Sunday, August 07, 2016

CECC Chairs Say Trials of Rights Advocates and Religious Leader a Mockery of Justice

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 "with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President." (CECC About). The CECC FAQs provide useful information about the CECC. See CECC Frequently Asked Questions. They have developed positions on a number of issues: Access to Justice; Civil Society;Commercial Rule of Law; Criminal Justice; Developments in Hong Kong and Macau ; The Environment ; Ethnic Minority Rights;Freedom of Expression; Freedom of Religion ; Freedom of Residence and Movement ; Human Trafficking ; Institutions of Democratic Governance ; North Korean Refugees in China; Population Planning ; Public Health ; Status of Women ; Tibet ; Worker Rights ; and Xinjiang.
CECC tends to serve as an excellent barometer of the thinking of political and academic elites in the United States about issues touching on China and the official American line developed in connection with those issues. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. 

In September 2015 during  the run up to the the state visit of Xi Jinping to the United States, the CECC announced activities that focused on its current critical line toward Chinese policies.  announcing hearings  on the recent detention of Chinese lawyers (see, e.g., HERE). That focus has been renewed ahead of the G-20 Summit. Representative Christopher H. Smith, chair, and Senator Marco Rubio, cochair, issued the following statements in response to the public confessions and trials involving human rights lawyers and religious leader Hu Shigen.  The issue is quite sensitive in China ("China has rebuked the US for criticising its convictions of human rights activists, a court this week having sentenced three rights advocates and a lawyer to up to seven and half years in jail for subversion." here). 

The issues have ramifications far beyond the trials themselves. It combines issues of internal application of its own normative framework, nationalism and fears of external subversion, while responding to substantial pressure form abroad. The nationalism and fear of subversion is particularly strong at the moment, it appears. "China kicked off trials for a group of lawyers and human rights activists Tuesday, accusing them of being part of a broad Western campaign to overthrow the one-party state by fomenting a “color revolution.”" (see, here). But it is also quite sensitive in the United States where the Chinese situation might prove useful in helping this nation understand itself better in the reflection of others.

The CECC statement follows.

CECC Chairs Say Trials of Rights Advocates and Religious Leader a Mockery of Justice:
Urge U.S. Government to lead international effort ahead of the G-20 Summit to seek release of rights advocates and an end to coerced confessions

For Immediate Release

(Washington, DC)—The chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Representative Christopher H. Smith, chair, and Senator Marco Rubio, cochair, issued the following statements in response to the public confessions and trials involving human rights lawyers and religious leader Hu Shigen and the harassment of their families. With next month’s G-20 summit being held in China, both chairs urged the United States to lead an international effort to demand that the Chinese government drop all charges against the legal professionals and rights advocates detained during the sweeping July 2015 crackdown, cease coerced, forced, and televised “confessions” which are a mockery of justice, and stop harassing and otherwise mistreating the family members, including the wives and children, of those unjustly detained.

“The charade of forced ‘confessions’ and show trials immeasurably damages the Chinese government’s global standing and obliterates any remaining confidence in President Xi’s ability to foster the rule of law in China,” said Representative Christopher Smith. “In a just world, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng, Zhai Yanmin, Wang Yu, Li Heping and other rights advocates would be lauded for their contributions to society, not seen as security threats. These developments should come as no surprise as lawyers, Christian ‘house church’ leaders, and democracy advocates were all identified in 2012 as enemies of the state. The international community needs to admit that the expansive view of national security advanced under President Xi’s leadership has real implications for regional stability and bilateral cooperation. With the G-20 Summit opening in China next month, world leaders should jointly express grave concerns about Beijing’s blatant disregard for human rights and the rule of law. The United States must lead such an effort and work with like-minded countries who recognize the strategic consequences of China’s political repression. No one’s interests are served by China’s shift to a hard authoritarianism; a clear message must be sent, both publicly and privately, connecting the advance of liberty and the rule of law to China’s interest in its future prosperity and global influence.”

“More than a year after Xi Jinping's sweeping crackdown on the Chinese rights community and legal profession, the situation continues to deteriorate, and no one is held to account,” said Senator Marco Rubio. “It has been a bleak several days for the cause of human rights and rule of law in China. In the span of less than a week the wives of prominent rights defenders, including Li Heping, have been detained and held under home confinement, while esteemed lawyer Wang Yu has been paraded on television to ‘confess’ to alleged crimes, and Beijing Fengrui Law Firm director Zhou Shifeng and activists Hu Shigen and Zhai Yanmin have undergone secret trials on trumped up charges. These unjust proceedings grossly violate the defendants' rights and they must not be tolerated. China cannot continue to benefit from the international rules-based system, while making a mockery of the rule of law at home.”

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