November 25, 2008
The article below was published by the International Herald Tribune:
China reacted angrily Monday [24 November 2008] to a United Nations report that says the government tortures political and criminal prisoners, calling its authors biased and driven by a political agenda.
The report, issued Friday by the UN Committee Against Torture, documents widespread abuse in the Chinese legal system, one that often gains convictions through forced confessions.
The report recounts Chinese use of "secret prisons" and the widespread harassment of lawyers who take on human rights cases. It also criticizes the government's extralegal system of punishment, known as re-education through labor, that metes out prison terms to dissidents without judicial review.
"The state party should conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and should ensure that those responsible are prosecuted," says the report, which was written by a 10-member committee of independent experts.
Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, called the document "untrue and slanderous." He said that China cherished human rights and opposed the use of torture.
"To our regret, some biased committee members, in drafting the observations, chose to ignore the substantial materials provided by the Chinese government, quoted and even fabricated some unverified information," he said in a statement posted Monday [24 November 2008] on the ministry's Web site.
The Foreign Ministry did not describe the material it had provided to the United Nations committee.
The publication of the report is an embarrassment for the Communist Party, which has been striving to demonstrate to the international community its commitment to human rights. Last month [October 2008], the government was infuriated by the European Union's decision to honor Hu Jia, one of the best-known Chinese dissidents. Last week [November 2008], it reacted angrily to a report from the U.S. Congress that criticized China for failing to fulfill its pledge to improve human rights and lift media restrictions leading up to, and during, the Olympics.
"Illegal detentions and harassment of dissidents and petitioners followed the Chinese government and Communist Party's instructions to officials to ensure a 'harmonious' and dissent-free Olympics," the report says. "Individuals detained for circulating a 'We Want Human Rights, Not Olympics' petition are now serving sentences in prison and 're-education through labor' centers."
Human rights advocates say that the government's campaign against dissidents has intensified since the Summer Games.
On Nov. 13 , Guo Quan, an associate professor at Nanjing Normal University, was detained on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" after he established an independent political party, according to human rights advocates.
A day earlier, Liu Xueli, an activist from Henan Province who sought a protest permit during the Olympics, was sentenced to re-education through labor.
On Friday, a court in Chengdu handed down a three-year sentence to Chen Daojun, a journalist and political activist who was convicted of "inciting to subvert state power."
Chen was detained in May  after he published a series of articles on the Tibetan quest for greater autonomy and a spate of anti-Western demonstrations that erupted across the country after the Olympic torch relay was disrupted in Paris, London and San Francisco.
Although prosecutors accused Chen of slandering the Communist Party, his lawyer, Zhu Jiuhu, suggested that the authorities were particularly irked by Chen's participation in a demonstration this year  opposing the construction of a petrochemical plant near Chengdu.
Zhu said he had been denied access to his client; the trial, he added, lasted less than an hour. "We tried our hardest," he said.
In an interview Monday [24 November 2008], Chen's wife, Zeng Qirong, said she had not seen her husband since he was taken into custody. She said he often wrote literary criticism and articles about rural life. "He gives people a voice," she said.
The detention, she said, would be particularly onerous for the couple's 10-year-old son and Chen's parents, both of whom are in poor health.
"The process was not fair," she said of the trial. "It was only an article. It was his own opinion. He was only describing the way society is."