The Chinese government recently released its nation’s second national Human Rights Action Plan, a lengthy document guaranteeing protections for civil rights. The Action Plan has publically claimed that over the past two years the Chinese government has successfully completed “all targets and tasks set by the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010).”
Indeed, it appears that the Chinese government has decided to truly protect its peoples’ rights. As we most of us know, China has a history of violating its people’s rights, especially regarding freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to worship. The Action Plan has received much support through formal Chinese institutions and media outlets. China Daily and Xinhua, two Chinese state owned media companies, have touted the success that has resulted from the Action Plan.
Just about everywhere outside of China, and in fact even people in certain parts of China, have depicted the Action Plan as propaganda and completely ineffective. International human rights groups and local human right activists have already refuted the action’s plan “success.”
The Human Rights Watch in a recent review of the Action plan was highly critical of the success documented in the action plan. “The government has systematically continued to violate many of the most basic rights and the document address,” said in the Human Rights Watch review of the action plan. Chinese activist are on the same page. Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights lawyer and teacher remarked, “There has been no improvement in the Chinese human rights situation over the past two years. On the country, things have been going backwards.”
Though the Chinese media has celebrated the success of the two year Action Plan, rights protecting religious practice have been violated, farmers and even urbanites have had their land illegally grabbed, and most gravely, the right to a fair trial has been nonexistent.
Tibetan Monks and Protestants in China have consistently had their civil rights violated between 2009 and 2010. In June, 2009, the Office of Religious Affairs sent its officials and a local police force to Amdo Jaqung monetary in Qinghai to expel one of its leaders, Lobsang Tsultrim for “persuading the monks to be faithful to the Dalai Lama rather than the Peoples’ Republic of China.”
On April 21, 2011, unrest amongst Tibetan Monks emerged when Chinese local authorities sealed off a deeply respected Tibetan monastery in Sichuan province, Kirk monetary, after a young monk set himself on fire to protest against the government’s oppressive policies towards religious, Tibetan monks.
Over the last two years, Protestants have also seen the government treat them in unfair ways, and have been arbitrary detained. Protestants in China have also faced repression by the Chinese state. On April 24,2011, Chinese police arrested hundreds of congregants from the Shouwang Evangelical Church, one of the largest house churches in the capital, when they attempted to hold Easter services in a public square. Earlier during the same month, the local government authorities demanded the church to be shut down. The authorities also stifled the church’s attempts to lease or buy space for services in other areas. Some church members said that they were confined to their homes by agents to keep them from joining Easter services.
In late April 2011, a 28 year old member of the Shouwang church, who identified herself as Waters, told a CNN correspondent that she feels that if she practices Christianity she will be harassed by the authorities. “Personally I don't know how long I can last because the pressure is pretty intense, because they try to harass your family, your workplace and your landlord. They want to control you.”
There has been countless land grabs throughout China’s urban and rural areas with very little compensation to the residents. Protests broke out in Guangdong, southern China, in mid June 2011, after a local government boss was accused of stealing compensation payments from the people. Around 12 people were arrested. Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a Hong Kong-based information center, said that villagers suffering from high inflation hoped for an increase in payments from business in the industry park, but the local factory owner had been embezzled by the former head, who is now a local Communist Party Secretary. The Ministry of Land and resources have recently released a list on Thursday of 73 officials from 31 cities and counties who have been punished for illegal use of land. Although land grabs are decreasing, they are still rampant and appear arbitrary. The rights of those people are not enforced in the courts and are rarely recognized and documented.
The Chinese government has also arrested dozens of lawyers and civil activist without giving them a trial. Lu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, and other high profile Chinese activist, and artist, have been arrested detained without the prospect of a trial. In fact, many civil rights lawyers and activist have disappeared without a sight. Forced confessions are also still a problem that was not discussed in the Action Plan.
The Action Plan appears to be propaganda that is designed make international organizations and the West believe that they are working towards implementing and protecting civil rights. I personally feel that the Action Plan may have positive intentions, but the results are relatively feeble. Instead, the Action Plan appears to just be a public relations exercise. Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director of the Human Rights Watch, correctly noted “that the (the action plan) is more of a public relations exercise than a meaningful tool for protecting and promoting human rights.”
The fact that the Chinese government is picking and choosing which civil rights it wants to protect and not protect demonstrates that it has a hidden motive. In the light of the Jasmine Revolution that recently occurred in the Middle East, the Chinese Communist Party certainly is nervous of having a domino effect tumble into their land. Any threat to the Communist Party’s authority is immediately suppressed and dispersed. Many people, including me, applaud some of the writings in the Chinese constitution, and the action plan, that are designed to protect civil rights. But right now, it’s all bark, and no bite.