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Human Rights Delegation Reports Serious Problems

July 28, 1991

HONG KONG (AP) _ The first human-rights delegation to visit China has painted a grim picture of human rights two years after the military crackdown on a pro-democracy movement in Beijing.

The nine-member team of Australian politicians and China experts spent 13 days in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Lhasa, the capital of the troubled province of Tibet.

They told reporters in Hong Kong that the Beijing government tried to put the best face on what they were shown, but that nonetheless, they were disturbed by much of what they learned.

For example, of the 16,000 criminal cases filed last year in China’s most populous city, Shanghai, only 30 people were acquitted and fewer than half the defendants had the luxury of a defense lawyer, the delegation said.

″This gives you an idea of the problems the Chinese people face,″ said David Connolly, one of its members. ″They’ve got a long way to go.″

Kevin Garratt, an official with Australian Department of Immigration who is fluent in Tibetan, described the Himalayan province as ″in danger of losing its culture″ because of China’s crackdown on its independence movement.

Alice Tay, a law professor at the University of Sydney, said China’s legal system remained ″Stalinist.″ She noted that under Chinese procedure, rights enshrined in China’s Constitution cannot be cited in day-to-day court cases, effectively negating them.

The delegates complained of being followed by Chinese security agents, denied access to political prisoners and stymied in attempts to engage Chinese citizens in conversations.

″Everywhere we looked there were people wearing sunglasses and smoking cigarettes, spying on us,″ said Australian Sen. Vicki Bourne. ″There were goons all over the place.″

Still, delegation leader Sen. Chris Schacht said he felt China was ″bubbling with debate.″

″If I was a senior, aging Chinese leader, I’d be pretty scared,″ he told reporters in Hong Kong.

He said the delegation presented China with a list of about 200 names of political dissidents believed held in Beijing and Tibet. In several cases, the Chinese provided information about the prisoners, including their sentences and where they were being held.

Schacht declined to disclose the names of the prisoners because he said it might cause the Chinese to punish them more severely.

Delegates agreed that the Chinese were forthcoming about their ″one child″ policy that limits the size of Chinese families. With 1.1 billion people, China views its efforts to limit its population growth as a key to its future.

Bourne said Chinese authorities denied forced sterilization but implicitly acknowledged such practices had occurred in the past. However, delegates said informal interviews on the street led them to conclude that forced sterilization and abortions continue.

Bourne, who sits on the board of Australia’s Family Planning Association, said it appeared that the ratio of about three abortions for every 10 births in China had dropped slightly from a figure she received in 1988 of five abortions for every 10 births.

She attributed the drop in the abortion rate to China’s increased use of vasectomies and other sterilization methods. However, birth-control devices available to Chinese remain primitive, she said.

Human rights delegations from France, Switzerland, Denmark and Holland have also applied to China for permission to visit the country.

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