China Not Fulfilling Its Human Rights Plan, Monitors Say

By Cara Anna | January 11, 2011 | 4:40 AM EST

Gao Zhisheng, a human rights lawyer who was beaten by police, meets with reporters on April 7, 2010, at a tea house in Beijing, China. (AP File Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Beijing (AP) - The continued use of torture, illegal detention, censorship and other offenses means China has failed to deliver on its first human rights action plan, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

The New York-based rights group evaluated China's official two-year plan that ended last month. It said China's government deserves praise for openly publishing a human rights plan, but said its many failures left it "largely a series of unfulfilled promises."

China's human rights were fully in the spotlight last year when imprisoned author and critic Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest and out of contact since shortly after the award was announced in October. Dozens of his supporters were harassed, detained or blocked from leaving China to attend the ceremony in Norway last month.

Among other notable cases of rights abuses was the disappearance of activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who emerged briefly last spring and discussed how he was beaten by security agents for hours at a time, before again going missing.

The Human Rights Watch report mentions numerous such cases, including the severe crackdown on the minority Uighur population in far western China after ethnic rioting there in the summer of 2009, and the forced deportation from Cambodia of 20 Uighurs seeking asylum from U.N. officials there.

The report also criticizes China for making "manifestly false statements" to the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2009, such as "There is no censorship in the country," and "There are no black jails in the country."

Even the tightly controlled state media last year reported on the network of black jails, or unofficial detention centers run by local governments, that snatch and hold petitioners who try to expose grievances or abuses to the central government.

Human Rights Watch researcher Phelim Kine said in an e-mail a copy of the group's report had been sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, but there was no immediate response.

"We hope very much to hear from the Chinese government in the days to come, however, it's worth noting that the Chinese government has failed to provide any thoughtful or meaningful responses to any of HRW's China reports in the past," he said.

China generally defines human rights from an economic point of view based on housing, food and better living standards. But its human rights action plan also promised to improve the situation on such issues as police torture and the right to information, assembly and a fair trial.

Beijing released a report last September praising its progress on human rights, saying the Internet had made government more transparent, and standards of living had "been further improved on the basis of economic and social development."

Human Rights Watch, however, found continued abuses in all areas. It proposed putting surveillance cameras in prisons and detention centers, bans on house arrest and censorship, more room for non-governmental aid groups to operate independently, and an annual release of the number of people executed in China -- which is said to use the death penalty more than any other country.