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Supporting human rights and democracy
The U.S. Record 2003-2004
U.S. Department of State
5/31/2004

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004 is submitted to the Congress by the U.S. Department of State in compliance with Section 665 of P.L. 107-228, the Fiscal Year 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which was signed into law on September 30, 2002, requiring the Department to report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights.

Unlike the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, issued annually by the State Department and covering 196 countries, Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004 highlights U.S. efforts to promote human rights and democracy in the 101 countries and entities with the worst human rights records, taking care to include those countries of concern for "extrajudicial killings, torture and other serious violations of human rights."

Released May 17, 2004

"Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U. S. Record 2003 - 2004"
(excerpted sections below on China)
East Asia and Pacific
Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
East Asia and the Pacific is a diverse region with governments ranging from bleak, totalitarian regimes to functioning democracies. Although an ever-growing number of people in the region embrace democratic values and market economics, a number of governments have not yet implemented the rule of law or transparency in governance, and continue to tightly control civil society and commit severe human rights abuses. The United States therefore works to encourage governments across East Asia and the Pacific in the development of pluralistic and representative democracies, to support the formation of transparent and responsive legal systems, and to facilitate the development of civil society institutions essential for sustaining these democratic transitions.

The U.S. Agency for International Development provides substantial support for democracy, governance and human rights programs in an even broader range of countries in the East Asia and Pacific region. The State Department's Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF) currently supports a number of programs that seek to address the systemic challenges to democracy and rule of law in China, and supports programs in Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea (which focuses on human rights abuses in North Korea).

The development of open societies in which citizens can enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms is a critical U.S. foreign policy objective in Asia. Advancing religious freedom is a key component of our efforts in the region. Among other goals, the United States believes that fostering pluralism and tolerance will counter growing religious extremism in some parts of Asia. The United States also provides support for programs that promote respect for worker rights and adherence to international core labor standards.

The Administration urges countries in the region to negotiate peaceful settlements to internal conflicts and to prevent mistreatment of civilians and other abuses by security forces in violation of international humanitarian law. The United States focuses considerable effort on pushing for reform and accountability within the security forces of East Asian and Pacific nations. Building respect for rule of law is a key challenge in conflict-affected areas.

In addition to regular bilateral meetings with Asian interlocutors on human rights issues, the United States has conducted Human Rights Dialogues with China and Vietnam. However, no new rounds were scheduled in 2003 with either country, primarily due to insufficient progress on key human rights concerns by both countries. The United States also works through multilateral fora to promote human rights in East Asia and the Pacific, including supporting UN mechanisms such as Special Rapporteurs and sponsoring country-specific human rights resolutions at the UN General Assembly and UN Commission on Human Rights. The United States continues to be particularly concerned about the deplorable human rights records of the North Korean and Burmese Governments and uses a variety of diplomatic tools to press for positive change in these extremely repressive countries.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE REFORM IN CHINA

Criminal defense attorneys in China face the risk of intimidation, harassment, detention and arrest. Many of the lawyers who have been targeted were guilty of nothing more than vigorously defending their client. In some cases, lawyers have been indicted and even convicted, and sentenced to prison on trumped-up charges. As a result, the percentage of lawyers specializing in criminal defense is declining. Five years ago criminal defense lawyers comprised three percent of all Chinese lawyers; now only one percent of China’s lawyers are specializing in criminal defense. This is affecting defendants’ access to justice. According to some estimates, the percentage of criminal defendants represented by legal counsel dropped from 40 percent in 1996 to 30 percent in 2001.

To support criminal defense attorneys in China, the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) is funding a project to strengthen the role of lawyers in the criminal defense process. This project addresses the structural obstacles lawyers face, including the laws and policies that are used to prevent them from adequately representing their clients. Under the grant, defense attorneys, government officials, judges and prosecutors have participated in workshops to develop strategies to strengthen their role, including policy recommendations that will be presented to the Chinese Government.

In addition to this project, DRL is also supporting other criminal defense projects, including a training program for defense attorneys, judges and prosecutors. This training will include oral advocacy skills, developing a theory of a case, the creation and presentation of logical arguments and ethics. The goal of the training is to introduce participants to elements of adversarial trial process.

These projects are part of a broader effort begun in 2002 to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in China by DRL’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund. In Fiscal Year 2004, through a specific Congressional appropriation, $10 million will be awarded as competitive grants to non-governmental organizations to implement projects in China.

“For me the approach of Christmas Eve last week also marked the approach of freedom. It was the time when I finally emerged from the prisons of the Chinese Community Party, a joyous day made possible by the efforts and sacrifice of my wife, He Xintong, and my daughter, Xu Jin, by support from friends in the United States and many other countries around the world, and by the governments of the United States and other democracies.”


-- Xu Wenli, founder of the Democracy Movement in China, December 31, 2002
CHINA

China's authoritarian government continues to suppress political, religious and social groups, as well as individuals, that are perceived to be a threat to regime power or national stability. The Government’s human rights record remained poor, and the Government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses. Although legal reforms continued, there was backsliding on key human rights issues, including the execution of Tibetan Lobsang Dhondup, despite assurances that his case would receive a Supreme Court review, the forced repatriation of 18 Tibetans from Nepal under Chinese pressure and detention of individuals writing on sensitive subjects on the Internet, health activists, labor protesters, defense lawyers, journalists, house church members and others seeking to take advantage of the space created by reforms. Abuses included instances of torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention and denial of due process.

The United States employs multiple strategies to promote human rights and strengthen the rule of law in China. U.S. officials routinely highlight publicly the need for improvements in human rights conditions and call for the release of prisoners of conscience. The Ambassador and other officers of the U.S. Mission in China also work with Chinese officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other organizations to identify areas of particular concern and encourage systemic reforms. The United States supports a wide range of activities designed to improve human rights conditions in China by strengthening the judicial system and furthering the rule of law, encouraging democratic political reform, promoting freedom of religion, protecting human rights, including worker rights and women's rights, improving transparency in governance and strengthening civil society.

The United States continues to place a high priority on raising human rights concerns in meetings with Chinese officials and working to securing the release of Chinese prisoners of conscience. During the year, the Ambassador and other embassy officials repeatedly raised specific human rights cases in public remarks and meetings with Chinese officials. In December 2003, President Bush raised human rights concerns with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Washington. During Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing’s visit to the United States in September 2003, Secretary of State Powell expressed our deep concern regarding the human rights situation in China. Secretary Powell also raised human rights when he met with Foreign Minister Li during the APEC ministerial meeting in October. During his trip to Beijing in late January 2004, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage urged China to move forward on dialogue with envoys of the Dalai Lama and raised other human rights concerns. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Lorne Craner traveled to Beijing in October 2003 to express concern regarding the human rights situation and the lack of human rights cooperation. During the year, he regularly raised human rights in meetings with Chinese officials. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific James Kelly also raised ongoing human rights concerns in high-level meetings in February and March 2004.

In 2003, political activists Xu Wenli and Fang Jue and Tibetan nun Ngawang Sandrol were released to the United States. In February 2004, Tibetan nun Phuntsog Nyidron was also released and allowed to return to her home in Lhasa, and in March 2004 political dissident Wang Youcai was released to the United States on medical parole. United States appeals also helped others gain early release from prison. A team of Chinese legal experts for the first time engaged U.S. legal experts in discussions on the cases of those still serving sentences for the now-repealed crime of counterrevolution. Follow-on talks were held in Beijing in February 2004.

The President and senior officials continue to call upon the Chinese Government to enter into dialogues with the Vatican and the Dalai Lama. Emissaries of the Dalai Lama visited Tibetan areas of China twice in the past two years, the first such visits in decades. Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's special representative to the United States, and Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama’s special envoy to Europe, made a trip to China in May 2003 to continue discussions with Chinese officials that began in September 2002.

The United States has engaged in an ongoing Human Rights Dialogue with China. During the December 2002 session, the Government agreed to invite, without conditions, the UN Special Rapporteurs for Torture and Religious Intolerance, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to visit China, but those visits have yet to take place. While U.S. officials continually engage Chinese authorities at all levels on human rights issues, the United States did not schedule a new round of dialogue in 2003, primarily because of China's failure to live up to commitments made during the 2002 session.

During the year, U.S. officials worked to strengthen the flow of information about human rights issues between the United States and like-minded governments. The United States attended the fourth “Bern Process” meeting of China's human rights dialogue partners to share information about human rights strategies and democracy, human rights and rule of law programming. The U.S. Mission in China also brought internationally recognized speakers to address Chinese audiences on topics including democracy, human rights, religious freedom, corporate social responsibility and rule of law.

The United States seeks to promote systemic improvements in China's human rights situation. Toward that goal the United States funds a multi-million dollar program to promote legal reform and encourage judicial independence, increase popular participation in government and foster the development of civil society in China. Under this program, more than a dozen projects are currently being implemented, including projects that strengthen the provision of legal services and enable average citizens to seek protection under the law. For example, in September the United States supported a seminar attended by more than 150 Chinese judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys on problems of the criminal defense bar. Other projects promote democratic political reform by encouraging the holding of direct elections at the local level and increasing ways in which citizens can participate in government decision-making. The United States also supports a small grants program administered by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The Embassy awards small grants to members of China's NGO movement in support of democratic values. In 2003, the United States funded 13 projects with diverse purposes, including teaching U.S. law at a Chinese university and supporting environmental and health care advocacy NGOs. The Embassy also launched a series of programs in Beijing and Shanghai to draw attention to the environmental and social effects of specific business activities. This series included four digital videoconferences and support for an October conference on corporate social responsibility in coordination with the Beijing American Chamber of Commerce. In addition, a former U.S. federal prosecutor serves as Resident Legal Advisor at the Embassy and regularly organizes events promoting the rule of law, speaking frequently to Chinese audiences about legal reform, including issues relating to criminal procedure.

The United States has raised concern for the rights of minorities. The United States publicly and privately urged China not to use the war on terrorism as justification for cracking down on Uighurs expressing peaceful political dissent. U.S. officials have also pressed China not to forcibly repatriate North Koreans and to allow the UN High Commission for Refugees access to this vulnerable population, as required by the 1951 Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees, which China has signed.

The United States has devoted significant resources and time to its engagement in discussions with Chinese officials and the UN Population Fund to eliminate coercive elements of China’s birth limitation program and to encourage the practice of fully informed, voluntary consent in family planning.

The United States also promotes compliance with international labor standards. The U.S. Mission in China works to monitor compliance with the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding and Statement of Cooperation on Prison Labor and to investigate allegations of forced child labor. The U.S. Labor Department supports technical assistance programs to advance labor rule of law and mine safety. The Partnership to Eliminate Sweatshops Program (PESP) is a State Department program designed specifically to address unacceptable working conditions in manufacturing facilities that produce for the U.S. market. The program is aimed at overseas factories and complements other U.S. efforts to bring countries into compliance with the 1998 International Labor Organization Declaration on the Fundamental Rights at Work and to assist developing countries to meet worker rights criteria set forth in U.S. trade legislation. The State Department is providing PESP funding to four non-governmental organizations to work in China. Social Accountability International (SAI) and its local partners are developing and testing an innovative model for worker-manager relations through which it will train up to 3,000 workers in three to five factories in the toy and apparel industry in China. At the project’s completion, SAI hopes to have built local capacity to ensure compliance with labor standards as well as to have designed a model for worker-manager training that can be applied to additional factories in China. The China Working Group is working to promote labor rights awareness in the Chinese business community and Chinese business schools. The Toy Industry Association is working to increase local capacity to ensure compliance with labor standards in the toy industry in Guangdong Province. Finally, Business for Social Responsibility is developing advanced training materials for factory managers, compliance officers, supply chain managers and others on labor, environmental and health and safety issues as well as implementation tools suitable for use in individual factories in China.

The U.S. Mission in China continues to encourage China to improve its efforts against trafficking in women and children. While the Ministry of Public Security has arrested more than 20,000 traffickers and rescued more than 42,000 victims over the past three years, it can do more to cooperate with foreign organizations.

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