving the goals of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. China supports a law-enforcement program to increase interdiction in Yunnan Province under the auspices of the UNDCP and funded by the U.S. Government. China has approved the expansion of the program to two other provinces in 1999.
Internet research assisted by Makini Shani Cunningham