What Has Xi Done? Xi Jinping Leadership’s Human Rights Record (March 2013 – September 2015)

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March 2013 – Present: Since President Xi Jinping’s presidency began, CHRD has documented more than 1,800 cases of arbitrary detention and torture of human rights defenders. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), detained in December 2008, remains imprisoned.

March 2013 – Present: Torture remains endemic in Chinese detention centers and prisons. Despite legislation introduced before Xi came into power to make it easier to exclude evidence acquired from torture, authorities have not taken concrete steps to end impunity for torturers. Measures to prevent torture, like access to legal counsel or notifying families of detainees’ whereabouts, have been systematically denied, and lawyers have been increasingly targeted for challenging such legal violations.

March 2013 – Present: One particular form of torture that marks the Xi regime is the government’s retaliation against human rights defenders by depriving medical treatment in custody. Dozens of detainees and prisoners of conscience suffering from serious health problems or the effects of torture have been systematically denied adequate treatment and requests for bail or parole on humanitarian grounds.

March 2013 – Present: The continuous repressive policies against ethnic Tibetans, implementing measures such as sending Han officials to reside in temples, forcing resettlement of herders, criminalizing religious rites for those who engage in self-immolation protests, and collectively punishing entire villages for self-immolations;

March 2013 – Present: The ramped-up restrictions in Xinjiang, including treating ethnic Uyghurs as terrorists after violent incidents in Kunming and Beijing, and the banning of religious attire (beards and veils), fasting during Ramadan, and barring admittance to mosques of anyone under the age of 18.

March 2013 – Present: A sweeping crackdown on civil society activists calling for government transparency and anti-corruption measures, affecting more than 300 people and leading to the detention and imprisonment of 27 activists and lawyers involved in the New Citizens’ Movement, as part of Xi’s efforts to stifle freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

March 2013 – Present: Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has drafted and enacted a new National Security Law, adopted amendments to the Criminal Law, and introduced several draft laws—the Counter-Terrorism Act, the Overseas NGO Management Law, and the Internet Security Law. All of these pieces of legislation are attempts to legitimize ongoing restrictions on speech, religion, and escalating suppression of civil society. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticized the National Security Law, saying it “leaves the door wide open” for more restrictions on human rights and civil society. These moves also run counter to a recent resolution by the UN Human Rights Council, where China holds a membership seat, that call on Member States to stop targeting civil society in the name of counter-terrorism, NGO management, and national security (UN HRC 27/31).

April 2013, June 2014: Women human rights defender Liu Ping (刘萍) was detained. During her prolonged pre-trial detention, Liu was reportedly physically assaulted and subjected to other forms of mistreatment. She was sentenced to 6 ½ years for “creating a disturbance” in June 2014.

July 2013 – Present: The detention and imprisonment of New Citizens’ Movement founder Xu Zhiyong (许志永), a prominent Beijing professor and rights activist. Before that, Beijing police had subjected Xu to unlawful house arrest for over four months. Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” in January 2014.

August 2013 – Present: The detention of Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), a prominent human rights activist from Guangzhou. Formally arrested in September 2013, police accused Guo of organizing rallies in front of the Southern Weekly headquarters in January 2013, organizing a campaign calling on the government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and also leading an anti-corruption drive. There has still been no verdict following his trial in November 2014.

September 2013, March 2014: Activist Cao Shunli (曹顺利), for trying to engage with the UN, particularly for pushing for civil society participation in the 2009 and 2013 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China, was seized at the airport in Beijing as she was boarding a flight to Geneva on September 14, 2013. Officials repeatedly refused her lawyer’s requests for medical bail as her health worsened. She died in March 2014 after authorities denied medical treatment during a five-month detention. Since her death, the Chinese government has intimidated her family and refused to allow an independent investigation into her death.

November 2013 – Present: Though the government under Xi formally abolished Re-Education Though Labor (RTL), the thousands of victims who suffered under the abusive detention system have never been compensated and several female victims of the notorious Masanjia camp have been jailed for seeking justice.

January 2014: The criminal detention of professor Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木.土赫提), a moderate critic. He was sentenced to life in prison for “splittism” in September 2014.

April 2014 – Present: Veteran journalist Gao Yu (高瑜) was detained in April 2014 and, a year later, was sentenced to seven years in prison, after being convicted on a state secrets charge in April 2015. Gao, 71, is in urgent need of proper medical treatment for heart problems and high blood pressure, among other illnesses, but authorities have repeatedly rejected requests for medical bail.

April 2014 – Present: The demolition of buildings and removal of crosses of both official and underground Christian churches in eastern China, particularly in Zhejiang Province, and new directives that require official churches to establish a Communist Party office.

May 2014 – Present: The crackdown starting in the spring of 2014 on Chinese citizens commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, which affected dozens of human rights lawyers and activists, some of whom remain in criminal detention today.

May 2014 – Present: Human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) was criminally detained, and has now spent 16 months in custody without being brought before a judge. Pu’s health is worsening, in part due to inadequate treatment for his diabetes, high blood pressure, and prostatitis. His lawyers’ requests for medical bail have been denied.

May 2014 – Present: Guangzhou-based human rights lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) was criminally detained on suspicion of “creating a disturbance.” Police also took into custody two other Guangzhou activists, Wang Qingying (王清营) and Yuan Xinting (袁新亭), close associates of lawyer Tang in the “Non-violent Citizens’ Disobedience Movement.” The three men face the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.”

September 2014 – Present: The crackdown starting in the fall of 2014 against mainland Chinese citizens who showed support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong affected more than 100 activists and lawyers, some of whom remain in police custody.

March 2015 – Present: The harassment and forced closure of several NGOs working on disability and health rights, women’s and LGBT rights, anti-discrimination issues, and of a think tank working on tax reform and social justice issues. Several staff members of these organizations have been detained and are facing imminent trial, and others still face criminal charges after being released on bail, such as the Five Feminists.

July 9, 2015 – Present: The crackdown on human rights lawyers and their supporters has targeted more than 300 human rights lawyers and activists through detentions, summons for interrogation, and intimidation. Twenty-three lawyers and activists remain in criminal detention or have disappeared into police custody, including Wang Yu (王宇), who has been disappeared for more than two months after police broke into her home on July 9. Wang has represented women and girls in cases of sexual violence and discrimination, as well as prominent women activists.

July 12, 2015: Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly respected Tibetan religious leader, died in prison while serving a life sentence. He was in prison for over 13 years, during which he was not treated for a heart condition, high blood pressure, and other medical issues. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was persecuted for his support for the Dalai Lama, promotion of Tibetan Buddhism, and cultural and social development work in Tibet. At least two other Tibetans died in detention in the past two years. There have been no independent investigations into their deaths.


For more details and analysis of human rights under Xi’s leadership, see:

“Silencing the Messenger: 2014 Annual Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in China”

A Nightmarish Year Under Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream”: 2013 Annual Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in China

The US Must Press China for Concrete Human Rights Gains before Xi’s State Visit

China: Drop Draft Criminal Law Amendments & Protect Human Rights

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