|1999 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT|
February 25, 2000
1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor U.S. Department of State
The People's Republic of China (PRC) is an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the paramount source of power. At the national and regional levels, Party members hold almost all top government, police, and military positions. Ultimate authority rests with members of the Politburo. Leaders stress the need to maintain stability and social order and are committed to perpetuating the rule of the CCP and its hierarchy. Citizens lack both the freedom peacefully to express opposition to the Party-led political system and the right to change their national leaders or form of government. Socialism continues to provide the theoretical underpinning of Chinese politics, but Marxist ideology has given way to economic pragmatism in recent years, and economic decentralization has increased the authority of regional officials. The Party's authority rests primarily on the Government's ability to maintain social stability, appeals to nationalism and patriotism, Party control of personnel and the security apparatus, and the continued improvement in the living standards of most of the country's 1.27 billion citizens. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice, the Government and the CCP, at both the central and local levels, frequently interfere in the judicial process, and decisions in a number of high profile political cases are directed by the Government and the CCP.
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, and the state judicial, procuratorial, and penal systems. Security policy and personnel were responsible for numerous human rights abuses.
China is making a difficult transition from a centrally planned to a market-based economy. The economy continues to expand. The country is a leading world producer of coal, steel, textiles, and grains. Trade and foreign investment are helping to modernize the economy. Major exports include electronic goods, toys, apparel, and plastics. According to official government statistics, the official gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate during the year was just over 7 percent, but the actual rate was widely considered to be lower by experts. The economy faces growing problems, including state enterprise reform, unemployment, underemployment, and regional economic disparities. Rural unemployment and underemployment combined are estimated to be over 30 percent. Tens of millions of peasants have left their homes in search of better jobs and living conditions. Demographers estimate that between 80 and 130 million persons make up this "floating population," with many major cities counting 1 million or more such persons. Urban areas also are coping with millions of state workers idled on partial wages or unemployed as a result of industrial reforms. In the industrial sector, downsizing in state-owned enterprises prompted 6 million layoffs in the first half of 1999, bringing the total number of urban unemployed to well over 15 million. Industrial workers throughout the country sporadically protested layoffs and demanded the payment of overdue wages and benefits. Overall, however, economic reforms have raised living standards for many, provided greater independence for entrepreneurs, and diminished state control over the economy and over citizens' daily lives. Despite serious economic difficulties in the state sector, individual economic opportunities expanded in the nonstate sectors, resulting in increased freedom of employment and mobility. A constitutional amendment passed in March recognized the private sector as equal in status to the state sector. The total number of citizens living in absolute poverty continues to decline; estimates range from official figures of 42 million to World Bank figures of 150 million. However, the income gap between coastal and interior regions, and between urban and rural areas, is wide and growing. Chinese economists put the ratio of urban to rural income at 12 to 1. Urban per capita disposable income for 1998 was $656, while rural per capita net income was $261.
The Government's poor human rights record deteriorated markedly throughout the year, as the Government intensified efforts to supress dissent, particularly organized dissent. A crackdown against a fledgling opposition party, which began in the fall of 1998, broadened and intensified during the year. By year's end, almost all of the key leaders of the China Democracy Party (CDP) were serving long prison terms or were in custody without formal charges, and only a handful of dissidents nationwide dared to remain active publicly. Tens of thousands of members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were detained after the movement was banned in July; several leaders of the movement were sentenced to long prison terms in late December and hundreds of others were sentenced administratively to reeducation through labor in the fall. Late in the year, according to some reports, the Government started confining some Falun Gong adherents to psychiatric hospitals. The Government continued to commit widespread and well-documented human rights abuses, in violation of internationally accepted norms. These abuses stemmed from the authorities' extremely limited tolerance of public dissent aimed at the Government, fear of unrest, and the limited scope or inadequate implementation of laws protecting basic freedoms. The Constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights; however, these protections often are ignored in practice. Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention, and denial of due process. Prison conditions at most facilities remained harsh. In many cases, particularly in sensitive political cases, the judicial system denies criminal defendants basic legal safeguards and due process because authorities attach higher priority to maintaining public order and suppressing political opposition than to enforcing legal norms. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press, and increased controls on the Internet; self-censorship by journalists also increased. The Government severely restricted freedom of assembly, and continued to restrict freedom of association. The Government continued to restrict freedom of religion, and intensified controls on some unregistered churches. The Government continued to restrict freedom of movement. The Government does not permit independent domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor publicly human rights conditions. Violence against women, including coercive family planning practices--which sometimes include forced abortion and forced sterilization; prostitution; discrimination against women; trafficking in women and children; abuse of children; and discrimination against the disabled and minorities are all problems. The Government continued to restrict tightly worker rights, and forced labor in prison facilities remains a serious problem. Child labor persists. Particularly serious human rights abuses persisted in some minority areas, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang, where restrictions on religion and other fundamental freedoms intensified.
Beginning in the spring, Communist Party leaders moved quickly to suppress what they believed to be organized challenges that threatened national stability and Communist Party authority. In the weeks before the 10th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen massacre, the Government also moved systematically against political dissidents across the country, detaining and formally arresting scores of activists in cities and provinces nationwide and thwarting any attempts to commemorate the sensitive anniversary. Authorities in particular targeted the CDP, which had already had three of its leaders sentenced to lengthy prison terms in December 1998. Beginning in May, dozens of CDP members were arrested in a widening crackdown and more of the group's leaders were convicted of subversion and sentenced to long prison terms in closed trials that flagrantly violated due process. Others were kept detained for long periods without charge. In one August week alone, CDP members Liu Xianbin, She Wanbao, Zha Jianguo, and Gao Hongming were sentenced to prison terms of 13, 12, 9, and 8 years, respectively. Dissidents also were rounded up in large numbers before the October 1 National Day celebrations. In addition, the press reported that the Government rounded up 100,000 or more persons and sent them out of Beijing under the custody and repatriation regulations prior to the October 1 National Day celebrations, to ensure order.
Control and manipulation of the press by the Government for political purposes increased during the year. After authorities moved at the end of 1998 to close a number of newspapers and fire several editors, a more cautious atmosphere in general pervaded the press and publishing industries during the year. As part of its crackdown against the popular Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Government employed every element of the state-controlled media to conduct a nationwide anti-Falun Gong propaganda campaign reminiscent of the campaigns against the democracy movement that followed the Tiananmen massacre of 1989. The press continued to report on cases of corruption and abuse of power by some local officials.
Unapproved religious groups, including Protestant and Catholic groups, continued to experience varying degrees of official interference, repression, and persecution. The Government continued to enforce 1994 State Council regulations requiring all places of religious activity to register with the Government and come under the supervision of official, "patriotic" religious organizations. There were significant differences from region to region, and even locality to locality, in the attitudes of government officials toward religion. In some areas, authorities guided by national policy made strong efforts to control the activities of unapproved Catholic and Protestant churches; religious services were broken up and church leaders or adherents were harassed, and, at times, fined, detained, beaten, and tortured. At year's end, some remained in prison because of their religious activities. In other regions, registered and unregistered churches were treated similarly by the authorities. Citizens worshiping in officially sanctioned churches, mosques, and temples reported little or no day-to-day interference by the Government. The number of religious adherents in many churches, both registered and unregistered, continued to grow at a rapid pace. The Government launched a crackdown against the Falun Gong spiritual movement in July. Tens of thousands of Falun Gong members were reported detained in outdoor stadiums and forced to sign statements disavowing Falun Gong before being released; according to official sources, practitioners of Falun Gong had 35,000 confrontations with police between late July and the end of October. A number of practitioners were detained multiple times. An unknown number of members who refuse to recant their beliefs remain detained; others are serving prison or reeducation-through-labor sentences. An intensive proatheism, "antisuperstition" media campaign also accompanied the suppression of Falun Gong. In October, new legislation banning cults was passed. Adherents of some unregistered religious groups reported that these new laws are used against them.
Although the Government denies that it holds political or religious prisoners, and argues that all those in prison are legitimately serving sentences for crimes under the law, an unknown number of persons, estimated at several thousand, are detained in violation of international human rights instruments for peacefully expressing their political, religious, or social views. Persons detained at times during the year included political activists who tried to register an opposition party; leaders of a national house church movement; organizers of political discussion groups that exceeded what the Government deemed to be the permissible level of dissent; and members of the Falun Gong movement. Some minority groups, particularly Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs, came under increasing pressure as the Government clamped down on dissent and "separatist" activities. In Tibet the Government expanded and intensified its continuing "patriotic education campaign" aimed at controlling the monasteries and expelling supporters of the Dalai Lama. In Xinjiang authorities tightened restrictions on fundamental freedoms in an effort to control independence groups.
The authorities released fewer political prisoners before their terms were over than in recent years, although three were released early. In February the journalist Gao Yu was freed 6 months early, after having served 51/2 years in prison. In September Internet dissident Lin Hai was released 6 months early. Shi Binhai, co-editor of the controversial book Political China,; who had been detained without charge since September 1998, was released in March. Liu Xiaobo was freed in October after having completed his 3-year reeducation term. However, at year's end several thousand others, including Bishop An Shuxin, Cai Guihua, Chen Lantao, Chen Longde, Han Chunsheng, Li Bifeng, Li Hai, Liu Jingsheng, Peng Ming, Qin Yongmin, Shen Liangqing, Wang Youcai, Pastor Xu Yongze, Xu Guoxing, Xu Wenli, Yang Qinheng, Zhang Lin, Zhang Shanguang, Zhao Changqing, Zhou Yonjun, Ngawang Choephel, Abbot Chadrel Rinpoche, Jigme Sangpo, and Ngawang Sangrol (see Tibet addendum)--remained imprisoned or under other forms of detention for the peaceful expression of their political, social, or religious views. Some of those who completed their sentences and were released from prison--such as Bao Tong, senior aide to former Communist Party leaders--were kept under surveillance and prevented from taking employment or otherwise resuming normal lives. There were also reports of increasing surveillance of dissidents.
During the year, the Government continued efforts to reform the legal system and to disseminate information about new legislation. Initiatives to improve the transparency and accountability of the judicial and legal systems continued. The Government also expanded efforts to educate lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and the public on the provisions of new laws. A number of statutes passed in recent years--e.g., the Administrative Litigation Law, the Lawyers Law, the State Compensation Law, the Prison Law, the Criminal Law, and the Criminal Procedure Law--if enforced effectively hold the potential to enhance citizens' rights. The revised Criminal Procedure Law, which came into effect in 1997, provided for the defendant's right to legal counsel, an active legal defense, and other rights of criminal defendants recognized in international human rights instruments. If fully implemented, this law would bring criminal laws closer toward compliance with international norms. However, enforcement of the new statute is poor, and the law routinely is violated in the cases of political dissidents.
Despite intensified suppression of organized dissent, some positive trends continued. Nongovernmental-level village committee elections proceeded, giving citizens choices about grassroots representatives, as well as introducing the principle of democratic elections. Additional experiments with higher level township elections were conducted without fanfare (or official approval by the central Government). Social groups with economic resources at their disposal continued to play an increasing role in community life. As many as 8.9 million citizens had access to the Internet, although the Government increased its efforts to try to control the content of material available on the Internet. Most average citizens went about their daily lives without significant interference from the Government, enjoying looser economic controls, increased access to outside sources of information, greater room for individual choice, and more diversity in cultural life. However, authorities significantly stepped up efforts to suppress those perceived to be a threat to government power or to national stability, and citizens who sought to express openly dissenting political and religious views continued to live in an environment filled with repression.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
The official press reported a number of instances of extrajudicial killings, but no nationwide statistics are available. In October a Falun Gong Web site reported that Zhao Jinhua, a Falun Gong member in Shandong, died from being beaten while in police custody. However, the official media reported that Zhao died of a heart attack (see Section 2.c.). Two other Falun Gong practitioners also reportedly died while in police custody; the authorities stated that they died of injuries received after jumping from moving trains (see Sections 1.c. and 2.c.). In February a domestic publication reported that a local government worker, suspected of embezzlement, died after 29 hours of police interrogation and torture. There were reports that persons held in custody and repatriation centers (where persons may be detained administratively to "protect urban social order") were beaten while detained, and that some have died as a result (see Sections 1.c and 1.d).
In January the Western press reported that police killed one protester and injured more than 100 others while dispersing villagers in Hunan province (see Section 2.b.). In late October, police killed 6 Uighurs (see Section 5).
There continued to be numerous executions carried out after summary trials. Such trials can occur under circumstances where the lack of due process protections borders on extrajudicial killing (see Section 1.e.). In February, for example, a government radio station in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region reported that eight "violent terrorists," who "had taken part in many illegal religious terrorist activities in recent years in a vain attempt to split the motherland," had been sentenced to death in public trials. According to the report, the eight were executed immediately after sentencing (see Sections 1.e. and 5).
In March the Western press reported a 1997 case in which police executed four farmers in rural Guangdong over a monetary dispute. Despite an attempted coverup by local officials, the families of the victims persisted in their demands for justice, lodging 27 separate complaints with the Government, while securing the assistance of a Beijing lawyer and the interest of the country's largest circulation newspaper on legal affairs. The resulting investigation by the Legal Daily finally forced provincial authorities to act. A Hong Kong-based human rights organization reported that seven policemen were arrested in December 1998 for the farmers' murders.
Early in the year, there were a number of apparently unrelated bombings in Liaoning, Guangdong, Changsha, Hunan, Henan, Tibet, Sichuan, and Jiangsu, some of which resulted in death. Based on available evidence, it was not possible to establish links to political or separatist activity; bombs are sometimes used in personal or economic violence.
There were no new reports of disappearances. However, the Government still has not provided a comprehensive, credible accounting of those missing or detained in connection with the suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations. There were more reported incidents of long incommunicado detentions than in 1998 (see Section 1.d.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits torture; however, police and other elements of the security apparatus employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with detainees and prisoners. Former detainees and the press reported credibly that officials used electric shocks, prolonged periods of solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, beatings, shackles, and other forms of abuse against detained men and women. Prominent dissident Liu Nianchun, who was released in December 1998, reported that guards used an electric stun gun on him. Persons detained pending trial were particularly at risk during pretrial detention due to systemic weaknesses in the legal system or lack of implementation of the revised Criminal Procedure Law.
In February a domestic publication reported that an engineer in Liaoning province, suspected of theft, suffered brain damage as a result of hours of beatings while in police custody. The police eventually determined that the engineer was innocent and released her. She later sued the local government. Chinese reporters who attended her trial said that there were efforts in court to intimidate them. Also in February, a government-owned television station in Sichuan broadcast film taken secretly of city police officers beating and spitting on suspects in an effort to coerce confessions and to extort bribes. In June a Hong Kong human rights group reported that labor activist Guo Xinmin was beaten repeatedly and hung by his tied hands by police interrogators trying to extract a confession. The same human rights organization also received a letter from a former vice mayor of Harbin, which had been smuggled out of prison, in which he claimed to have been beaten and given electric shocks while in custody. According to Amnesty International, some adherents of Falun Gong were tortured with electric shocks, as well as by having their hands and feet shackled and linked with crossed steel chains. There were reports that persons held in custody and repatriation centers were beaten while detained, and that some died as a result (see Sections 1.a and 1.d.).
In January police killed one protester and injured more than 100 others while dispersing villagers in Hunan province. In March police beat demonstrators in Sichuan province (see Section 2.b.). Police at times used force to disperse Falun Gong practitioners (see Section 2.c.).
Wang Wanxing, who protested in Tiananmen Square in 1992, continued to be held in a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Beijing until late August, when he was released for a trial period of 3 months. He reportedly was detained again on November 23, 4 days after he told the hospital director that he might hold a news conference to discuss the conditions he endured in the hospital (see Section 1.d.). Late in the year, according to some reports, the Government started confining some Falun Gong adherents to psychiatric hospitals.
After meeting briefly with a foreign diplomat on November 30, Fu Sheng, a member of the CDP, was detained for 6 days, questioned, and beaten in Beijing (see Section 1.d.).
The Government has stated that "the Chinese judiciary deals with every complaint of torture promptly after it is filed, and those found guilty are punished according to law." As part of its campaign to address police abuse, the Government in 1998 for the first time published national torture statistics, along with 99 case studies, in a volume entitled "The Law Against Extorting a Confession by Torture." The book, which was published by the Supreme People's Procuratorate, stated that 126 persons had died during police interrogation in 1993 and 115 in 1994. Most cases of torture are believed to go unreported.
One overseas human rights group reported in January that there had been some 9,000 cases of mishandling of justice discovered in 1998 and that 1,200 police officers had been charged with criminal offenses. Authorities continued a nationwide crackdown on police corruption and abuses. Government statistics released in March showed that in 1998 corruption prosecutions were up 10 percent, to over 40,000 investigations and 26,000 indictments of officials. In January there were reports that Public Security Bureau Deputy Minister Li Jizhou was detained for corruption. Several other high-ranking Party officials also were prosecuted on corruption charges during the year. Late in the year, National People's Congress Standing Committee Chairman Li Peng issued a warning on police corruption.
Conditions in penal institutions for both political prisoners and common criminals are generally harsh and frequently degrading. Conditions in administrative detention facilities (including re-education-through-labor camps and custody and repatriation centers) are reportedly similar to those in prisons. According to released political prisoners, it is standard practice for political prisoners to be segregated from each other and placed with common criminals. There are credible reports that common criminals have beaten political prisoners at the instigation of guards. Zhang Lin, a dissident living overseas who secretly had returned to China in 1998, was arrested in November 1998 and sentenced to 3 years in a labor camp. While he was conducting a hunger strike to protest harsh camp conditions, fellow inmates at the order of camp guards reportedly beat him. His sentence was extended by an additional year following the incident, according to human rights organizations. Guards in custody and repatriation centers reportedly rely on "cell bosses" to maintain order; these individuals frequently beat other detainees and have been known to steal their possessions. Prominent political prisoners sometimes receive better treatment. Dissident Liu Xiaobo, recently released after 3 years in a labor camp in Dalian, told one foreign diplomat that he had never been beaten and that his treatment was in general better than that of non-political prisoners. The 1994 Prison Law was designed, in part, to improve treatment of detainees and increase respect for their legal rights. The Government's stated goal is to convert one-half of the nation's prisons and 150 reeducation-through-labor camps into "modernized, civilized" facilities by the year 2010. According to credible sources, persons held in new "model" prisons receive better treatment than those held in other prison facilities. (For conditions in prisons in Tibet, see the Tibet Addendum.)
Adequate, timely medical care for prisoners continues to be a serious problem, despite official assurances that prisoners have the right to prompt medical treatment if they become ill. Nutritional and health conditions can be grim. At year's end, political prisoners who reportedly had difficulties in obtaining medical treatment, despite repeated appeals on their behalf by their families and the international community, included Chadrel Rinpoche, Chen Lantao, Chen Longde, Chen Meng, Fang Jue, Hu Shigen, Kang Yuchun, Liu Jingsheng, Ngawang Sangdrol, Peng Ming, Qin Yongmin, Wang Guoqi, and Zhang Shanguang. Xu Wenli, despite repeated pleas by his family, was denied treatment for hepatitis. Xu tested positive for the disease during a prison hospital examination. Prison officials told Xu's family that the hepatitis had been contracted before his incarceration and was no longer active. However, his family reported that Xu was chronically fatigued and appeared jaundiced; he also reportedly is in need of dental care. Yu Dongyue, who defaced the portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 student protests, reportedly is suffering severe mental illness from repeated beatings and mistreatment in a Hunan prison. According to press reports, Hua Di, a Stanford researcher, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in early December but the Government only acknowledges that he was arrested for suspicion of deliberately seeking state secrets. According to credible reports, his health is poor. According to one credible report in 1998, there have been instances in which women in reeducation-through-labor camps found to be pregnant while serving sentences were forced to submit to abortions (see Section 1.f.).
The Government does not permit independent monitoring of prisons or reeducation-through-labor camps, and prisoners remain largely inaccessible to international human rights organizations. Talks with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on an agreement for ICRC access to prisons remain stalled. The Government suspended discussions with a prominent foreign businessman and human rights monitor on prisoner accounting, in response to a proposed resolution critical of China at the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Prison visits with family members and others are monitored closely.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Arbitrary arrest and detention remain serious problems; there were more reports of long incommunicado detentions than in 1998. Because the Government tightly controls information, it is impossible accurately to determine the total number of persons subjected to new or continued arbitrary arrest or detention. The Government reported in March that prosecutors had censured police officers 70,992 times in 1998 for detentions that exceeded the legal time limit. According to estimates, thousands more remain incarcerated, charged with other criminal offenses, detained but not charged, or sentenced to reeducation-through-labor. Amnesty International documented 241 specific cases of persons who remain imprisoned or on medical parole for activities related to the 1989 Tiananmen protests alone. Official government statistics report that there are some 230,000 persons in reeducation-through-labor camps, sentenced to up to 3 years through administrative procedures, not a trial. It has been estimated that as many as 1.7 million persons per year were detained in a form of administrative detention known as custody and repatriation before 1996; the number of persons subject to this form of detention reportedly has been growing since that time. According to one report, Liu Xin, who was a 15-year-old junior high school student at the time of his arrest in 1989, remains in a Hunan jail serving a 15-year sentence for arson. Liu had apparently handed a box of matches to his brother-in-law during a demonstration in Shaoyang city in 1989. According to an April report in the Western press, Lu Decheng, one of three men jailed for throwing paint on the portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square, was released in 1998 after serving 9 years of his original 16-year sentence. However, his two colleagues, Yu Dongyue and Yu Zhijian, remain in jail, both reportedly in solitary confinement. Chen Ziming remained under house arrest at year's end. Wang Wanxing, who protested in Tiananmen Square in 1992, was released from a psychiatric hospital near Beijing in late August but was detained and returned to the hospital on November 23, after informing the hospital director that he might hold a news conference on the conditions he endured in the hospital (see Section 1.c.). Late in the year, according to some reports, the Government started confining some Falun Gong adherents to psychiatric hospitals.
The amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law, which came into effect in 1997, represented a significant improvement in the statutes governing arrest and detention. The amendments provide for earlier and greater access for defendants to legal counsel and the abolition of a regulation that allowed summary trials in certain cases involving the death penalty. Under the old system, defendants were not allowed to consult an attorney until 7 days before trial, usually precluding the possibility of mounting an effective defense. The amended law gives most suspects the right to seek legal counsel shortly after their initial detention and interrogation. However, police often use loopholes in the law to circumvent a defendant's right to seek counsel and political activists in particular still have significant problems obtaining competent legal representation of their own choosing.
While the new criminal procedure law represents an improvement over past practice, anecdotal evidence indicates that implementation of the new Criminal Procedure Law remains uneven and far from complete, especially in politically sensitive cases. Differing interpretations of the law taken by different judicial and police departments have contributed to contradictory and incomplete implementation. The Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Justice, and the Legal Work Committee of the National People's Congress in 1998 issued supplementary implementing regulations to address some of these weaknesses. During the year, the Government continued its efforts to educate lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and especially the public on the provisions of this and other new laws. In June the Ministry of Justice announced that 500,000 ministry officials would undergo training over the next 3 years as part of "a massive effort to improve the quality of all judicial workers in the country." In March the President of the Supreme People's Court announced that all senior judges in the nation's courts would attend training courses within the next 3 years, with an emphasis on new laws and regulations.
Even if fully implemented, the Criminal Procedure Law still would fall short of international standards in many respects. For example, while the statute precludes a presumption of guilt, it includes no explicit recognition of the presumption of innocence; has insufficient safeguards against use of evidence gathered through illegal means such as torture; the appeals process it provides for fails to provide sufficient avenue for review; and there are inadequate remedies for violations of defendants' rights. However, the law did abolish an often criticized form of pretrial detention known as "shelter and investigation" that allowed police to detain suspects for extended periods without charge. Nonetheless, in some cases police still can detain unilaterally a person for up to 37 days before releasing him or formally placing him under arrest. Once a suspect is arrested, the revised law allows police and prosecutors to detain him for months before trial while a case is being "further investigated." Few suspects are released on bail or put in another form of noncustodial detention pending trial.
The Criminal Procedure Law also stipulates that authorities must notify a detainee's family or work unit of his detention within 24 hours. However, in practice timely notification remains a serious problem, especially in sensitive political cases. Under a sweeping exception, officials need not provide notification if it would "hinder the investigation" of a case. In January Che Hongnian, who had been held incommunicado for nearly 3 months, was sentenced to 3 years of labor in Shandong province, apparently for writing a letter asking how to contact a human rights organization in Hong Kong. His appeal was denied in March.
Police continue to hold individuals without granting access to family or a lawyer, and trials continue to be conducted in secret. For example, the family of China Development Union (CDU) founder Peng Ming was not allowed to see him for weeks after his detention. Police initially dismissed the family's requests to see Peng by claiming they did not have to allow visitation since Peng had not been "formally arrested"--i.e., charged with a specific crime. In July Wang Yingzheng, a 19-year-old activist in Jiangsu Province, was tried in secret for writing an article criticizing official corruption. Wang's family was not notified of the trial until several weeks afterward. In June labor activist He Chaohui also was tried in June at a closed courtroom in Hunan.
As the government broadened and intensified its campaign to eliminate the China Democracy Party, the number of detentions, either temporary or leading to formal arrest, increased significantly. CDP members Dai Xuezhong, Li Guotao, Fu Shenping, Li Zhiying, and He Bowei all were picked up in 1 week in January, interrogated, and later released. In February four CDP members in Wuhan--Lu Xinhua, Chen Zhonghe, Xiao Shichang, and Jiang Hansheng--were arrested for trying to organize the Wuhan Human Rights Forum. Hangzhou CDP member Lai Jinbiao was detained for 5 days in March for trying to organize an "illegal" rally. In the weeks before the sensitive 10th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre the Government detained or otherwise confined scores of CDP members. Six CDP activists in the northeastern town of Acheng were picked up on May 2 while holding a meeting to plan commemorative events for June 4. At least 15 other CDP members were detained around the country during the same week. Wu Yilong, Li Bagen, Mao Qingxiang, Li Xi'an, Wang Rongqing, Zhu Yufu, Lai Jinbiao, and Yu Tielong in Hangzhou; Yang Tao in Guangzhou; Wang Wenjiang, Kong Youping, and Wang Zechen in Anshan; He Depu, Wang Zhixin, Gao Hongming and Zha Jianguo in Beijing; Liu Xiaoming and Li Chun in Wuhan; Liao Shihua in Changsha; Zhang Baoqin in Fujian; and Li Jinhong, Liu Shili, and Chen Guojin were among those detained for varying periods of time in the weeks before June 4. Some, such as Gao Hongming and Zha Jianguo, subsequently were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. One Hong Kong nongovernmental organization (NGO) reported more than 160 detentions of political activists in the month before the Tiananmen anniversary.
The campaign intensified after June 4, as detentions continued and a number of those arrested were put on trial or sentenced administratively to reeducation-through-labor (see Section 1.d.). Hebei CDP member Yu Feng was taken away by police on June 8. Tong Shidong, a CDP organizer and physics professor in Hunan, was arrested on June 11 and charged with trying to "overthrow state power" on June 15. On June 19, police rounded up eight CDP activists in Hangzhou--Zhu Yufu, Han Shen, Wang Rongqing, Mao Qingxiang, Yan Zhengxue, Jiang Tanyun, Li Cunrong and Li Bagen--reportedly ransacking Zhu's home in the process and confiscating his computer, address book, and documents. Zhu, Mao, and Xu were tried on October 25 and sentenced to prison terms of 7, 8, and 5 years, respectively. During the week of June 25, Li Xian and Xu Guang were detained in Hangzhou, while Zhang Jian and Liu Jin were held in Hebei. In July Guo Chengming, a lawyer in Shenyang, formally was placed under arrest. Sichuan CDP members Chen Wei and Ouyang Yi were arrested at their homes in August. Five CDP activists--Dai Xuezhong, Wang Wenjiang, Chen Zhonghe, Xiao Shichang, and Quan Li--all were detained in the first week of September. Li Guotao was briefly detained in October. On November 30, Fu Sheng, a member of the CDP, was detained, questioned, and beaten in Beijing 2 days after meeting briefly with a foreign diplomat. He was released on December 5.
There were also frequent detentions of non-CDP dissidents during the year. Shenzhen activist Miao Xike was arrested in March after he announced the founding of a "Chinese Rights Party." Chengdu poet Liao Yiwu was detained on his wedding day in March. In April Hangzhou activist Su Huibing was detained after he tried to sweep the graves of Tiananmen Massacre victims during the Qingming holiday in accordance with the holiday's tradition. Police detained dissident Wang Ke in April in Hainan Province before the anniversary of the death of former national leader Hu Yaobang. Also in April, journalist Ma Xiaoming was arrested in Shaanxi province while trying to report on a tax protest by farmers. Detentions and harassment of non-CDP dissidents reportedly increased in the weeks leading up to the June 4 anniversary, apparently in an attempt to forestall any commemoration activities. In mid-May, activist and former Tiananmen Square student leader Jiang Qisheng was detained by authorities in Beijing for authoring and attempting to distribute essays about the 1989 massacre. He was held for several weeks before his family was informed of his whereabouts. In early May, two students at Zhongnan Politics and Law Academy reportedly were arrested for putting up posters to commemorate another student protest; six activists in the northeast and 12 in Changsha also were detained in early May. Police in Changsha reportedly detained Tan Li, Zhou Min, and Yao Xiaozhou in April after they refused to sign agreements stating that they would not hold any commemorations on or around June 4; Tan and Zhou reportedly were detained for a few hours, but Yao remained in detention. Their relatives reportedly were harassed by the authorities at work, and were ordered to try to persuade the dissidents to comply with the authorities' demands. Two persons attempting to demonstrate were detained quickly by police on or near Tiananmen Square on June 4; seven journalists near one of the protesters also were detained briefly and their film was confiscated. Yuan Yongbo, a college student in Hubei province, was arrested in June for putting up posters commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. The China Development Union (which works for environmental and political reform) virtually was shut down by arrests of its members during the year.
In August Xinjiang businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer, her son, and her secretary were detained in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Kadeer, who was detained while on her way to meet a visiting foreign delegation, was charged in September with passing state secrets to foreigners. Kadeer's husband has criticized the Government's treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang on broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.
Authorities detained a number of members of house churches (see Section 2.c.). After the authorities banned Falun Gong in July, tens of thousands of its adherents were detained by the authorities and held for varying periods in stadiums around the country. Most were released after signing statements in which they recanted their beliefs; however, arrests of Falun Gong adherents continued through year's end (see Section 2.c.). In July, the designer and operator of a Falun Gong Web site in Jilin was arrested; his Web site reportedly was shut down (see Sections 1.f. and 2.c.). In late October a new anti-cult law was passed, shortly after Falun Gong was declared a "cult" (see Sections 1.e. and 2.c.). In early November, the Government announced that six Falun Gong leaders, some of whom reportedly had been detained since July, were charged with violating the new law. In December, four were sentenced to long prison terms (see Section 2.c.). Hundreds of other adherents were sentenced administratively for terms of up to 3 years in reeducation-through-labor camps. On November 8, the authorities confirmed the formal arrest of 111 Falun Gong members, who were charged with, among other things, disturbing social order and stealing state secrets. This new legislation also was used against members of unregistered churches and religious groups (see Section 2.c.).
Members of the foreign and Hong Kong press also were detained during the year, often for reporting on subjects that met with the Government's disapproval (see Section 2.a.).
Author Wang Lixiong was detained in Xinjiang on February 4 while collecting information for a book on the region (see Section 2.a.). He was released on March 1 without charge. Visiting academic researcher and librarian Song Yongyi was detained on August 7 in Beijing. After months of detention and interrogation, he was charged on December 24 with "the purchase and illegal provision of intelligence to persons outside China; he was charged on December 24, and remained in custody at year's end. Song, an expert on the Cultural Revolution, traveled to the country to collect materials such as newspaper articles, books, and other publicly available information on that period, as he had on several previous occasions (see Section 2.a.). Song's wife was detained with him in August but was released 2 months later.
In addition, the press reported that the Government rounded up 100,000 or more persons and sent them out of Beijing under the custody and repatriation regulations prior to the October 1 National Day celebrations, to ensure order.
Under the revised Criminal Procedure Law, detained criminal suspects, defendants, their legal representatives, and close relatives are entitled to apply for a guarantor to enable the suspect or defendant to await trial out of custody. In practice, the police, who have sole discretion in such cases, usually do not agree.
In theory, the Administrative Litigation Law of 1989 permits a detainee to challenge the legality of administrative detention, but lack of timely access to legal counsel inhibits the effective use of this law. Persons serving sentences in the criminal justice system can request release under Article 75 of the Criminal Procedure Law or appeal to the Procuratorate, but have no recourse to the courts to challenge the legality or length of criminal detention. In June 1998, Xinhua News Agency reported that Beijing prosecutors had found that 143 criminal suspects in the city had been detained illegally for more than one year. The prosecutors reportedly ordered 141 of them released. There are documented cases in which local officials and business leaders illegally conspired to use detention as a means of exerting pressure in commercial disputes involving foreign businessmen. In February officials reportedly detained Hong Kong businessman Yiu Yun-Fai, after a dispute erupted when he went to check on goods his company ordered. There were also cases in which foreign businessmen had their passports confiscated during such disputes. A Beijing court was to investigate the case of businessman Lok Yuk-shing, a resident of Hong Kong who was detained in Inner Mongolia and held for 8 months because of a debt his employer owed. Australian businessman James Peng, who had been detained since 1994, was released in November.
The State Compensation Law provides a legal basis for citizens to recover damages for illegal detentions. Although many citizens remain unaware of this 1995 law, there is evidence that it is having a growing, if still limited, impact. In February a Hong Kong NGO reported that more than 12,000 villagers from 45 villages in Shaanxi province had filed a lawsuit against the local township government to protest excessive taxation. In September the press reported that a man in Shanxi, who had served a 1-year reeducation term even though he was innocent, had been awarded $966 (8,000 rmb) in damages. 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 Law, Criminal Procedure Law, State Compensation Law, Administrative Procedure Law, and Lawyers Law.
A major flaw of the new Criminal Procedure Law is that it does not address the reeducation-through-labor system, which permits authorities to sentence detainees administratively without trial to terms of 1 to 3 years in labor camps. Local Labor Reeducation Committees, which determine the term of detention, may extend an inmate's sentence for an additional year. According to the latest available official statistics, there were some 230,000 persons in reeducation-through-labor camps in 1997. More political dissidents were given reeducation sentences in 1999 than during the previous year. In February Peng Ming, the founder of the China Development Union, was sentenced to 18 months of reeducation-through-labor, allegedly for soliciting prostitution. Peng's family and supporters maintained that Peng was framed in retaliation for his political activities. Peng Cheng, who solicited signatures in Shandong for a petition calling on the Government to reverse its stance on the student demonstrations of 1989, was arrested and sentenced in August to 3 years of labor. Zhou Yongjun, an overseas activist who had returned in December 1998, was found in June to be serving a 3-year sentence in a reeducation camp in Guangdong. Returned dissident Zhang Lin had his reeducation sentence extended by 1 year. China Democracy Party members Cai Guihua and Han Lifa, arrested in the fall of 1998, remain in labor camps; their sentences were extended during the year. Chen Longde remained in a labor camp. Defendants legally are entitled to challenge reeducation-through-labor sentences under the Administrative Litigation Law. Persons can gain a reduction in, or suspension of, their sentences after appeal, but appeals are usually not successful because of problems such as short appeal times and inadequate legal counsel that weaken the effectiveness of the law in preventing or reversing arbitrary decisions. Authorities ignored CDU founder Peng Ming's wrongful detention appeal, and he continues to serve his sentence. There have been cases of individuals successfully appealing their reeducation sentences through the courts, though the exact number of successful cases is unknown.
The new Criminal Procedure Law also does not address custody and repatriation, which allows the authorities to detain persons administratively without trial to "protect urban social order." Persons who may be detained under this provision include the homeless, the unemployed, petty criminals, and those without permission to live or work in urban areas; such persons may be returned to the locality in which they are registered. If the location to which they are to be repatriated cannot be determined, or if they cannot be repatriated, such persons may be sent to "resettlement farms." Those unable to work may be sent to "welfare centers." Until they are repatriated, those detained may be held in custody and repatriation centers, and may be required to pay for the cost of their detention and repatriation by working while in detention. Relatives and friends of detainees in these centers reportedly are often able to secure a detainee's release through the payment of a fee. Provincial regulations on custody and repatriation in some cases have expanded the categories of persons who may be detained. In Beijing, for example, those who may be detained specifically include the mentally ill and mentally disabled, and "those who should be taken into custody according to government regulations." Many other persons are detained in similar forms of administrative detention, known as custody and education (for prostitutes and their clients) and custody and training (for minors who have committed crimes). Persons reportedly may be detained for long periods under these provisions, particularly if they cannot afford to pay for their release (see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.e., 2.d, 5, 6.c., 6.d., and 6.f.).
By one estimate, more than 1.7 million persons per year might be detained under custody and repatriation or similar regulations. According to the NGO Human Rights in China, the reasons for such detentions are rarely made clear to detainees. There are reports that persons with documentation allowing them to live or work in urban areas have been detained illegally under these provisions; but, because they are not entitled to a trial, they have little recourse if the detaining officials cannot be persuaded to allow their release. Some are reportedly forced to confess that they were living and working without permits in the urban area in which they were detained, despite having the appropriate documentation; in some cases, such documentation reportedly is destroyed. During the last week of October, a Communist Party official told the foreign press that 3,000 persons from other parts of the country were detained in police sweeps of nonresidents in Beijing. By some estimates, police forced 100,000 or more non-residents out of Beijing prior to October 1 through the custody and repatriation program (see Section 2.d.).
The Government also continued to refuse reentry to citizens who were dissidents and activists (see Section 2.d.). In April dissident Wang Xizhe was denied entry to the country to attend his father's funeral. The Government's denial of permission to some former reeducation--through-labor camp inmates to return to their homes constitutes a form of internal exile (see Section 2.d.).
There were no reports that the Government forcibly exiled citizens; however, dissidents released from prison on medical parole in earlier years continue to be unable to return to the country.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution states that the courts shall, in accordance with the law, exercise judicial power independently; however, in practice, the judiciary is subject to policy guidance from both the Government and the Communist Party, whose leaders use a variety of means to direct courts on verdicts and sentences in politically sensitive cases. At both the central and local levels, the Government and the CCP frequently interfere in the findings of the judicial system and dictate court decisions. Corruption and conflicts of interest also affect judicial decisionmaking. Judges are appointed by the people's congresses at the corresponding level of the judicial structure, which can result in undue influence by local politicians over the judges they appoint. During a May 1998 conference at a Beijing university, according to informed sources, one expert estimated that more than 70 percent of commercial cases in lower courts were decided according to the wishes of local officials rather than the law. State-run media published numerous articles calling for an end to such "local protectionism" and for the development of a judiciary independent of interference by officials.
The Supreme People's Court (SPC) stands at the apex of the court system, followed in descending order by the higher, intermediate, and basic people's courts. There are special courts for handling military, maritime, and railway transport cases.
During the year, the Government continued a campaign to correct systemic weaknesses in the judicial system and make it more accountable to public scrutiny. The law requires that all trials be held in public; however, in practice, many trials are not. In March the Supreme People's Court issued regulations requiring all trials to be open to the public, except for those involving state secrets, personal privacy, or minors; divorce cases in which both parties request a closed trial; and cases involving commercial secrets. The official media reported in February that all Beijing municipal courts had opened their trials to the public. The media report claimed that some 6,518 cases were tried openly in one month, with some 10,000 citizens observing the trials and 1,000 journalists reporting on them. The Shanghai Intermediate Court also opened its trials in February, except for those involving state secrets, privacy, or minors. Under the new regulations, "foreigners with valid identification" are to be allowed the same access to trials as citizens. However, requests by at least one foreign mission to send an observer to politically sensitive trials have been ignored consistently by the Government. Moreover, none of the numerous trials involving political dissidents were open to the general public. The legal exception for cases involving state secrets, privacy, and minors has been used to keep proceedings closed to the public and even family members in some sensitive cases (see Section 1.d.).
In June 1998, the President of the Supreme People's Court, Xiao Yang, called for courts to come under the "supervision" of citizens and the media, and in July 1998 state-run television carried the first live broadcast of a trial, a case involving intellectual property. National newspapers gave both events extensive coverage. Programs featuring actual court proceedings have since become a regular television feature, meant in part to educate the public and in part to build greater confidence in the judicial system. In March the Fuzhou City Intermediate People's Court began broadcasting a television program called "Court and Society," featuring live and recorded coverage of actual cases, in an effort to "ensure impartial administration of justice and implement the system of open trials."
The Government continued a self-proclaimed "unprecedented internal shake-up" of the judiciary, which began in 1998. In March the Supreme People's Court reported that 2,512 judges and staff had been punished for misconduct in 1998. The Supreme People's Procuratorate reported that 1,401 prosecutors and staff either had been disciplined or prosecuted in 1998. In October the Procuratorate reported that 1,179 local prosecutors had been dismissed in 1999 for lack of qualifications. In January Procurator General Han Zhubin reported that a former head of the Anticorruption Bureau of the Supreme People's Procuratorate was dismissed for corruption. The Government also reported that 4,200 unqualified judicial workers had been dismissed nationwide, and that 12,045 verdicts had been overturned on appeal by higher courts. The court and procuratorate continued to operate hot lines established in 1998 for the public to report illegal activities by judges and prosecutors. In August a vice president of the Supreme People's Court announced that in the first half of the year the number of court workers who had to be disciplined had dropped 36 percent from the same period the year before.
Police and prosecutorial officials often ignore the due process provisions of the law and of the Constitution. For example, police and prosecutors can subject prisoners to severe psychological pressure to confess, and coerced confessions frequently are introduced as evidence. In May 1998 the top prosecutor, Han Zhubin, said in an interview that use of illegal methods by prosecutors had become "very serious" in some areas. He acknowledged that some prosecutors employed torture to extract confessions and used interrogation rooms like "prison cells" to hold suspects beyond the legal detention period. The Criminal Procedure Law forbids the use of torture to obtain confessions, but one weakness of the law is that it does not expressly bar the introduction of coerced confessions as evidence. Traditionally, defendants who failed to show the correct attitude by confessing their crimes were sentenced more harshly. The conviction rate in criminal cases is over 90 percent, and trials can be little more than sentencing hearings. In most politically sensitive trials, guilty verdicts were handed down immediately following court proceedings that rarely lasted more than several hours. There is an appeals process, but appeals rarely reverse verdicts.
The revised Criminal Procedure Law was designed to address many of these deficiencies and give defense lawyers a greater ability to argue their clients' cases. The amendments abolish a form of pretrial detention called "shelter and investigation," expand the right to counsel, put limits on nonjudicial determinations of guilt, and establish a more transparent, adversarial trial process. However, the amendments do not bring the country's criminal procedures into full compliance with international standards. For example, in "state secrets" cases, the revised Criminal Procedure Law authorizes officials to deny suspects access to a lawyer while their cases are being investigated. The definition of state secrets is broad and vague and subject to independent interpretation by police, prosecutors, and judges, at different stages in a criminal case. Uncertainty regarding the scope and application of this statute has created concern about a detainee's right to legal assistance.
Nevertheless, there are signs that members of the public are beginning to use the court system and the new legal remedies available to it to protect their rights and to seek redress for a variety of government abuses. The Supreme People's Court reported in March 1998 that citizens had filed 90,000 lawsuits against government officials in 1997. In May Leng Wanbao sued the Jilin Province Supreme People's Court for $136,000 (1.13 million rmb) for wrongly being jailed for "counterrevolutionary crimes" stemming from his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen protests. In September a Shanxi court awarded a man $966 (8,000 rmb) in compensation for having been sentenced unjustly to 1 year of reeducation. Nonetheless, in politically sensitive cases, a decision in favor of the dissident remains rare. Shanghai resident Lin Hai, who was arrested in March 1998, was convicted in January and sentenced to a 2-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power." Lin's crime had been providing e-mail addresses to an overseas Internet Web magazine critical of the Government. A higher court rejected his subsequent appeal. Lin was released on September 23, 6 months before the end of his term. In March, police held activist Lai Jingbiao for 5 days; in June a court in Hangzhou dismissed his wrongful detention suit against the police. In June political essayist Fang Jue received a 4-year prison sentence for "economic crimes" and his subsequent appeals were denied.
The first Lawyers' Law, designed to professionalize the legal profession, took effect in 1996. Subsequently the Ministry of Justice drafted relevant regulations to standardize professional performance, lawyer-client relations, and the administration of lawyers and law firms. It also granted lawyers formal permission to establish law firms, set educational requirements for legal practitioners, encouraged free legal services for the general public, and provided for the disciplining of lawyers. Government officials state that there is an insufficient number of lawyers to meet the country's growing needs. The Justice Ministry set a target of 150,000 lawyers, 30,000 notaries, and 40,000 grassroots legal service centers by the year 2000. In March Justice Minister Gao Changli said that the country has over 110,000 lawyers. According to official reports, there are some 9,000 law offices. Lawyers are organizing private law firms that are self-regulating and do not have their personnel or budgets determined directly by the State. More than 60 legal aid organizations have been established around the country, and the Ministry of Justice is establishing a nationwide legal services hot line.
Defendants frequently have found it difficult to find an attorney willing to handle sensitive political cases. Government-employed lawyers still depend on official work units for employment, housing, and other benefits, and therefore many may be reluctant to represent politically sensitive defendants. In January dissident Wang Ce was tried and defended himself, reportedly because lawyers recommended by the court refused to take his case. Nonetheless, a Beijing lawyer who had represented Wei Jingsheng, Xu Wenli, and Fang Jue in the past, agreed to represent Jiang Qisheng, who remained in detention at year's end. In December 1998, authorities blocked attempts by prominent dissidents Wang Youcai and Qin Yongmin to hire lawyers of their own choosing. There were no new reports of the Government revoking the licenses of lawyers representing political defendants, as it sometimes has done in the past. However, Liu Jian, a criminal defense attorney, reportedly was detained in July 1998 after most of the witnesses he had called refused to testify at the trial of a local official charged with taking bribes; Liu was charged with "illegally obtaining evidence" and was detained for 5 months. Liu reportedly was held incommunicado for 10 days, and was beaten and tortured in detention in an effort to force a confession. He eventually pled guilty in exchange for a light sentence, but his criminal record prevents him from practicing law.
Lawyers who try to defend their clients aggressively often have problems with police and prosecutors. In 1998 the Secretary General of the All China Lawyer's Association said that in the previous 3 years the group had received 59 complaints from lawyers who had been threatened or harassed by law enforcement officials. He predicted that it would take 3 to 5 years for the new Criminal Procedure Law to take root in the legal system. He called for better protection of lawyers and their legitimate role in the adversarial process.
The lack of due process is particularly egregious in death penalty cases. The number of capital offenses has increased from 26 to 65 as amendments were added to the 1979 Criminal Law. They include financial crimes such as counterfeiting currency. A higher court nominally reviews all death sentences, but the time between arrest and execution is often days and sometimes less, and reviews consistently have resulted in the confirmation of sentences. In March the state-run press reported that the Supreme People's Court had upheld the death sentences for two Zhejiang farmers convicted of issuing fake value-added tax invoices worth tens of millions of dollars (several hundred million rmb). Also in March, a banker in Hunan province was sentenced to death for embezzling $24.4 million (202 million rmb). The death sentence reportedly was suspended for 2 years. On May 12, seven high-ranking Communist Party officials were sentenced to death for smuggling or corruption. Six of the officials were executed on June 7. In late June, 58 persons reportedly were executed for drug trafficking. In September public sentencing rallies reportedly were held in Guangdong prior to the National Day celebrations on October 1; 818 violent criminals were sentenced in this manner, 238 of them to death. Minors and pregnant women are expressly exempt from the death sentence, and only those theft cases involving banks or museums warrant capital punishment. Based on a review of Chinese press accounts, Amnesty International (AI) reported that in 1998 2,701 persons were sentenced to death (compared with over 3,152 in 1997 and 6,100 in 1996 in the midst of the anticrime "Strike Hard" campaign) and 1,769 executions were carried out (compared with 1,876 in 1997 and 4,367 in 1996). AI believes that actual figures were higher because not all death penalties or executions are reported, and the authorities can manipulate such information. Officials say that new safeguards placed on sentencing and execution have reduced the number of death penalty cases. The number of executions that were reported in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region was particularly high; according to AI, scores of Uighurs, many of whom were reportedly political prisoners, have been sentenced to death and executed in Xinjiang since 1997 (see Section 1.e.).
In recent years, credible reports have alleged that organs from some executed prisoners were removed, sold, and transplanted. Officials have confirmed that executed prisoners are among the sources of organs for transplant but maintain that consent is required from prisoners or their relatives before organs are removed. There is 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. In February 1998, two Chinese nationals were charged in a foreign court with attempting to sell human organs allegedly taken from the bodies of executed prisoners; the charges were dropped in November. At least one Western country has asked repeatedly for information on government investigations of alleged organ trafficking, but to date no information has been released. There have been credible reports in the past that patients from abroad had undergone organ transplant operations on the mainland, using organs removed from executed criminals.
The authorities sentence persons administratively without trial to terms of 1 to 3 years in reeducation-through-labor camps. According to international press reports, some 230,000 persons are serving sentences in reeducation through labor camps. By one estimate, 1.7 million persons per year may also be detained under custody and repatriation or similar regulations, which allow "undesirable" persons in urban areas to be detained administratively and/or returned to their registered place of residence (see Section 1.d.). Defendants legally are entitled to challenge reeducation-through-labor sentences under the Administrative Litigation Law. Persons can gain a reduction in, or suspension of, their sentences after appeal, but appeals are usually not successful because of problems such as short appeal times and inadequate legal counsel that weaken the effectiveness of the law in preventing or reversing arbitrary decisions.
Government officials deny that China holds any political prisoners, asserting that authorities detain persons not for their political or religious views, but because they violate the law. However, the authorities continued to confine citizens for political and religious reasons. It is estimated that thousands of political prisoners remain incarcerated, some in prisons and others in labor camps.
The 1997 Criminal Law replaced "counterrevolutionary" offenses, which often, in the past, had been used against the Government's political opponents, with loosely defined provisions barring "crimes endangering state security." In September 1998, officials said that there were 1,946 individuals in prisons serving sentences under the Counterrevolutionary Law. Persons detained for such offenses included Hu Shigen, Kang Yuchun, Liu Wensheng, Yu Zhijian, Zhang Jingsheng, and Sun Xiongying. Several foreign governments urged the Government to review the cases of those charged with counterrevolution, given that the crime was no longer on the books, and release those who had been jailed for nonviolent offenses under the old statute. Officials have indicated that a case-by-case review of appeals filed by individual prisoners is possible under the law, and there is one known case of a successful appeal. However, the Government indicated that it would neither initiate a broad review of cases nor grant a general amnesty, arguing that "crimes" covered by the law on counterrevolution still are considered crimes under the Law on State Security. Those charged with counterrevolutionary crimes continue to serve their sentences.
The Government released early at least two political prisoners. Journalist Gao Yu was released in February after serving more than 5 years in prison. Also in February, Sun Weiban was released after serving 9 1/2 years of a 12-year-sentence for his activities during the 1989 prodemocracy movement. In September Internet dissident Lin Hai was released 6 months before the end of his term. However, many others, including Cai Guihua, Chadrel Rinpoche, Chen Lantao, Fan Zhongliang, Han Chunsheng, Jigme Sangpo, Li Bifeng, Li Hai, Ngawang Choephel, Ngawang Sangdrol (see Tibet Addendum), Qin Yongmin, Shen Liangqing, Wang Youcai, Xu Guoxing, Xu Wenli, Xu Yongze, Yang Qinheng, Zhang Lin, Zhang Shanguang, Zhao Changqing, and Zhou Yongjun remained imprisoned or under other forms of detention during the year. In addition the authorities summarily tried and sentenced a large number of political dissidents to long prison terms. In March Guo Shaokun was given a 2-year sentence, reportedly for informing overseas human rights groups and media of a protest by farmers. In July a court in Gansu sentenced labor activists and CDP members Yue Tianxiang, Guo Xinmin, and Wang Fengshan for subversion to 10, 2, and 2 years, respectively. In 1 week in August, courts in Beijing and Sichuan sentenced CDP activists Gao Hongming to 8 years, Zha Jianguo to 9 years, She Wanbao to 12 years, and Liu Xianbin to 13 years--all for alleged subversion. Also in August, poet Yu Xinjiao, who had founded the "Literary Renaissance Party," was sentenced to 7 years for alleged rape. Four members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 7 to 18 years in December (see Sections 1.d. and 2.c).
Criminal punishments can include "deprivation of political rights" for a fixed period after release from prison, during which the individual is denied rights of free speech and association. Former prisoners also can find 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 are subjected to police surveillance, telephone wiretaps, searches, and other forms of harassment, and may encounter difficulty in obtaining or keeping employment and housing. There were reports that the harassment of dissidents and their families increased during the year.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, Correspondence
Government interference in daily personal and family life continues to decline for the average citizen. In urban areas, most persons still depend on government-linked work units for housing, permission to have a child, approval to apply for a passport, and other aspects of ordinary life. However, the work unit and the neighborhood committee, which originally were charged with monitoring activities and attitudes, have become less important as means of social or political control.
Despite legal protections, authorities often do not respect the privacy of citizens in practice. Although the law requires warrants before law enforcement officials can search premises, this provision frequently has been ignored; moreover, the Public Security Bureau and the procuratorate can issue search warrants on their own authority. The Constitution states that "freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens are protected by law." However, in practice, authorities often monitor telephone conversations, facsimile transmissions, electronic mail, and Internet communications of foreign visitors, businessmen, diplomats, and journalists, as well as dissidents, activists, and others. The security services routinely monitor and enter the residences and offices of foreigners to gain access to computers, telephones, and fax machines. All major hotels have a sizable internal security presence. Authorities also open and censor domestic and international mail. Han Chunsheng, a Voice of America (VOA) listener who allegedly sent over 20 letters critical of the Government to a VOA mailbox, remains in prison on an 8-year sentence for counterrevolutionary incitement and propaganda. Government security organs monitor and sometimes restrict contact between foreigners and citizens.
Some dissidents are under heavy surveillance and routinely had their telephone calls with foreign journalists and diplomats monitored; there were reports that surveillance of dissidents increased during the year. Before he was arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison for alleged subversion, Beijing CDP member Gao Hongming's meetings with foreign diplomats often were monitored and sometimes even videotaped by security personnel. Some dissidents were blocked from meeting with foreigners during politically sensitive periods. Ding Zilin, an organizer of relatives of victims of the Tiananmen massacre, was prevented on at least one occasion from meeting a foreign diplomat when police restricted her and her husband to their Beijing home. The sister of one jailed dissident was ordered not to meet with a foreign diplomat on the eve of October 1 celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Dissidents routinely are warned not to speak with the foreign press. Authorities also harassed and monitored the activities of relatives of dissidents. For example, security personnel keep close watch on relatives of prominent dissidents such as Chen Ziming, particularly during sensitive periods. Security personnel followed He Xintong, the wife of Xu Wenli, and Wei Xiaotao, the brother of Wei Jingsheng, to meetings with Western reporters and diplomats on numerous occasions. Internet dissident Lin Hai's father and wife were reportedly under police supervision at a local hotel in January during Lin's trial (see Section 1.e.). In August the wife of Wu Yilong reportedly was detained; the authorities confiscated a computer, books, and other items from her. On the day the Nobel Peace Prize was announced in Sweden, relatives of Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan, both of whom were nominated for the prize, were detained.
Government harassment has prevented relatives of Chen Ziming, Qin Yongmin and other dissidents from obtaining and keeping steady employment. In April police visited the wife of jailed CDP leader Xu Wenli to warn her not to "stir up trouble" while Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji was visiting the United States. Xu's daughter, who is a student in the United States, recently had published an open letter in a major American newspaper calling for her father's release. In mid-June, the NGO Human Rights In China (HRIC) sent a $20,000 wire transfer, made up of funds raised from within the overseas Chinese community, to a bank account in China. The funds were intended to help victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre, as well as the families of dissidents. In late July, Li Ling, the intended recipient of the funds, was detained by public security officers and interrogated. Public security officials forced Li Ling to withdraw the money from the bank and confiscated it. By year's end, the money had not been returned. The Government continued to freeze a bank account kept by activist Ding Zilin to help the families of Tiananmen massacre victims, an action criticized by dissidents within China and human rights organizations abroad. Police sometimes detained the relatives of dissidents (see Sections 1.d. and 2.a.).
The Government continued to encourage expansion of the Internet and other communications infrastructure and put more official information online, and the number of sites increased from 25 to 2400; however, the Government increased monitoring of the Internet during the year, and placed restrictions on information available on the Internet. Internet use is expanding exponentially, creating a potentially powerful channel of information to the computer literate. The Government reported that 2.1 million persons and 744,000 computers were connected to the Internet as of the end of 1998. By the end of the year, actual users were believed to number as many as 8.9 million.
The Government has special Internet police units to monitor and increase control of Internet content and access. In January the Ministry of State Security, Information Industry, and Culture, along with the State Administration of Industry and Commerce, issued a circular requiring Internet bars and cafes--locations where customers can rent time on Internet computers--to register. The circular also required managers of such bars to curtail access to information on the Internet that is prohibited by law or regulation, and to monitor and report on customers who use the terminals. In February the Government announced the creation of a new committee charged with "protecting government and commercial confidential files on the Internet, identifying net users, and defining rights and responsibilities." The new entity was created to "guard individual and government users, protect information by monitoring and keeping it from being used without proper authorization." One human rights group reported a national police directive ordering the special units to monitor Internet bulletin boards for "reactionary" notices. According to the directive, if such a posting were discovered, police were to contact the bulletin board service to seek assistance in tracing the message. Bulletin boards that did not stop such "seditious" messages from being posted would be shut down. A spokesman for the Government denied the existence of any such directive. Nevertheless, a popular bulletin board called "Everything Under the Sun," which had carried messages discussing the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, was shut down in January, several days after a government newspaper criticized it for attacking government policies and leaders. Another popular bulletin board, the "New Wave Network," which featured political discussion, also was closed in February. In May at least one bulletin board related to the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was shut down. In the period prior to the sensitive Tiananmen anniversary, at least one Web site based in Beijing closed its chat rooms as a preventive, self-censorship measure. In May the press reported that Shanghai authorities had issued a notice that restricted pager services and Internet access providers, among others, from transmitting "political information" or information that could harm social stability. On October 7, the Government issued State Council Order Number 273, which required firms using encryption products or equipment with encryption technology to register with the Government by January 31, 2000. The order provided that after the initial registration, firms using encryption technology would be required to provide the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of all persons using such technology. In addition, the order limited the import or sale of foreign encryption technology within the country. At year's end, it was unclear whether these regulations would be enforced effectively.
Authorities have blocked at various times politically "sensitive" Web sites, including those of dissident groups and some major foreign news organizations, such as the Voice Of America, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Web pages run by Falun Gong followers were targeted specifically by the Government as part of its crackdown against the group that began in July. According to one Western press report, an attack against a foreign-based Falun Gong Web site was traced back to government security departments. In October a Hong Kong-based human rights organization reported that Zhang Haitao, a computer engineer in Jilin who had designed and operated a Falun Gong Web site, was arrested on July 29. Zhang's Web site reportedly was shut down on July 24. In August the official press announced that police were using the Internet to wage "war on the Web" against criminals, reportedly employing the Internet to apprehend criminals. Nonetheless, a number of human rights Web pages continue to be accessible, including that of the Tibet government-in-exile. The Government's efforts to block content and control usage have had only limited success because sophisticated users can bypass site blocking, and, more importantly, the number of Internet sites that provide outside information and news is growing so rapidly. In October new rules restricted Chinese news sites from creating links to foreign news sites. The links disappeared temporarily, but were back in December. Further, censorship of the Internet appears to be applied inconsistently, and some Internet service providers practice self-censorship.
E-mail and e-mail publications are more difficult to block, although the Government attempts to do so by at times blocking all e-mail from overseas Internet service providers used by dissident groups. The VOA Chinese-language e-mail news server was blocked beginning in April, except for a brief period in July. There also have been reports that the Government is trying to develop an e-mail filtration system to block antigovernment messages from entering the country; a project on such a system at Shenzhen University in Guangdong reportedly is sponsored by the Ministry of Education. Human Rights Watch reports that in May the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MOLSS) installed monitoring devices at the facilities of Internet service providers that can track individual e-mail accounts. The authorities also target some e-mail users and read their e-mail. Dissident groups abroad use e-mail to send publications and disseminate information to readers in China, and a small but growing number of activists within the country communicate this way as well. An e-mail magazine called VIP Reference News publishes articles mainly from overseas sources on many news stories not covered by the official media. In September Qi Yanchen of Hebei was arrested, most likely for having contact with VIP Reference News; his computer, fax, and notes were allegedly confiscated. At least one dissident has set up his own Web site. Some dissident groups, including the China Democracy Party, have established Web sites based overseas. When a dissident is harassed or detained, activists using e-mail, faxes, telephones, and pagers can spread the word quickly to colleagues around the country and to the international community.
There is no effective enforcement of 1997 State Council regulations requiring those involved in international networking to apply for licenses and provide details regarding the scope and nature of their activities. The State Council also promulgated a comprehensive list of prohibited Internet activities, including using the Internet to "incite the overthrow of the Government or the Socialist system" and "incite division of the country, harming national unification." The regulations, which came into effect in December 1997, provide for fines and other unspecified punishments to deal with violators. Shanghai businessman Lin Hai, convicted in January of trying to undermine state power for providing VIP Reference with some 30,000 e-mail addresses, was released in September, 6 months before the end of his term. The authorities continue to jam VOA broadcasts on an ad hoc basis, but the effectiveness of this interference varies considerably by region, with audible signals of the VOA and other short-wave broadcasters reaching most parts of the country (see Section 2.a.). Dissidents and average citizens in Beijing report varying degrees of difficulty in picking up VOA, but VOA believes that these reception problems are mainly technical and not due to intentional Government interference. Government jamming of Radio Free Asia (RFA) appears to be more frequent and effective (see Section 2.a.). In the absence of an independent press, overseas broadcasts such as VOA, BBC, RFA, and Radio France International have a large audience, including activists, ordinary citizens, and even government officials. Che Hongniang, a dissident in Jinan, was sentenced to reeducation, in part for two letters he wrote to the Hong Kong office of VOA.
The Government continued to implement comprehensive and often intrusive family planning policies. The State Family Planning Commission (SFPC) formulates and implements policies with assistance from the Family Planning Association, which has 83 million members in 1.02 million branches nationwide. Officials have predicted that the population will reach almost 1.6 billion in the year 2044 if current birth rates continue. Most Chinese demographers estimate fertility at 2.1 births per woman (although the official figure is 1.8)--indicating that the "one-child policy" is not applied uniformly to Chinese couples. Couples in urban areas are affected most by family planning guidelines, seldom receiving permission to have more than one child, although urban couples who themselves were only children may have two children. In general economic development--as well as factors such as small houses and high education expenses--in major urban centers has reached a level where couples often voluntarily limit their families to one child. There were signs that, due to the success of the one-child policy in urban areas, the Government was beginning to relax its policies in the cities. In May the official press reported that although couples in Beijing were still limited to one child, effective October 1 they were no longer required to obtain a family planning certificate before having their child. At year's end, the effect of this change was unknown. Unmarried women cannot get permission to have a child.
Outside the cities, exceptions to the "one-child policy" are becoming the norm. The average number of children per family in rural areas, where 70 percent of citizens still live, is slightly over two. Although rules can vary somewhat by province, in rural areas, couples generally are allowed to have a second child if the first is a girl, an exception that takes into account both the demands of farm labor and the traditional preference for boys. Families whose first child is disabled also are allowed to have another child. Ethnic minorities, such as Muslim Uighurs and Tibetans, are subject to less stringent population controls. Minorities in some rural areas are permitted to have as many as four children, but increasingly, authorities are pressuring minorities to limit births. Amnesty International reports that while members of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang are allowed to have 2 children in urban areas and 3 in rural areas, there has in fact been pressure for them to have only one. In remote areas, such as rural Tibet, there are no effective limits, but Tibetan government employees and Party members are encouraged to have only one child (see Section 5).
Population control policy relies on education, propaganda, and economic incentives, as well as on more coercive measures, including psychological pressure and economic penalties. The national family planning policy is implemented through provincial and local regulations. According to local regulations in at least one province, women who do not qualify for a Family Planning Certificate that allows them to have a child must use an intrauterine loop or implant. The regulations further require that women who use an intrauterine device undergo quarterly exams to ensure that it remains properly in place. If a couple has two children, those regulations require that either the man or woman undergo sterilization. According to a credible report, there was a significant increase in the number of couples undergoing sterilization procedures after giving birth to two children in at least one inland province. Rewards for couples who adhere to family planning policies include monthly stipends and preferential medical and educational benefits. In June the press in Guangzhou reported that Yangchun city had issued "certificates of preferential treatment" to 15,000 one-child families, and that city authorities purchased "old-age insurance" for 6,230 families to reward them for having only one child. Disciplinary measures against those who violate policies can include fines (sometimes called a "fee for unplanned birth" or a "social compensation fee"), withholding of social services, demotion, and other administrative punishments that sometimes result in loss of employment. Fines for giving birth without authorization vary, but they can be a formidable disincentive. According to the State Family Planning Commission (SFPC) 1996 Family Planning Manual, over 24 million fines were assessed between 1985 and 1993 for children born outside family planning rules. In Quanzhou, Fujian province, the fine for violating birth quotas is three times a couple's annual salary, to be paid over a 12 to 13 year period. In Shanghai the fine is also three times the combined annual salary of the parents. In Zhejiang province, violators are assessed a fine of 20 percent of the parents' salary paid over 5 years. According to Guizhou provincial family planning regulations published in July 1998, families who exceed birth quotas are to be fined two to five times the per capita annual income of residents of their local area. The regulations also stipulate that government employees in Guizhou who have too many children face the loss of their jobs. In many provinces, penalties for excess births in an area also can be levied against local officials and the mother's work unit, thus creating multiple sources of pressure. In Guizhou, for example, regulations state that officials in an area in which birth targets are not met cannot be promoted in that year. Unpaid fines sometimes have resulted in confiscation or destruction of homes and personal property by local authorities. In June Anhui province promulgated amended family planning rules that stated that each couple "is encouraged" to have only one child, that second births are "strictly controlled," and that "unplanned births are forbidden." Childbearing-age couples are required periodically to take part in pregnancy tests and "practice effective contraceptive measures." Couples already having a child should adopt long-term birth control measures. In the cases of families that already have two children, one of the parents "is encouraged to undergo sterilization." In addition, the rules state that "unplanned pregnancies must be aborted immediately."
Central government policy formally prohibits the use of force to compel persons to submit to abortion or sterilization; however, intense pressure to meet family planning targets set by the Government has resulted in documented instances in which family planning officials have used coercion, including forced abortion and sterilization, to meet government goals. During an unauthorized pregnancy, a woman often is paid multiple visits by family planning workers and pressured to terminate the pregnancy. In 1998 a former Fujian province local family planning official stated that local authorities in a Fujian town systematically used coercive measures such as forced abortion and sterilization, detention, and the destruction of property to enforce birth quotas. After the Fujian allegations were made public, the SFPC sent a team led by a senior official to investigate the charges. In a meeting with foreign diplomats, the senior official did not deny that abuses may have occurred, but insisted that coercion was not the norm, nor government policy, nor sanctioned by central authorities in Beijing. There were reports that, after the central government's investigation, local officials in Fujian scaled back the intensity of their family planning enforcement efforts. The Government provided more information on cases of local officials who had been punished for carrying out coercive family planning measures, including to a delegation representing a foreign country's parliament. Senior officials have said repeatedly that the Government "made it a principle to ban coercion at any level." They acknowledge that problems persist and insist on the Government's determination to address such problems. The SFPC states that it has issued circulars nationwide prohibiting family planning officials from coercing women to undergo abortions or sterilization against their will. Under the State Compensation Law, citizens also can sue officials who exceed their authority in implementing family planning policy, and there are a few instances in which individuals have exercised this right.
Corruption related to family planning fines is a widespread problem. In March the press reported that one city in Henan province had punished 879 party members and government officials for corruption in family planning. One study reported in January that a survey of nine towns in Jiangsu province revealed that a total of $717,000 (5.907 million rmb) in "unplanned-birth fees" had been levied in 1997. The study reported that the collection of unfair and unregulated unplanned-birth fees "aroused the resentment of the masses."
In late 1998, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a 4-year pilot project in 32 counties to address family planning and reproductive health issues solely through the use of voluntary measures on an experimental basis, emphasizing education, improved reproductive health services, and economic development. The SFPC worked closely with the UNFPA to prepare informational materials and to provide training for officials and the general public in the project counties. In particular, in order to meet the conditions established by the UNFPA for the implementation of the program, the SFPC and the UNFPA jointly prepared a pamphlet for distribution to all households in the 32 project counties to inform them about the UNFPA program, including the requirement that birth quotas be eliminated in those counties. Although it is still too early for an overall assessment of this program, it is clear from visits to selected counties by foreign diplomats that progress in implementing the program has been mixed. Some counties have made appreciable progress in implementing the program, while others have made relatively little. Notably, some counties have informed the general public about the UNFPA program and have eliminated the system of strict, government-assigned birth quotas; other counties have not yet done so, or have only begun to do so. However, the Government has welcomed foreign delegations to inspect the UNFPA project counties. Although access to these areas has varied from province to province, foreign diplomats visited several counties during the year, and a group of foreign parliamentary staff inspected two counties, one in Guizhou province and another in Chongqing municipality, in September.
Regulations forbid the termination of pregnancies based on the sex of the fetus, but because of the traditional preference for male children, particularly in rural areas, some families have used ultrasound to identify female fetuses and terminate pregnancies. Use of ultrasound for this purpose is prohibited specifically by the Maternal and Child Health Care Law, which came into effect in 1995 and calls for punishment of medical practitioners who violate the provision. According to the SFPC, a handful of doctors have been charged under this law. Government statistics put the national ratio of male to female births at 114 to 100; the World Health Organization estimates the ratio to be 117 to 100. The statistical norm is 106 male births to 100 female births. These skewed statistics reflect both the underreporting of female births so that parents can keep trying to conceive a boy, and the abuse of sonograms and the termination of pregnancies based on the sex of the fetus. Female infanticide, abandonment, or the neglect of baby girls that results in lower female survival rates are also factors. State-run media is paying increasing attention to unbalanced birth ratios, and the societal problems, such as trafficking in women, which they cause (see Section 6.f.). In the cities the traditional preference for sons is changing.
There reportedly have been instances in which pregnant prisoners in reeducation--through--labor camps were forced to submit to abortions (see Section 1.c.).
The Maternal and Child Health Care Law requires premarital and prenatal examinations to determine whether couples have acute infectious diseases or certain mental illnesses (not including mental retardation), or are at risk for passing on debilitating genetic diseases. The Ministry of Health implements the law, which mandates abortion or sterilization in some cases, based on medical advice. The law also provides for obtaining a second opinion and states that patients or their guardians must give written consent to such procedures (see Section 5). At least five provincial governments have implemented local regulations seeking to prevent persons with severe mental disabilities from having children. In August 1998 the Government issued an "explanation" to provincial governments clarifying that no sterilization of persons with genetic conditions could be performed without their signed consent.