Saturday, February 03, 2018

Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC): Chairs Raise Alarm About Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in Xinjiang; Nominate Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement for the Nobel Peace Prize

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 (e.g., here).

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. CECC becomes an even more important barometer of coherence and fracture in policy approaches as the discipline of activities between the political parties and the President and Legislature fractures in new and dynamic ways. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. As one can imagine many of the positions of the CECC are critical of current Chinese policies and institutions (see, e.g., (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

Two issues that CECC has been driving with some consistency has been connected with Chinese policies in Xinjiang (e.g., here) and also the political situation in Hong Kong (see, e.g., here). Two recent activities are worth mention.  The first is the CECC statement "Chairs Raise Alarm About Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in Xinjiang," and the second  is "Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Nominates Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement for the Nobel Peace Prize." Both appear below.

Both are interesting in different ways. The focus on the Xinjiang situation focuses the CECC on the methods of political discipline and control, especially where they might be tinged with an anti-religious element. The Nobel nomination, on the other hand, focuses on the internal political autonomy of Hong Kong.  To some extent these are meant to suggest the challenges of the China Dream especially in comparison to the American Dream. In both cases the statements are gestures to a large extent directed inward  for consumption by U.S. elites that have authority over U.S. policy toward China.  At the same time they also serve the interests of the United States in its global efforts to sell the U.S. brand in global markets by suggesting the reasons it might better accord with the tastes of those to which it is directed than its competitors.  Both the U.S. and China are making it clear that each will work diligently to project their respective "Dream" aggressively in global markets where such things are consumed or can be turned to advantage. To that end each will be tempted to extol their "Dream" by negative reference to the competitor "Dream."  The target markets are obvious.  The effectiveness of these initiatives await future assessment.But expect to see similar initiatives from the other side. That is the irony--the extent to which competition is bringing methodological convergence. 

Chairs Raise Alarm About Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in Xinjiang

Note with Concern the Targeting of Family Members of Uyghur Rights Advocate Rebiya Kadeer

January 8, 2018

(Washington D.C.)—The Commission’s 2017 Annual Report highlighted intensified restrictions on religious freedom and oppressive security controls, particularly in ethnic minority regions, including the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The situation has only further deteriorated since the Report’s release in October. Today, Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith, the chair and cochairman respectively of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (the Commission), expressed alarm about the human rights crisis in Xinjiang.

“Reports indicate XUAR Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo has implemented a hardline, all-encompassing security network throughout the region, by overseeing the hiring tens of thousands of new security personnel, the convening of mass rallies, and the involuntary collection of residents’ DNA, fingerprints, eye scans, and blood types,” said Senator Rubio. “Civilians are detained without cause, ‘political education’ camps proliferate, and a vast surveillance apparatus invades every aspect of daily life. These rights violations are deeply troubling and risk serving as a catalyst for radicalization.”

“The Chinese government’s expansive surveillance and security network in Xinjiang is a gross violation of privacy and international human rights, including the right to religious freedom, as the government is turning mosques into political propaganda centers and labeling religious beliefs as extremist. These policies seem to be completely counterproductive and a recipe for instability and dissatisfaction rather than security,” said Representative Smith. “The U.S. should be calibrating our counterterrorism cooperation with China to ensure that we do not condone or advance a crackdown on peaceful domestic dissent or the freedom of religion, association, and expression.”

The cochairs also noted with alarm reports regarding the detention and likely mistreatment of up to 30 family members of U.S.-based Uyghur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer in apparent retribution for her human rights advocacy efforts—yet another example China’s efforts to silence criticism of the Party or of government policies through intimidation, detention, and threats to the family members of activists living abroad. (see CECC’s hearings on the global ramifications of China’s ‘long arm.’)

The individuals detained reportedly include Ms. Kadeer’s children and grandchildren, as well as other relatives living in Xinjiang. Among the detainees are sons Ablikim and Alim Abdureyim, both of whom previously suffered torture and abuse during lengthy periods of detention and imprisonment. Their cases are featured in the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database. Chinese officials have long persecuted the family members of Ms. Kadeer, who herself was a political prisoner for more than five years before being released on medical parole in 2005. According to Ms. Kadeer, prior to her release, Chinese officials threatened repercussions against her family members if she discussed Uyghur human rights in exile. Soon after her arrival in the United States in 2005, authorities began a campaign of harassment against her family members who remained in Xinjiang, culminating in the imprisonment of Alim in 2006 and Ablikim in 2007.

Other issues of concern:

Expanded Detentions in “Political Education Centers”: This past year, XUAR authorities have reportedly detained large numbers of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and others in “political education centers,” where they have been held for months at a time and subject to political indoctrination sessions. Many have reportedly been detained for praying or wearing “Islamic” clothing, or for having foreign connections, such as previous travel abroad or relatives living in another country.

Uyghur Students Deported & Detained: Over the past year, Chinese authorities ordered some Uyghurs studying abroad in countries including Egypt, Turkey, France, Australia, and the United States to return to Xinjiang, as documented in the Commission’s Annual Report. Some of these students were subsequently detained in “political education centers,” about which very little is known given the lack of access to the region for independent press, diplomats and non-governmental organizations. According to overseas reports, officials have recently been issued quotas for the number or percentage of the population in their jurisdictions that must be sent to undergo “political education.

Media Contact: Scott Flipse, 202-226-3777


February 1, 2018

(Washington, DC)—Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith, the chair and cochair respectively of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in nominating Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Alex Chow and the entire pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.  In addition to the Chairs, the letter to the Nobel Prize Committee was signed by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Representatives Elliot Engel (D-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), and Ann Wagner (R-MO).  The entire letter can be found here and below. 

“This nomination could not be more timely as Hong Kong’s long-cherished autonomy continues to erode, and Umbrella Movement leaders face reprisals simply for espousing basic human rights and freedoms,” said Senator Rubio.  “Joshua Wong and his fellow pro-democracy advocates have been unflinching in their peaceful and principled commitment to a free and prosperous Hong Kong.  They are an inspiration and their cause has reverberations far beyond their city.”  

“We all owe Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement a debt of gratitude,” said Representative Smith In the tradition of all great Nobel Peace Prize laureates, they continue to hold up a mirror to the ugly face of authoritarianism and show us again that the desire for democracy and human rights are universal ideals, shared by all people, everywhere.  How fitting would it be for Hong Kong’schampions of freedom to receive the peace prize a year after the death of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo.  It would be both a fitting tribute and a reminder that the struggle for democracy and rights are not alien to the people of mainland China, but an indelible part of their great history and culture—and an important part of their future.” 


January 31, 2018

Berit Reiss-Anderson
Nobel Peace Prize Committee
NO-0255 Oslo

Dear Chair Reiss-Anderson and Members of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee:

        We, the undersigned members of the United States Congress, respectfully nominate Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Alex Chow Yong-kang, and the entire pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, collectively known as the “Umbrella Movement,” to receive the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong and protect the autonomy and freedom guaranteed Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

        Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders, politicians and young people took to the streets in the fall of 2014 in response to a decision issued by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) which ruled that only candidates endorsed by a pro-Beijing nominating committee could run as a candidate for the Chief Executive position in Hong Kong’s government. Article 45 of the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s constitutional document—provides that “the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee.” The United Nations Human Rights Committee has repeatedly urged Hong Kong to enact reforms to implement elections by universal suffrage, in accordance with article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which applies to Hong Kong under Article 39 of the Basic Law.

        Through their respective leadership roles, Wong, Law, Chow, along with other pro-democracy politicians and supporters who took part in the largest pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong’s history, demonstrated civic courage, extraordinary leadership, and an unwavering commitment to a free and prosperous Hong Kong that upholds the rule of law, political freedoms and human rights.

        Hong Kong’s pro-democracy advocates have made significant contributions to peace by actively seeking to safeguard the future of Hong Kong at precisely the time that Beijing has taken steps to undermine Hong Kong’s long-cherished autonomy. They have shown great courage in the face of harassment, threats, detention, and legal and financial repercussions.  In their writings, speeches and political activism they have boldly challenged the central government’s steady erosion of the “one country, two systems” model prescribed in the Basic Law, which stipulates that the political system practiced in China would not be extended to Hong Kong and that its economic system and way of life would be protected. 

        Wong, 21, founded the student activist group Scholarism in 2011 at the age of 15, and successfully organized protests in 2012 against the controversial pro-Beijing “moral and national education” school curriculum and later spearheaded efforts to garner support for universal suffrage. His efforts, buoyed by his charismatic leadership and unflinching pursuit of peaceful change landed him on TIME Magazine and Fortune lists of the most influential leaders in the world. Just this month he was awarded the prestigious Lantos Human Rights Prize by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

        Law, 24, promoted universal suffrage as a student activist at Lingnan University where he served as student union chief.  He was elected Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), the city’s oldest and largest student body, in March 2015. In 2016, Law, Wong, and other Umbrella Movement leaders formed a new political party, Demosisto. He successfully campaigned and won election to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) at age 23, making him the youngest lawmaker in the history of Hong Kong’s legislature.

        Chow, 27, mobilized students to peaceful protest as a leader at the University of Hong Kong and served as Secretary General of the HKFS.

       Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement is a multi-generational effort, drawing on decades of struggle to preserve and advance democratic freedoms in Hong Kong before and after the handover from Britain to China. Such leaders include Martin Lee, Emily Lau, Albert Ho, Alan Leong, Leung Kwok-hung, Christine Loh, Benny Tai, Chu Yiu-ming, Lester Shum, Johannes Chan, Anson Chan and many others.

       The Umbrella Movement leaders face increasing pressure, detention, and financial penalties for their advocacy for democracy and human rights. By July 2017, Law and five other democratically elected legislators were disqualified from their LegCo seats after the Chinese central government issued an interpretation of the Basic Law deeming certain previously acceptable oath-taking behaviors undertaken by legislators as punishable by disqualification.  Wong, Law, and Chow were convicted on trumped-up charges of “unlawful assembly” for their activities during the Umbrella Movement and were given sentences of community service. After Wong and Law completed these sentences, the Hong Kong government sought tougher punishments against the three, resulting in sentences of six to eight months in jail, which makes the three ineligible for running for public office for five years.  The three were released on bail on appeal currently before the Court of Final Appeal and they face additional charges and tremendous legal costs that threaten to bankrupt them. Just this month, Joshua was sentenced to an additional three months in prison for his role in the Umbrella Movement. Continued harsh measures against pro-democracy advocates will no doubt have a chilling effect.

        While the democracy movement in Hong Kong faces tremendous opposition from the Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong government, these young leaders have continued their fight to improve the welfare of Hong Kong.  Since their release from prison, the trio started working with LegCo members on prison reform legislation.

        Wong, Law, and Chow and the entire Umbrella Movement embody the peaceful aspirations of the people of Hong Kong who yearn to see their autonomies and way of life protected and their democratic aspirations fulfilled. Such yearnings are not unique to the citizens of Hong Kong. Countless others around the world, including in mainland China, aspire to the same ideals but their voices are silenced and their protests forbidden. The Umbrella Movement and its leadership are acting in the long tradition of previous Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who captured the imagination of their fellow countrymen and sought principled and peaceful change from within. Joshua Wong’s sentiments on Twitter immediately after the announcement of his prison sentence capture well the optimistic and persistent spirit that animates their efforts: “The government can lock up our bodies but they cannot lock up our minds! We want democracy in Hong Kong. And we will not give up.”

        We deeply appreciated the Nobel Committee’s past willingness to brave the displeasure, and outright retribution, of the Chinese Communist Party and government in awarding the prize to Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, who last year became the first Peace Prize recipient to die in state custody since Carl von Ossietzky, the German pacifist and opponent of Nazism who won the prize in 1935 and died under guard in 1938. Liu Xiaobo’s unjust imprisonment, and ultimately his death, serve as a stark reminder of China’s authoritarianism and deep disregard for universally-recognized human rights—realities that Wong, Law, and Chow seek to preserve for the city they love. 

       We can think of no one more deserving of the Committee’s recognition in 2018 than these champions of peace and freedom and Hong Kong’s entire pro-democracy movement.




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