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, here, and here).
CECC has just released new analysis in two areas of activity of the Chinese state that they have been following for some time; (1) Chinese Authorities Continue To Suppress Lawyers After Replacing Minister of Justice (March 15, 2018.); (2) Campaign of Forced Evictions in Beijing Contravenes International Human Rights Standards (March 14, 2018). Both have generated much commentary and substantial controversy within and beyond China. The Reports do not break much new ground, though they reflect current thinking in Washington. The summary of both follows along with the CECC Press Release and some very brief comments.
Campaign of Forced Evictions Contravenes International Human Rights Standards and Domestic LawThe effort presents a bit of irony. The United States has refused to apply the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Political Rights in the United States; but China has. On the other hand, the Chinese have not embraced the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, though the U.S: does (though its application is filtered through and subordinated by U.S. Constitutional limitations). Reliance on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a temptation of all states, and sometimes to very good effect--but those are political and moral, not legal, arguments. The reliance on the work of UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights evidences the sort of "action shopping" that has tended to make the work of these committees far less valuable than they might be. Bit the U.S: and China will advance the statements, conclusions, warnings and other actions of those committees when it suits them and to reject their work when that sits instead. In any case, the arguments as made by the CECC would be rejected, and quite strenuously by the esteemed chairs of this Committee were they directed to the actions of the U.S. government. And yet having made the arguments, they will be more difficult to resist when turned on the U.S. itself--a pattern that has certainly commenced. Thus, both the value of the argument as politics, and its weakness in law
Actions taken by Chinese government officials enforcing the eviction campaign in Beijing contravene both international standards and Chinese law. Restrictions on movement and discrimination arising from the hukou system contravene international human rights standards guaranteeing freedom of residence. In addition, the reported censorship and restrictions on the press and civil society during the eviction campaign violate international human rights standards guaranteeing freedom of expression and association.
(Campaign of Forced Evictions in Beijing Contravenes International Human Rights Standards (March 14, 2018)).
- Forced Evictions and International Standards. Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which China has signed and ratified, states that everyone has the right “to an adequate standard of living . . ., including adequate food, clothing and housing . . ..” In 1991, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee), stated that the “human right to adequate housing” derived from article 11(1) of the ICESCR requires that individuals have “legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats,” and that “instances of forced eviction are prima facie incompatible with the requirements of the [ICESCR].” In 1997, the Committee further explicated the right to adequate housing vis-à-vis forced evictions, stating that when evictions are necessary, those affected should be consulted and given reasonable notice, evictions should not take place during bad weather or at night, and evictees should not be “rendered homeless.”
- Forced Evictions and Chinese Law. Article 43 of the Administrative Enforcement Law states that officials may not force individuals to comply with administrative decisions by using methods such as turning off their water or electricity. Article 44 further states that when forced demolitions of illegal structures are necessary, authorities should first provide notification and give the affected party time to demolish the structures themselves, as well as provide time for the party to apply for legal redress.
- The Hukou System and International Standards. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) guarantees the right to freedom of residence, and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) similarly states that all lawful residents of a state have a right to choose their residence. Article 2 of the UDHR and Article 2 of the ICCPR both prohibit discrimination in the protection of these rights on the basis of “national or social origin, . . . birth or other status.” In 2005 and again in 2014, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights noted its concern over discrimination on the basis of hukou status, and called on the Chinese government to eliminate the hukou system altogether.
Summary abstracts of the Reports:
Chinese Authorities Continue To Suppress Lawyers After Replacing Minister of Justice (March 15, 2018.Press Release
In February 2017, the Chinese Communist Party leadership appointed Zhang Jun as Minister of Justice, replacing Wu Aiying. Unlike Wu, Zhang is legally trained and has extensive legal experience, including having served as a vice president of the Supreme People’s Court, but there is little indication that his policies will be more sympathetic to lawyers than those of his predecessor. During his tenure, Zhang has signaled that he will focus on controlling lawyers more tightly, especially with regard to their out-of-court speech. In September 2017, officials from public security bureaus, justice bureaus, lawyers associations, and politics and law committees conducted lengthy and intrusive on-site “inspections” of at least seven law firms that have engaged in rights defense work.
Campaign of Forced Evictions in Beijing Contravenes International Human Rights Standards (March 14, 2018).
On November 18, 2017, a fire killed 19 people in a neighborhood in Beijing municipality. Two days later, the Beijing government launched a 40-day campaign to “inspect” and “rectify” fire hazards. What followed were large-scale forced evictions and demolitions in neighborhoods across Beijing. Residents reported being forced to leave with three days’ notice or less. Media and advocacy organizations estimated tens of thousands were affected, primarily Chinese migrants who were not registered residents of Beijing under the Chinese government’s household registration (hukou) system. As events unfolded, affected residents voiced their concerns to journalists, and in some cases attempted to confront government officials. Local organizations and individuals offered assistance to evictees, as Internet users across China criticized the evictions. The government responded by restricting domestic reporting on the evictions, censoring online discussion, restricting local groups providing aid to evictees, and detaining at least one individual for posting videos relating to the evictions online. Many observers linked the eviction campaign to the government’s long-term plans to cap the population of Beijing. Experts, however, warned that reducing the number of migrants would increase the cost of living in Beijing, and that the evictions could harm social stability in the long run. Actions taken by Chinese government officials enforcing the eviction campaign in Beijing contravene both international standards and Chinese law.
March 16, 2018
(Washington)—The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) this week published new analysis pieces on the recent forced evictions campaign in Beijing and expanded efforts to control the activities of lawyers. Media or other inquires can be directed to Scott Flipse, Director of Policy and Media Relations, (202) 226-3777.
Chinese Authorities Continue To Suppress Lawyers After Replacing Minister of Justice (March 15, 2018
Campaign of Forced Evictions in Beijing Contravenes International Human Rights Standards (March 14, 2018)
The CECC was created by Congress in October 2000 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. Members of the Commission include up to nine Representatives and nine Senators from both parties, along with five senior officials in the Executive Branch, representing the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Commerce. Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith serve as the chair and cochair respectively of the CECC.