Abuse of Human Rights

exhibit section showing artifacts and photos


After a decade of expanding freedoms to its citizens, the Chinese government again cracked down on political protesters, resulting in tragic consequences at Tiananmen Square in 1989. People whose activities are suspicious - whether for patriotic, religious, spiritual, or intellectual reasons - are once again jailed for a variety of charges. Today, a revival of liberal ideas has brought another government backlash against prominent Chinese writers, economists, teachers, and scientists. Journalist Wang Shuo is one who views the repression with a sense of irony, saying, "If your work hasn't been banned, maybe it's not good enough."

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exhibit section showing artifacts and photos
Booklet - "Report on Putting Down the Anti-Government Riot" written by the Peoples' Republic of China.
Booklet - about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The "Goddess of Democracy" is on the cover.
Appeal (copy) - by Amnesty International over the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
--Artifacts on loan, courtesy of:Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford, California

Political and individual freedoms had been tolerated in China, even encouraged, for about ten years. But in 1986, when thousands of students protested government policies, the Communists jailed or demoted the leaders. Three years later, activists once again gathered in Beijing to press for more democratic freedoms. Deng Xiaoping's and the Communists' answer came in the form of troops and tanks.

The Tiananmen Square Movement ("Tiananmen" means "heavenly peace") began calmly in May of 1989. Students had camped in the Square, calling for more say in government as well as more freedoms to express themselves individually. They held demonstrations, sit-ins and hunger strikes.

Then on June 4th when 30-40,000 protesters had gathered in the Square, Deng Xiaoping sent in his army. Thousands of protesters were beaten, hundreds were shot, and a few individuals were horribly flattened by armored tanks. When Deng and the Communist Party proceeded with a relentless witch hunt for the remaining leaders, hundreds more were imprisoned.

A Chinese government report listed 300 deaths and 8,000 serious injuries - but much of the world feared that these "low" numbers were not accurate. Amnesty International has records of over 200 people who are still imprisoned in 2001, twelve years later, for their involvement in Tiananmen Square demonstrations.



exhibit section showing artifacts and photos

The prison system in China is cloaked with accusations and denials. Within a six-month period in 1996, 1,000 executions were carried out. Chinese courts may order executions for violent crimes such as murder and rape, but also for offenses that include embezzlement, firearms possession, larceny, drug trafficking, and destruction of public property. Laws were revised in 1997 to provide some "presumption of innocence," but judges are still required to seek pre-trial advice from the Communist Party for major cases. "Reform camps" operate outside the criminal justice system, and detainees can be sent away without a trial.

In 2001, Amnesty International reported that prisoners suffer widespread torture. Beijing officials dismissed this report as "groundless."



Women and children fare little better than criminals. China's desperate need to control its rising population has placed limits on the size of families. The "one child per family" policy has allowed the abuse of females to rise to new levels. Since males continue to be the preferred gender, female babies and girls may suffer neglect, abandonment, or even murder. If a wife does not produce a son, she may be beaten or sold.

Slavery of females continues in China, although efforts are being made to improve the situation. In the 1990s, Chinese police rescued 88,000 women and children who had been abducted from their communities, then sold into marriage and slavery.

exhibit section showing artifacts and photos



exhibit section showing photos

In the late 1980s, Tibetans called again for independence and for the return of the exiled Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet (also called Xinjiang Autonomous Region). The world media received numerous reports of violence, massive human rights violations, and the repression of religious freedoms. In response, China enthroned the Karmapa Lama as a symbol of China's toleration of Tibetan Buddhism.

In the mid-1990s, China cracked down on ethnic separatist activity in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. The U.S. protested through the "Policy for Freedom in China Act of 1997." House Policy Chairman Christopher Cox met with the Dalai Lama in Washington D.C., but could promise no direct action. That same year the United Nations hosted a meeting of the world's religions, but in deference to China, the Dalai Lama was not invited.

Then in 2000, the Karmapa Lama defected to India, frustrated by religious repression.



falun gong follwers parading

Belief systems - whether patriotic, religious, spiritual, or intellectual - cause much anxiety for Chinese leaders and viewed as counter to government policies. For instance, the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which arose in 1999, blends exercise, meditation, and mystical philosophy with the elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and traditional Chinese morality. With an estimated 70 million members on the Chinese mainland, the Communist government wants them silenced.

Members claim that over the last two years, Beijing has killed more than 100 followers and sent thousands to prison camps or psychiatric hospitals. When Secretary of State Colin Powell called for the release of Falun Gong members held in prisons, the Chinese ambassador warned that "any U.S. criticism of China's handling of the group would have dire bilateral consequences."


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