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Beijing Cites Progress on Protection of Rights

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 14, 2005; Page A20

BEIJING, April 13 -- The Chinese government, frequently criticized for its human rights record, declared Wednesday that it had brought rights violations "under control" by prosecuting more than 1,500 officials accused of abusing prisoners or holding them without legal grounds.

The assertion came in a report on human rights issued one month after a U.S.-Chinese bargain under which the government freed a well-known prisoner, Rebiya Kadeer, in return for a pledge from the Bush administration to abstain from seeking a resolution condemning China before the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Carrying out the promise, U.S. officials in Geneva filed a resolution Wednesday urging the commission to condemn Cuba but said nothing about China.

The report, the eighth in a series of white papers issued since 1991, depicted human rights violations by China's security organs as aberrations -- criminal acts by wayward officials. The judiciary, it said, carried out a campaign of "vigorous measures" in 2004 to make sure police and prison authorities were punished for any illegal detentions, torture, disruption of elections or negligence that caused loss of life or property.

"In total, 1,595 government functionaries suspected of criminal activities were investigated and prosecuted, thus effectively bringing under control offenses of infringement on rights," the report said.

Human rights organizations and foreign governments have repeatedly depicted rights violations in China as a reflection of government policy. The court system and police, they have noted, remain under the control of the government and Communist Party, depriving citizens of recourse to an independent authority in case of official abuse.

Kadeer had been sentenced to an eight-year prison term under legislation making it illegal to reveal "state information" to foreigners. Her supporters said that she was prosecuted for speaking out against government actions that favored the ethnic Han majority over Muslim minorities, particularly in her native Xinjiang province in western China.

The Chinese government, in defining human rights, has traditionally emphasized social welfare over individual freedom. The report cited 270 news conferences by the central government and 460 by provincial governments as promotion of "citizens' rights to information, supervision and participation in public affairs." It did not address party censorship, which controls what is published and broadcast throughout the country.


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