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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Political freedom in China

The People's Republic of China is signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but has not ratified it. All citizens of the People's Republic of China who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnicity, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status, or length of residence, except persons deprived of political rights according to law.
In Maoist era China, there was massive political repression. This is now replaced by selective political repression of small groups of people who openly challenge the CPC's rule; this repression in implemented through the judicial system. The most recent mass movement for political freedom was crushed in the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the estimated death toll of which ranges from about 200 to 10,000 depending on sources. In November 1992, 192 number of Chinese political activists and democracy advocates submitted a petition to the 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China to introduce political reforms. One of the six demands was the ratification of the Covenant. As a reaction to the petition, the Chinese authorities arrested Zhao Changqing, proponent of the petition, and are still holding a number of activists for attempted subversion.

One of the most famous dissidents is Zhang Zhixin, who is known for standing up against the ultra-left. In October 2008, the government denounced the European Parliament's decision to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Hu Jia, on grounds that it was "gross interference in China's domestic affairs" to give such an award to a "jailed criminal.. in disregard of our repeated representations.
On 8 December 2008, two days before the release of Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo was arrested. He along with three hundred and two other Chinese citizens, signed Charter 08, a manifesto released on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 10 Dec.2009), written in the style of the Czechoslovakian Charter 77 calling for greater freedom of expression, human rights, and free elections. As of May 2009, the Charter has collected over 9,000 signatures from Chinese of various walks of life.

Although the Chinese government does not interfere with Chinese people's privacy as much as it used to, it still deems it necessary to keep tabs on what people say in public. Internet forums are strictly monitored, as is international postal mail (this is sometimes inexplicably "delayed" or simply "disappears") and e-mail.
Local officials are chosen by election, and though non-Communist Party candidates are allowed to stand, those with dissident views can face arbitrary exclusion from the ballot, interference with campaigning, and even detention.
Freedom House rates China as a 6 (second lowest) in political freedoms. The organization characterizes the changes in China in 2011 as such: "With a sensitive change of leadership approaching in 2012 and popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes occurring across the Middle East, the ruling Chinese Communist Party showed no signs of loosening its grip on power in 2011. Despite minor legal improvements regarding the death penalty and urban property confiscation, the government stalled or even reversed previous reforms related to the rule of law, while security forces resorted to extralegal forms of repression. Growing public frustration over corruption and injustice fueled tens of thousands of protests and several large outbursts of online criticism during the year. The party responded by committing more resources to internal security forces and intelligence agencies, engaging in the systematic enforced disappearance of dozens of human rights lawyers and bloggers, and enhancing controls over online social media.

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