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China: 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China Marks Somber Occasion
On the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“In recent decades, the people of China have achieved considerable economic progress by virtue of their own hard work and decreased restrictions on their economic activities. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) distorts and mars these accomplishments by sparing no means to retain its power,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “As CCP officials gather to congratulate themselves, more than one million Uighurs remain in detention camps; Christians, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted for their faith; human rights defenders and lawyers, civil society activists, labor leaders, and even ordinary internet users are targeted and arrested for trying to exercise rights guaranteed under China’s own constitution and laws; and the Chinese government continues to tighten its grip amid escalating violence in Hong Kong. Rather than trusting the Chinese people to become informed citizens who responsibly exercise their rights, the party-state has, with the help of new technologies, reverted to levels of repression and control that have not been seen since the discredited regime of Mao Zedong.
“Today, we remember the millions who have died at the hands of CCP rulers and the millions who remain imprisoned amidst ongoing repression. We join the Chinese people in looking forward to the day when all can fully enjoy their inherent rights and freedoms.”
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, tens of millions have died as a result of CCP policies, including those tortured and killed in detention, murdered in the ideological violence of the Cultural Revolution, and targeted in crackdowns like the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Millions have succumbed to mistreatment and lack of care in prison and labor camps or perished in famine caused by state planning.
Repression has worsened since President Xi Jinping rose to power in November 2012. The government of China has redoubled its efforts to exert control at home and expand its influence overseas, establishing an extensive surveillance system in China and conducting sophisticated propaganda and influence operations both at home and abroad.
Deaths since June due to abuse in custody include:
- Meng Hong, an elderly practitioner of Falun Gong, a meditative spiritual practice, jailed in Heilongjiang Women’s Prison for handing out flyers.
- Wang Meiyu, a Chinese activist arrested in July after calling for universal suffrage and the resignation of President Xi; a human rights group has reported that his body showed signs of torture.
- Nurmuhammad Tohti, a well-known Uighur writer, who died from medical complications following his release from detention in Xinjiang after being denied treatment in custody.
Among the many prisoners of conscience in China who remain imprisoned or missing are:
- Tashpolat Teyip, a Uighur and the former head of Xinjiang University, who vanished in 2017 and was reportedly convicted in secret proceedings. He remains at risk of imminent execution.
- Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economist and scholar known as a vocal advocate for improving Uighur-Han relations. He is currently serving a life sentence on false charges of separatism.
- Yao Guofu and Liang Xin, an elderly couple sentenced in 2016 to four years in prison for sharing information about and practicing Falun Gong.
- Chen Jianfang, a human rights defender well known for her work demanding civil society involvement on human rights issues in China, held incommunicado since March.
- Wei Zhili and Ke Chengbing, editors of a labor rights news and advocacy website, held incommunicado since March.
- Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights attorney who has been disbarred, detained on numerous occasions, and brutally tortured while imprisoned. He disappeared most recently in 2017 after smuggling his memoir, which detailed his torture, out of China.
- Wang Quanzhang, a prominent human rights lawyer, sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in January after being held incommunicado for over three years.
- Huang Qi, the founder of the human rights website 64 Tianwang, sentenced to 12 years in prison in July.
- Tsegon Gyal, a Tibetan sentenced in 2018 to three years in prison for a post on WeChat in which he criticized the Chinese government.
- Lee Meng-chu, a Taiwanese businessperson detained in southern China after sharing images with friends in Taiwan of the prodemocracy protests in Hong Kong.
- Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese prodemocracy activist detained by Chinese authorities in March 2017. He was found guilty of subversion of state power and sentenced to five years in prison.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.