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China: Amnesty International Reports Extensive Abuse Of Human Rights

London, 3 March 1998 (RFE/RL -- The human rights movement, Amnesty International, says Chinese authorities rounded up hundreds, possibly thousands, of people last year in Xinjiang province, scene of unrest involving Uighur separatists.

In a report published today (March 3) AI says that authorities intensified their crackdown in 1997 on "suspected Muslim nationalists, religious 'extremists' and alleged terrorists" in Xinjiang.

It says: "Following rioting in Yining, hundreds, possibly thousands were rounded up and at least 15 people sentenced to death at mass rallies -- 12 of whom were executed immediately afterwards."

The report, "1997 -- No Cause for Complacency" says gross human rights violations continued in China last year, despite some high profile human rights initiatives by the government.

The report was issued by the London-based human rights movement to coincide with the opening this week of the annual session of China's National People's Congress.

It tells of the "arbitrary detention of possibly thousands of protesters and suspected government opponents, the continued imprisonment of thousands of political prisoners, grossly unfair trials, widespread torture and ill-treatment in police cells, prisons and labor camps, and the extensive use of the death penalty."

The report says political prisoners detained without trial or convicted after unfair trials include many arrested for their part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.

It says: "Political trials continued to fall far short of international standards, with verdicts and sentences decided by the authorities before the trial, and appeal hearings usually a formality."

In Tibet, at least 96 people were detained for "crimes" such as peacefully protesting a ban on all images of the Dalai Lama. In June last year, monks were locked inside a monastery for three weeks until they signed declarations denouncing the Dalai Lama.

The report also says that protests by workers and dissidents led to arrests throughout the year; that torture and ill-treatment of prisoners remains widespread, and that China continues to execute more people than the rest of the world put together.

The report says the authorities argue that rights improvements are not possible due to the need to 'maintain stability.' But a growing number of citizens say the right to free speech without persecution is essential to stability and development.

AI says: "Rather than accepting the government's arguments, foreign governments should be supporting the calls from within China for change to promote genuine human rights improvements."

Chinese authorities have responded to international criticism by allowing a visit in October by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, signing the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and formally inviting the UN High Commissioner for China to visit at a future date.

"While these steps are welcome, little has changed in practice. There is no reason for complacency on the part of the international community, and no excuse for relaxing pressure on Chinese authorities." The report adds: "Despite some legal changes, Chinese legislation still allowed more than 200,000 people to be detained in 1997 without charge or trial for 're-education through labor.'" The report says there seemed to be a growing tolerance of dissent in the past few month, to the extent that some dissidents were able to make public appeals without being immediately arrested, but this relaxation "remains selective and unpredictable."

The AI report calls on the National People's Congress to ratify the ICESCR and to implement it in China, and to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also calls for a review of all "counter-revolutionary" offenses.