Testimonianza di Harry Wu alla Commissione per i diritti umani Tom Lantos

Di seguito la testimonianza di Harry Wu alla Camera dei rappresentanti USA

I want to thank Co-Chairman Wolf and Co-Chairman McGovern for inviting me to speak before the Commission today in advance of China¡¯s Universal Periodic Review by United Nations Human Rights Council.

I am deeply troubled by the course China appears to be on with regard to human rights. As the Chinese leadership has frequently pointed out in the past, and as it will no doubt reiterate during the UPR process, the tremendous economic growth that China has witnessed over the past three decades has lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty and increased the standard of living across much of the nation. However, while such economic progress is certainly a positive and promising development, it cannot take priority over or be substituted for the promotion of universal civil and political rights. Yet it is precisely because of China¡¯s strong economic performance that its government has been able to resist domestic pressure to implement any meaningful political reforms. Within the international community as well, its growing economic interdependence with the rest of the world has increased China¡¯s diplomatic clout, which the Chinese government has used to thwart criticism of its human rights record and water down international human rights norms.

Rather than focusing on the changes that the Chinese government wants to highlight, I hope the UN Human Rights Council will consider what has not changed¡ªfirst and foremost, that China is still under the rule of one¡ªone ¡°ism¡±, one party, one leader, and one system. Notwithstanding all of its rhetoric, there is no democracy in China whatsoever. The government¡¯s social and economic policies may no longer reflect genuine Communist ideology, but from a political standpoint, power within the State is still organized and wielded in a Stalinist fashion that is inherently incompatible with human rights. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controls all the machinery of the State, including the legislature, the courts, the schools, the military, the police and so on and exercises its authority through these institutions to suppress any perceived challenges to its absolute rule. Consequently, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms such as the freedoms of expression, assembly, belief are routinely subordinated to the supremacy of the CCP.

Moreover, the totalitarian reach of the CCP extends far beyond the official organs of the State administration. Chinese citizens cannot establish an independent labor union, TV station, radio station, grammar school, or anything else free of government control. All print, broadcast, and online media is strictly censored by the CCP, regulating what information the Chinese people may access. The central government employs an internet police force that numbers in the tens of thousands just to monitor the online activities of its citizens. Chinese law also restricts who may participate in religious services and requires believers to register with one of its ¡°patriotic¡± religious organizations. Not only does the Chinese government outlaw spiritual sects such as the Falun Gong that it deems to be ¡°evil¡±, it also remains illegal to be a member of the world¡¯s largest religious body¡ªthe Roman Catholic Church. The CCP also interferes heavily in the religious observances of Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims, who are constantly under its watchful eye.

Even a decision as intimate as when a woman is able to give birth is dictated by the government, in addition to how many children she and her husband may have. Research conducted by China¡¯s own family planning officials between 2001 and 2006 and released just this month shows that 70.7% of women who are of child-bearing age in China (or some 210 million women) want to have a second child. Under China¡¯s ¡°one-child policy,¡± however, couples who do so are subject to harsh penalties such as steep fines, destruction of property and detention as well as coercive enforcement in the form of forced sterilization and forced abortion. No other country in the world engages in this kind of family planning. What human right could be more fundamental than the right to freely give birth to a child? Yet in China¡¯s own human rights assessments, the issue is never even mentioned.

When other mechanisms for controlling its people fail, China resorts to the use of its brutal penal system, commonly known in Chinese as the Laogai, meaning ¡°reform through labor.¡± Modeled after the Soviet Gulag and constructed shortly after the Communists came to power in 1949, this extensive network of forced-labor prison camps functions in much the same way today as it did during the reign of Mao Zedong, when scores of ¡°counterrevolutionaries¡± such as myself were imprisoned in the Laogai for criticizing the Communist Party. Although the mass purges of the Mao era have ended, the Laogai is still used to silence dissidents, activists, journalists and anyone else who dares to challenge the party line. Now, however, the language of China¡¯s criminal code has been adapted to fit modern times; so instead of being charged with ideological crimes, these individuals are often charged with crimes of national security, such as ¡°inciting subversion of State power¡± which carries a hefty sentence if convicted. Similarly, the government discontinued use of the term ¡°Laogai¡± in 1994 to appease international critics, but at the same time, it made clear to the Chinese population that the purpose and function of the system would not change.

Because the legal system in China is completely subservient to the will of the CCP, Chinese authorities can essentially convict any individual for any crime they choose. Often, though, Chinese police will put persons accused of more petty offenses, including petitioners and demonstrators, into a form of administrative detention in order to forego the trouble of legal proceedings. Usually, such persons are sent to a Laojiao, or ¡°re-education through labor,¡± camp, where they can remain for up to three years without a trial. Both Chinese and international activists have been pushing for an end to the Laojiao system for several years now, to no avail. In some cases, prison officials also utilize Jiuye, or ¡°forced job placement,¡± which requires the prisoner to remain living and working at a labor camp beyond the length of his sentence until he has been satisfactorily ¡°reformed.¡± There are even reports of political prisoners having been committed by authorities to mental institutions.

Nearly all figures regarding these prisons and their populations, including the number of facilities and the number of prisoners within them, are closely guarded as ¡°State secrets.¡± My Foundation has identified about 1,400 labor camps by name and location from every province in China, more than 900 of which we have verified to still be in operation today. I would further estimate that there are currently between 3 and 6 million people incarcerated within these camps. It is much more difficult to determine how many of these prisoners could be considered prisoners of conscience, but such prisoners surely number in the thousands at least.

China imprisons political prisoners together with the much larger population of common criminals in the Laogai so that it can defend the system as a normal penal system, but such a claim could not be further from the truth. All prisoners, regardless of the crime for which they were imprisoned, are forced to endure a daily regimen of hard labor, either in a factory, farm, workshop, mine, or construction site. They receive no compensation and work long hours, often under very dangerous conditions, in order to meet demanding production quotas. Indeed, many of the products they produce are sold in domestic and international markets and some have even been awarded by the Chinese government for their quality. Additionally, many prisoners are subjected to some form of thought reform. Prisoners of conscience, especially, are typically required to recant political affiliations and religious beliefs and are often compelled to participate in political education classes. Despite denials by the government, there are widespread reports of torture being used to obtain confessions from prisoners as well.

For an untold numbers of prisoners, their suffering ultimately comes to an end with a bullet in the back of their head. The Chinese government has not released any official tallies of the number of executions carried out, but outside estimates put the yearly total in the thousands, more than all other countries combined. There are 68 capital crimes in China¡¯s criminal code, including many non-violent crimes and some crimes, such as ¡°stealing state secrets,¡± with which political prisoners are frequently charged. Legal reforms enacted in 2007 require that all death sentences be reviewed by China¡¯s Supreme People¡¯s Court. Though such a move is welcome and necessary, without revealing any figures on capital sentences, it is impossible to know what, if any, impact this reform has had.

Still, the exploitation of prisoners does not stop at their deaths. The Chinese government has discovered yet another way to profit from incarcerating its citizens¡ªby harvesting their organs and selling them to Party officials and wealthy foreigners. This is a practice which my Foundation has documented extensively. With 13,000 organ transplants performed every year, China ranks second in the world in that measure only to the U.S. Unlike China, however, none of the organs transplanted in the U.S. come from executed prisoners. On the other hand, China¡¯s Vice Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, has publicly acknowledged that more than 95% of organ transplants in China use organs obtained from executed prisoners. Perhaps more than anything else, this practice exemplifies just how little dignity the Chinese government affords to human life.

The secrecy and cruelty surrounding the Laogai system make it more than an instrument of control; it is also an instrument of fear. The Chinese have a saying: ¡°kill the chicken to scare the monkey.¡± Through torture, forced labor, and execution, the Chinese government is attempting to do just that. This is how it clings to power. And I fear that the longer the regime is permitted to get away with such abuses, the more emboldened it will be to continue with and expand upon them in the future.

posted by Laogai Research Foundation Usa 29 January 2009


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