Free Tibet: Boycott [Made in China] Campaign Launched

"Made in China" boycott demo at Toys"R'Us Times square store, December 7, 2002

Bay Area Independent Media Center

The prevailing argument that market forces and international trade would transform China into a democracy has by now been completely discredited. Announcing the launch of a total boycott of Made in China products.

The prevailing neo-liberal arguments that market forces and international trade would transform China into a democracy have by now been completely discredited.

The only remaining way for concerned people to exert some positive influence on China seems to be through the power of the individual consumer. In short, a boycott of Made in China products.

The following text was written in 2001 and first published as a pamphlet by the Rangzen Alliance. It provides a full explanation of the moral, political and economic rationale for the campaign.

This appeal to all freedom loving people not to buy products manufactured in the People's Republic of China has not been made lightly. It would certainly be preferable if there were a more amicable way to dissuade China from its growing human rights abuses, its brutal military occupation of Tibet and its aggressive military expansionism. But since the USA's de-linking of trade and human rights, and the granting of permanent "Normal Trade Relations" status (or "Most Favored Nation" status, as it was known earlier) to China, the few modest leverages there were to influence China's actions have been effectively relinquished. Furthermore, most industrial nations in the world have also made similar adjustments to their national consciences and policies as the USA has done - some having done so much earlier and more enthusiastically.

The United Nations has been completely ineffectual in restraining China, and, in fact, generally behaves as if its sole duty towards China was not to give it any cause for offense. For instance, the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the single most important world Buddhist leader, was refused participation in a UN backed Millennium Peace Summit last year attended by religious leaders from all over the globe - merely because China demanded it.

The prevalent argument that market forces and international trade would transform China into a free-market democracy has by now been completely discredited. In fact, the opposite seems to have happened. China's human rights record has worsened with each passing year of expanding international trade and investment in China. In December 1998, President Jiang Zemin made a clear categorical declaration to the entire nation that China would never tread the path of democracy.1 To drive home the point, as it were, he repeated it a couple of days later, vowing, in addition, that China would crush any challenge to the Communist Party's monopoly on power. Immediately afterwards there was a nationwide crackdown on the publishing and entertainment industry and harsh punishment was meted out to those "inciting to subvert state power."2 This flurry of hard-line activity came almost immediately after China signed the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October 1998. The last two years have also seen unprecedented and brutal crackdowns on religious groups like the Falun Gong and perhaps more significantly, on increasingly defiant industrial workers and rebellious peasants.

This year, on Tuesday, February, 26, 2001, the State Department in its annual report on Human Rights confirmed that despite years of deepening American economic engagement with China, the human rights situation there had worsened significantly, with "intensified crackdowns" on religious organizations, political dissenters and "any person or group perceived to threaten the government." The report also stated that the situation in Tibet had worsened. Such increasingly negative accounts of China's human rights record have become a regular feature for the last few years in the annual State Department report.

A latest NEW YORK TIMES report (July 3, 2001) on the flight to the USA of the economist, He Qinglian, China's leading critic of official corruption, underscores the accelerating pace of the crackdowns. "In recent months China has arrested scores of dissidents, closed newspapers and fired outspoken editors in an accelerating effort to tighten control on public discourse. And it has charged several visiting scholars with spying, including a naturalized American who had been teaching in Hong Kong and a United States resident who had been working at American University in Washington."

A non-violent but direct response With governments and big business in the free world having seemingly given up the use of economic leverage to restrain China, one non-violent way remaining for concerned citizens to exert some positive influence on China is through the power of the individual consumer. The campaign we are asking you to join aims at making consumers aware of the moral and political costs of buying products Made in China, and securing their participation in an effective boycott of all such products. It will also help to pressure businesses and industries to rethink their economic ties with China. Mobilization of this power will not only make an impact on its own terms but, in due course, influence governments and politicians to implement policies that could genuinely help to bring about democracy and freedom to the Chinese people, and restore Tibet's independence.

Economic boycotts have, on the whole, an impressive success record. Gandhi's Swadeshi campaign to boycott English textiles was one of the first effective demonstrations of the untenability of British rule in India. Gandhi's campaign caused much economic suffering in Britain. A large number of mills in Lancashire had to close down and many thousands were rendered jobless. But the moral righteousness of Gandhi's action was so evident that when he visited Britain in 1931 he was given a rousing welcome in Lancashire by unemployed mill-workers.

The power of economic action was most clearly demonstrated in South Africa in the struggle against apartheid. The boycott and international sanctions hurt the black community the most, since it was the poorest and had the least economic cushion against outright penury and hunger. Nevertheless, the resolve of the South African blacks and their leaders never wavered. In fact, even after Nelson Mandela was released and a number of important reforms put into place by President de Klerk, the African National Congress (ANC) called for the continuation of international sanctions until apartheid was completely dismantled and a transitional government was in place.

The imposition of economic sanctions and penalties on Poland by the West contributed to the downfall of the Communist regime and the advent of democracy in Poland.

Pro-democracy forces in Burma have been calling on all countries of the world for the imposition of an overall "South African-style economic sanction against the ruling military government in Burma." A worldwide campaign for a consumer boycott and shareholder pressure forced a number of Western companies to withdraw from Burma. At the beginning of this year the Burmese junta agreed to enter into negotiations with Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader.

The increasing reports of strikes in China's industries and demonstrations and riots by the peasantry - in spite of large-scale and savage reprisals by the state - clearly disproves the oft-repeated (and somewhat racist) contention of China's apologists in the West that the Chinese people are satisfied living in a repressive state and only interested in their immediate economic well-being. If desperate workers are going on strike, without the benefit of unions and strike funds, and when striking is illegal and punishable to the extreme limit of the law, then it is evident that workers in China (and by extension, the peasantry) will approve and endorse any action (like an international boycott of Chinese goods) from the free world that though, possibly causing temporary hardships, is clearly aimed in the long run at helping Chinese farmers and workers to secure the rights enjoyed by people in the free world.

The above arguments are even more valid in the case of Tibet. The question often asked whether the ordinary Tibetan wouldn't prefer economic gain to political independence, or even personal freedom, is not only mistaken but grossly insulting. We are not in a position to conduct a poll in that unhappy country, but so far in every public protest and demonstration inside Tibet, in every protest song, dissident writing and clandestine poster, the single outstanding demand has been for Tibetan independence. The only reference to economics ever to appear did so in a dissident document which was circulating Tibet in the late eighties:

If (under China) Tibet were built up, the livelihood of the Tibetan people improved, and their lives so surpassed in happiness that it would embarrass the gods of the Thirty-Three Divine Realms; if we were really and truly given this, even then we Tibetans wouldn't want it. We absolutely wouldn't want it.3

Even a partial review of China's myriad crimes against humanity should be sufficient reason for any morally conscious person not to buy products Made in China. But in this long unhappy list, three offenses take on special significance as they are directly tied to the manufacture of the products themselves.

All Made in China (MIC) products can be divided into three categories: those made in prisons and forced labor (laogai) camps, those manufactured by the Chinese military and those made by a disenfranchised labor force.

Products made in forced labor camps The fact that a significant part of China's export of manufactured goods originates from prisons and Laogai forced labor (or "Reform Through Labor") camps is well known. Less well know is the exact extent, mainly due to the near impossibility of obtaining statistics on these camps and their productivity. But because of the dedicated and courageous work of one former-prisoner, Harry Wu, we now know that the scale of labor-camp manufacturing is not only huge but plays a significant role in China's economy. In several thousand forced labor camps an estimated 16-20 million Chinese, perhaps ten percent of them political offenders, work on prison farms, factories and workshops, in a harsh atmosphere permeated by sadism, torture and malnutrition. In his book, LAOGAI: THE CHINESE GULAG, Harry Wu maintains that "armies of low-paid, forced, highly efficient working prisoners play a very important role in the Communist government's 'socialist construction'. Never before has there been a nation with a prison system so extensive that it pervades all aspects of national production, has such careful planning and organization, and composes such an integral part of a people's economic and productive system."

It has been argued by China's apologists that prisons in the free world also make their inmates work, often in manufacturing goods that are sold on the free market. The difference is, of course, that first and foremost, people in the free world are not incarcerated for merely expressing their political opinions or practicing their religion in a peaceful and law-abiding manner. Secondly, prisons in the free world are unable, because of laws or public opinion, to exploit their prisoners' work to the necessary inhuman degree where it becomes profitable. Prisons in the West are, because of this, and also because of the relatively high standard-of-living of prisoners, invariably, economic burdens on the state. In China, forced labor manufacturing is a thriving and profitable economic enterprise.

This efficiency is achieved through a harsh system of motivation and punishment. Prisoners' food rations are linked to their productivity. Even sickness is often taken as evidence of poor work attitude and such "work avoiders" may have their rations cut off or decreased. "No work, no food" and "Light work load, light rations" are the rationale of the system. Other measures to ensure productivity are revocation of letter writing privileges and visiting rights, solitary confinement, mass criticism, prolonged shackling of legs and hands, and often beatings and torture. Prisoners who are slack, or accidentally damage tools or machinery are often charged with "sabotage of state property" and face punishment or fresh charges.

Prisoners often work under horrendous conditions as revealed in video footages obtained by Harry Wu, which were shown on American network television in 1992. In one sequence, in an animal-skin processing plant, naked prisoners waist deep in vats of tannic acid are shown handling animal hides. Prisoners in forced labor camps are often not only undernourished but are often suffering from tuberculosis, hepatitis and other diseases. Inmates in Manchuria and Amdo (Qinghai) face sub-arctic conditions where unwary prisoners often die of a frozen lung merely from breathing in the open.

A latest confirmation of China's brutal forced labor practices appeared in The NEW YORK TIMES (22, May 2001). Local officials in Sichuan province admitted to Reuters that 39 miners trapped in a flooded coal shaft and feared dead, were convicts who were working in a prison-run-mine. The officials said they had little hope of finding the men alive. Chinese news reports on the accident4 have not mentioned that the victims were convicts, and the government denies the existence of forced labor.

Among the welter of Made in China products flooding the free world, it is a major problem to identify those products made in forced labor camps. One reason for this is that prisons and labor camps exporting manufactured goods have created separate and innocent-sounding corporate identities for themselves. This is probably why efforts to boycott only products made in prisons and forced labor camps have never had much success. In February this year The New York Times reported that fully one third of paper clips used in the United States (and distributed by Staples) were manufactured in a prison in Nanjing by female inmates "who were not paid, and worked so many hours that their fingers were sometimes bloodied." The manufacturing company, AIMCO, was owned by Peter Chen, a U.S. citizen. We should bear in mind that this discovery is an exception, just the exposed tip of a very dark and inhuman system that feeds on the Western public's ignorance, and appetite for bargains.

A WASHINGTON POST article of June 14, 2001, by Philip Pan, reported a new development in prison labor in China which compounds the problem of identifying prison manufactured products. In recent years, increasing competition has made it difficult for prison factories to sell their own products on the open market. As Chinese prisons depend on their factories for funding, this has caused conditions to worsen for inmates. Prison authorities now contract with private companies to manufacture an assortment of such labor-intensive products as wigs and Christmas lights. And they are pressing prisoners to work longer hours.

"On occasion, inmates work throughout the night without sleep. It's very common to see inmates spitting blood and fainting from exhaustion in the workshops," wrote a prisoner in a smuggled letter, a copy of which was obtained by the New York-based group Human Rights in China. "After laboring for long hours under bright lights, some inmates sustained serious retinal injuries that have affected their vision. But the guards accuse them of faking it and force them to work until they go completely blind."

One inmate who was released recently said prison guards have a personal interest in pushing inmates to work harder because budget shortfalls mean they do not get paid, sometimes for months at a time. "They set a quota for you, but if you meet the quota, then they raise it. You work harder to meet it, and then they raise it again," the former inmate said. "It's torture to meet these quotas, but it's torture if you don't meet them, too." Several former inmates said prisoners who fail to meet quotas or otherwise upset the authorities are handcuffed to basketball hoops in the prison yards, or to high railings in the workshops, their feet barely touching the ground. "We'd be working, and these people would be just hanging there next to us," said one inmate. "It was like a warning."

Another inmate said guards force prisoners to prop up heavy doors for days at a time, or torture them by binding their hands tightly with ropes. Guards also put troublesome inmates in six-foot-square solitary confinement cells infested with mosquitoes in the summer.

Products manufactured by the military Thousands of factories and sweatshops run directly by the Chinese military manufacture everything from toys to underwear to steel pipes, and export them to the free world to earn the foreign exchange needed for China's military modernization program. Researchers at the AFL-CIO have identified ten of what they call PLA (People's Liberation Army) - sponsored business groups in the United States, each of which typically has several subsidiary companies. A number of these companies are distributors and import-export concerns. In 1996, the FBI linked two of these companies Norinco (a Chinese ordinance company that supplies the PLA with most of its weapons and has ten subsidiary companies in the U.S.) and Poly Technologies (which is run by the PLA's General Staff Department), to a scheme to smuggle some thousand AK-47 assault rifles into the United States.

According to THE COX REPORT OF THE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY AND MILITARY COMMERCIAL CONCERNS WITH THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA (1999), Chinese military and intelligence have, through such companies in the United States, stolen American nuclear secrets to build long-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States. Also stolen was a large variety of sophisticated technology, including high performance computers, satellite technology, aircraft guidance technology for F-15, F-126 and F-117 stealth bombers, and design information on America's most advanced thermonuclear weapons.

The overriding reason why we should not buy goods manufactured by the PLA is that no regime today poses a greater threat to world peace than Communist China. In discussions on the subject of global security today, the names of such countries as Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Afghanistan are invariably raised. Realistically speaking, these countries, though capable of terrorist acts, lack the size, population, military capability and economic power to start a major war, let alone the next world war. This is the capacity, however, that China is rapidly beginning to acquire, and evident in the double digit increases in its defense budget year after year. This threat to world peace is far greater now than when China was at its most ideologically belligerent under Mao. Whatever the revolutionary rhetoric of Maoist China, it lacked the money and the technology to translate its intentions into effective action. But all that has changed. This change has come about exclusively through China's newfound economic power, based on its sales of manufactured products to the West.

It is clear that China is undertaking an aggressive expansionist policy in Asia and the Pacific. The danger of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is ever-present, and one that will certainly drag in American intervention, if America is not to forsake it's preeminence in the Pacific. Though the Taiwan question appears only occasionally in the Western press, in China itself officialdom and the media play up the issue on an incessant and clamorous basis. Newspapers regularly feature letters and petitions by Chinese soldiers (often signed and even written in blood) calling for an invasion of Taiwan. Some of the letters carry declarations by soldiers of their readiness to impregnate Taiwanese women after the invasion, in order to restore the racial purity of the island. This is probably a reference to the fact that a proportion of Taiwan's population is of mixed Japanese/Chinese, or aboriginal descent.

In South East Asia, China has caused renewed fears of its expansionism. For instance, it has laid claims and even occupied parts of the strategic Spratley Island chain sitting astride vital shipping lanes to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. The Philippines have the strongest claim to the islands by virtue of proximity (it is about 200 miles from the Spratleys) while China, more than 800 miles north has claimed the entire island chain, and built a base on the aptly named Mischief Reef. The Chinese have already seized and occupied another chain of islands further north, the Paracels, from Vietnam, and have occupied parts of Vietnam's northern border territory. Even today, Vietnam continues to suffer Chinese military incursions and is hence forced to practically beggar itself to maintain an army that is the fourth largest in the world.

Countries like Laos, Cambodia, and especially Burma have already been drawn into the Chinese sphere of influence. Burma's brutal military regime is a particularly close ally of China and has allowed the Chinese Navy free run of port facilities on its offshore islands and to build an electronic tracking and surveillance station in the Indian Ocean.

This development has been a major shock to India's defense community. It certainly contributed to the statement issued by India's defense minister some years ago that China, not Pakistan, was the major threat to India's security. This comes over and above China's arms supply to, and training of, insurgent movements in North Eastern India, and occasional military incursions across the border.

India's ongoing conflict with Pakistan is well known, and with both countries now armed with nuclear weapons, a problem for world peace is evident. It is not widely known, however, that even before India exploded her first nuclear device in October 1974, China had assigned twelve nuclear scientists, ancillary staff and considerable funding to assist Pakistan in developing a nuclear weapon. Only in 1996, after press revelations, did the CIA admit that China was providing major nuclear aid to Pakistan. A Washington Post report revealed that China had sold its highly mobile, modern, nuclear-capable missile, the M-11, to Pakistan, which then sounded some alarm bells in Washington. But in spite of American protests, short-lived sanctions and repeated pledges from Beijing to halt the transfer of missiles, not only the M-11, but also even more advanced weaponry and technology continue to be transferred by China to Pakistan.

A 1996 CIA report stated "China is the most significant supplier of Weapons of Mass Destruction related goods and technology to foreign countries." The American Office of Naval Intelligence maintains that the flow of materials and technology from China to Iran is "one of the most active "Weapons of Mass Destruction" programs in the third world." Chinese arms companies are also deeply engaged in Iraq. On February 22, 2001, President Bush announced that the U.S. knew that China was involved in developing electronics and radar systems in Iraq to be used against American and British warplanes. More well known perhaps is China's secret assistance to North Korea for its nuclear program and the creation of its three-stage intermediate range balli stic missile which matched "rivet for rivet" China's CSS-2 missile. When on August 31, 1998, this missile roared over Japan's northernmost island on it first test flight, Japan awoke to find that its security assumptions had suddenly and radically changed. Just a year before it would have been political suicide for a Japanese politician to make even a passing suggestion that Japan should go nuclear. Now such discussions are not only being held openly, but a government study is in place to prepare for such an eventuality. Everyone in Japan was well aware that a poverty-stricken third-world country like North Korea was not capable of making such a sophisticated device by itself, and it did not take much time for the unwelcome conclusion to sink in that the missile test was actually a statement by proxy from Beijing: that China was now the big power in East Asia, and that Japan's position as the effective platform for U.S. power projection in the region, would not be accepted without a challenge. The current Prime Minister, the popular Junichiro Koizumi, has called for a revision in the Japanese constitution of the article declaring Japan's renunciation of war.

The author of this pamphlet would like to make it clear that he is not an advocate of American military presence in Asia, or anywhere else for that matter. After the break up of the Soviet Union, there was a brief but hopeful period when a peaceful future for the world seemed to be a genuinely possiblity. Reductions in American military presence were evident everywhere around the globe. In the Philippines, some of the largest American naval and air force bases in the world were closed down and the defense treaty between the Philippines and the USA amicably ended. It was a welcome moment for world peace. But China's aggressive stance in the Pacific has once again required the Philippines to sign a new defense pact with the USA.

According to defense analysts the rationale these days for the development of the Missile Defense System, has moved on from countering missile threats from "rogue states" like Iraq and North Korea, or challenging Russia. Instead, according to The NEW YORK TIMES (March 19, 2001), "Russia is a power in decline and is viewed mainly as a menace to itself. In Washington, however, China is increasingly seen as a growing regional power that will compete with the United States for dominance of the Western Pacific." Furthermore, according to The New York Times, the Russians have more than enough long-range missiles to overwhelm any Missile Defense System of the foreseeable future. Also Russia is to some extent neutralized by the ABM treaty.

It now appears that the threat of Chinese missiles is the new rationale for the Missile Defense System. Furthermore this is not only driven by considerations of China's short and medium range missiles targeting Japan, Taiwan and American forces in the Pacific but also, as George Bush noted (in an address on national defense at the Citadel, Charleston, S.C), China's long range ICBMs which are capable of incinerating Los Angeles - as a Chinese general had reminded America, after some tension over Taiwan in 1996.

On December 14, 2000, in a call for major increases in defense spending, General Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, warned America that "China was aggressively modernizing" its conventional and nuclear forces. "I am firmly convinced that we need to focus all elements of U.S. power and diplomacy on ensuring that China does not become the 21st century version of the Soviet bear."

On May 16, 2001, The NEW YORK TIMES carried a front page report on a confidential Pentagon strategy review, prepared by Andrew Marshall, 79, regarded by many as the most original thinker in the defense establishment, and one of the few and the first to see the weakness of the Soviet Empire, and accurately predict its demise. One purpose of this latest review appears to be to shift American defense focus away from Europe, the main arena of the old U.S - U.S.S.R superpower rivalry, to East Asia where Marshall believes China is not only aggressively seeking to expand its empire, but also where in the future Chinese satellite-guided missiles could devastate American aircraft carriers.

China's tremendous new increase in military power and capability stems directly from its new economy, which to an overwhelming degree is based on the export of consumer goods to the West. When we buy any product Made in China we are directly contributing to the growth of Communist China's military power and the realization of China's (clearly and often declared) territorial ambitions in Asia and the Pacific.

Products made by a disenfranchised labor force Admittedly, many of the Made in China products we see on the shelves of Walmart or Toys'R Us are not manufactured in forced labor camps or by the Chinese military. They are made by ordinary Chinese workers. So what's wrong with that, you may ask? The issue is that workers in China are not free. They do not have the right to organize, to form unions, and hence to bargain, negotiate, and most of all to strike. All these actions are absolutely illegal, and punishable by lengthy terms in forced labor camps and even by the death penalty.

In theory, virtually all industrial workers in China belong to labor unions. In reality, these are government-run organizations, their leaders chosen by the Communist Party. Instead of representing the rights and interests of the workers, these official unions "serve to control workers by playing the part of hired thugs and public security in workplaces" according to China Rights Forum in New York.

The Communist Party's biggest fear is the rise of an independent workers movement. The Democracy Movement of 1989 saw the formation of the Workers' Autonomous Federation in Beijing, which quickly spread across the country at a surprising rate. During the subsequent Tiananmen massacre many of those killed were workers and labor activists, and in the ensuing mopping-up many more were arrested and many executed. Some executions were broadcasted on national television. But from then on, the idea of independent labor unions that would represent the interests of their members began to gain currency. Since 1989, in increasing numbers influential dissident actions within China have raised the issue of labor rights. Unfortunately, these voices are still weak and the authorities have shown a remarkable ferocity in cracking down on even seminal labor groups.5

In May 1992, sixteen organizers of the clandestine "Free Labor Union of China" were arrested in Beijing. This organization had printed various materials that exposed the way Chinese workers were deceived and oppressed. Moreover, the organization had appealed to workers to organize in their places of work and to struggle to protect their interests against the government and big business. In 1994, this group of people received prison sentences ranging from seven to twenty years.

In 1994, the "League for the Protection of the Rights of Working People" first appeared in Beijing. All the founders were arrested after they openly tried to register their group with the government. Many in that group are still in custody while other principal members were forced to escape overseas into exile. In addition, many people, even peripherally involved with the organization, have been harassed and intimidated. Such arrests, beatings and torture of labor activists are, in fact, worsening . In May 1994, three workers were arrested in Shenzhen after they applied to register a workers' night school and a newsletter called LABORING PEOPLE'S BULLETIN. Their whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

One of the main reasons why industries in the West are so enthusiastic about relocating factories to China is probably because labor in China is not unionized. For instance, equally cheap labor is available in a country like India, where the additional advantage of an English speaking managerial force (and even English speaking labor to some extent) is available. Furthermore, in terms of productivity, technological and managerial skills, business environment, recessionary expectations, exchange-rate stability, bank solvency, etc., India ranks significantly higher than China, as determined by THE GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS REPORT 2000, released by the World Economic Forum and Harvard University which placed India in the 37th position, while China's ranking was 44th. The well-known inertia of the Indian bureaucracy is certainly a disincentive for international investors, but that is more than matched by the corruption and capriciousness of Chinese Communist party cadres. Therefore, it would appear that from the point of view of industry, India's essential drawback is that it is a democracy where independent courts and independent labor unions protect the rights of the working men and women.

Yet, in spite of harsh government crackdowns and punishment of individual workers, demonstrations and strikes by workers in industry are definitely on the rise in China. THE CHINA LABOR BULLETIN, ISSUE NO. 57, November-December 2000, reports that "In recent years, many foreign-invested, collective and private enterprises have been in arrears in the payment of wages, and have furthermore faced a mounting burden from paying retirement pensions. As a result, they have forced workers to work overtime without pay and this has resulted in increasingly frequent strikes and demonstrations." But these were eventually suppressed by coordinated action by the government and employers. Abuse and exploitation of workers is common even in foreign owned and run factories. In certain plants owned by Taiwanese and Koreans, corporal punishment is common. Girls in these factories work twelve hours shifts with only two days leave in a month, and sleep eight to ten crammed in a dormitory room, which is locked at night. Talking is forbidden on the shop floor, and to go to the toilet or drink a glass of water requires a permission card. Sexual harassment is common and punishment of uncooperative workers can involve beating, confinement or cancellation of wages. Arriving late can mean half-a-day's wages docked.

A detailed study of such exploitation of Chinese labor has appeared in a book6 by Professor Anita Chan, one the world's foremost experts on Chinese employment relations. The many case studies, with substantive analysis, covers abuses in a wide variety of settings: state enterprises, urban collectives, township and village enterprises, domestic private enterprises, and foreign funded enterprises. The cases include urban workers, migrant workers from the countryside, and workers who are sent to work outside of China. Besides the praises of eminent Sinologists, labor experts, and economists, John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO, had this to say of Anita Chan's book: "What is so vividly portrayed in the true stories Dr. Chan has collected is deeply disturbing, for it paints a world of extreme exploitation and little hope. For all of the believers in unbridled, free-market economic reform as the only path for China's economic salvation, this book is a must read."

A recent report published by The NEW YORK TIMES on February 9, 2001, details the case of a labor activist, Cao Maobing, who was the spokesman for several hundred angry workers at the Funing County Silk Mill in Jiansu Province. The mill had laid off many employees but had failed to pay required stipends and pensions. The workers accused management of corruption, and the government-run union of collusion, and declared their intentions of forming an independent labor union. Mr. Cao was then forcibly taken by police to No. 4 Psychiatric Hospital in Yancheng, where, diagnosed as suffering from "paranoid psychosis," he remains in strict custody and has been medicated and forced to undergo electroshock therapy.

The increasing tendency of Chinese workers to go on strike even though they would be severely punished, clearly demonstrates their willingness to make hard economic and personal sacrifices for their legitimate rights. Therefore, the oft-repeated contention in the West, that the Chinese people are satisfied living in a repressive state and only interested in their immediate economic condition, is demonstrably untrue. If desperate workers are going on strike, without the benefit of unions and strike funds, and when striking is illegal and punishable to the extreme extent of the law, then it is evident that workers in China will approve and endorse any action (like an international boycott of Chinese goods) from the free world that though, possibly causing temporary hardships, is clearly aimed in the long run at helping Chinese workers to secure the rights enjoyed by labor in the free world.

A clear example of international economic boycotts or sanctions genuinely benefiting a suppressed labor movement is the example of Poland, when the USA led the way in imposing economic penalties on Poland after the Communist government in 1981 banned the Solidarity movement and arrested about 30,000 Solidarity members. The liberalization in Poland that brought about an end to the Communist regime was prompted in significant part by Poland's desire to get rid of the sanctions.

Religious repression The Communist Party of China has always regarded religion as a dangerous and unacceptable challenge to its exclusive right to the obedience and even devotion of the Chinese people. Although the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in actual practice, every religious group has to undergo an onerous registration process and their activities are rigorously monitored. The government strictly controls printing and distribution of religious publications. Any group seen as attempting to move away from the strict and intrusive controls the Chinese government exercises, is immediately charged with "criminal activities" or "illegal gatherings". Long term imprisonment, physical abuse and torture by the security forces are routine against religious leaders or practitioners. Official demolition of churches, monasteries and mosques is common.

Popular indigenous religions On July 5, 2001, The NEW YORK TIMES reported that fifteen more members of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group had died in custody, raising the known death toll to well over 200. Chinese officials confirmed reports that the fifteen had died in a northeastern Forced Labor Camp, but claimed they had committed suicide. To date hundreds of thousands of members have been detained (for varying periods) while at least ten thousand are serving lengthy terms in forced labor camps. An unknown number have been committed to psychiatric hospitals. Beatings and torture of those arrested are routine and have resulted in many deaths. The massive and brutal crackdown on the Falun Gong - with even far-flung regions having to demonstrate their active antagonism to the sect in public demonstrations and mass meetings - recalls Maoist campaigns of the 50s and 60s.

While the Falun Gong is the most well know indigenous religious groups facing persecution in China, it is certainly not alone. For instance, another group, the Zhong Gong, has faced police crackdowns and its leader has sought political asylum in the United States. Earlier in Sichuan province in the 1980s, the Yiguan Dao (One Unity Way) spiritual movement was crushed ruthlessly by provincial security forces, with it leaders being executed and thousands of its members being sentenced to forced labor camps.

Tibetan Buddhists Tibetan Buddhists have for the last few years been subjected to an intensely harsh, well-planned and coordinated campaign to crush their religion and culture. This was locally termed the "second cultural revolution" because of its severity, and the Dalai Lama denounced it as "cultural genocide". Arrests, savage beatings, torture of monks, rape of nuns, and occasional executions are routine. Moreover, there is intense official regulation of religious life, which includes daily political reeducation in monasteries and a complete ban on pictures of the Dalai Lama. But the recent escape to the free world of two of Beijing's showcase religious leaders in Tibet, the young Karmapa lama and Agya Rimpoche, abbot of Kumbum monastery, has forced a temporary lull in the campaign, while a reassessment is taking place. The child Panchen Lama, Tibet's second most important religious leader, and the world's youngest political prisoner, still remains in unknown confinement.

Catholics Every day up to one hundred million Christians risk their lives by defying government orders banning free worship. Catholic organizations and congregations that recognize the spiritual authority of the Pope have been forced to go underground and Chinese bishops and priests and laymen have regularly been arrested, tortured and harassed. There have also been cases of outright murder of priests by security forces as in the case of Father Yan Weiping of Hebei province who after his arrest in March 1996 was found beaten to death on a street in Beijing.

At least thirteen Bishops and twelve priests are presently confirmed as under incarceration, while the fate of about forty more churchmen is simply unknown, with authorities refusing to confirm or deny whether they have been arrested or whether they are dead. Many more lay Catholics are suffering the same fate as their spiritual guides. The frail 81 year-old Bishop Zeng Jingmu of Jiangxi Province was rearrested on September 14, 2000 immediately following the completion of a three-year imprisonment term. He had previously been imprisoned for 30 years from 1955 to 1995. On September 11, 2000 in Fujian province, about 70 security police surrounded the house of an underground Catholic priest, the 82 year-old Father Ye Gong Feng, who was savagely tortured by security police until he fell into a coma.

Protestants All Protestant denominations are required like the Catholics to observe the "three-self" policy which demands that they abjure support from foreign missionary organizations, and that they give up theoretical, doctrinal, and liturgical differences to join a "post-denominational Christian church" loyal to the Communist Party of China. The "three-fix" policy requires that all congregations meet at a fixed location, that they have a fixed and professional religious leader, and that they confine their activities to a fixed geographical sphere. For non-mainstream Protestant groups, which rely on lay leaders and which recruit members through evangelical preaching, the regulation effectively checks growth and allows effective official monitoring of groups. Therefore, many churches have attempted to remain unregistered but when discovered have had their leaders and members arrested, beaten and tortured.

In the Zhoukou area of Henan such unregistered "house" churches have proliferated and with it an intensified crackdown on worshippers. In the first ten months of 1995, police in the area took more than 200 Protestants into custody. Their leaders were sentenced to three-year terms of imprisonment. The evangelical network in the Zhoukou area also has links outside their area. A November 19, 1994 police raid netted 152 church leaders, many from other localities and provinces.

On February 18, 1995, Li Dezian a preacher from Guangzhou had his church raided by Public Security officials. Five officers reportedly used a Bible to beat Li on his face and neck in an attempt to break his windpipe. They used steel rods to break his ribs and injure his back and legs, and jumped on and kicked his prone body until he vomited blood. All those present at the church - some one hundred - were dragged away.

Human Rights Watch/Asia has reported raids, fines, and detentions, from other provinces and cities such as Shenyang, Xi'an, Fuzhou, Guilin, Tianjin, several locales in Sichuan province, and in Shenzhen, the Special Economic Zone in Southern China. Indigenous Protestant sects, like the Shouters, the Disciples, Ling Ling Religion, the Holistic sect and the Beiliwang sects have been outlawed and authorities have declared that they would be "hunted down and severely punished"

Forced abortion and forced sterilization China, as a whole commits about half a million third-trimester (ninth month) abortions annually. Most of these babies are fully alive when they are killed, and virtually all of these abortions are performed against the mother's will. Women are often imprisoned, brainwashed, and refused food until they finally break down and agree to an abortion. The actual methods by which the doctors carry out the "procedures" are brutal. Injections of Rivalor, commonly known as the "poison shot" causes the baby to slowly die over the course of two to three days at which time the baby will be delivered dead. Pure formaldehyde is also injected into the soft spot on the baby's head, or the skull is crushed by the doctor's forceps. Doctors in China are known to carry a few "chokers" in their pockets. These are similar to garbage-bag ties but longer. They are placed around the baby's neck and twisted, effectively strangling the child. Two other methods of aborting a child are by drowning the newborn in a bucket of water in plain view of the mother, and suffocation by towels forced into the baby's mouth as the doctor plugs the newborn's little nose. The latter two methods are used especially to "teach a lesson in obedience" and to act as a reminder that the People's Republic of China has strict family laws that are to be abided by its citizens.

The most dramatic revelation of China's inhuman birth-control policies came with the defection to the USA in May 1998, of Mrs. Gao Xiao Duan, who had served for fourteen years as the director of a so-called "Planned Birth Center" in a town in Fujian province. Mrs. Gao gave a detailed testimony to the House International Relations Human Rights Subcommittee and also extensive interviews to American television and newspapers. Mrs. Gao confirmed previous reports that the Chinese government routinely subjected those who violated its one child policy, to forced sterilization and forced abortions - including women as much as nine months pregnant. Mrs. Gao revealed that the "Birth Center" maintained detailed files on the reproductive states of every woman under the age of 49. A network of paid informers slipped tips into a box about women in that area who had become pregnant without official authorization. She also added that in the first floor of the Center was a birth control jail for women who tried to resist, and jail cells for family members or friends who might attempt to intervene.

Mrs. Gao had managed to bring out videotapes and pictures, and with the help of Chinese dissident Harry Wu, had smuggled out hundreds of pages of official documents, which experts in the field say are the most damning evidence yet of the kind, of tactics used by China's planned birth program. It turned out that Mrs. Gao's defection came as she, herself, was in danger of being sterilized for violating China's one-child rule. She had secretly adopted an abandoned young boy, considered just as illegal as giving birth to a second child, and an informer had reported her to the Communist party.

Certain apologists for China maintain that, inhuman as it may seem, China is effectively doing what needs to be done to avert a population explosion, which could have serious global repercussions. Certainly, no sensible person will dispute that an effective birth-control program is necessary in China. On the other hand there is every indication that such brutal and inhuman measures as are being currently practiced are disturbingly short-sighted. Female infanticide figures have soared and earlier projections of drastic male female demographic imbalance are beginning to be realized. The latest research reveals that China's one-child policy has significantly failed because of widespread resistance by the peasantry with the collusion of local officials. In 1998, officials distributing emergency relief food in Paizhou county in Hubei province in the wake of summer floods discovered that the officially allotted quantity was not enough. The truth then emerged. There were 10% more people in the county than was recorded in the most recent census. Critics of the coercive birth-control policies believe that widespread resistance and cover-ups has made the government miss its original target by 300 million. It is also debatable whether China has actually done any better than countries which have not resorted to coercion. Fertility rates in India have dropped sharply, especially in areas where good healthcare and education is available.7 Moreover, India's average fertility rate is only marginally higher than that of rural China. In addition, India claims that its national family planning program has managed to prevent 230 million extra births and that its population will stabilize in 2040, just as China does.

Indiscriminate use of the death penalty China executes, on average, 40 people every week, according to an Amnesty International Report, and throughout the 1990s condemned more of its citizens to death each year than the rest of the world put together. Amnesty recorded 2,088 death sentences and 1,263 confirmed executions in China in 1999, collating the figures from public reports. These figures are likely to be far below the actual number, as only a fraction are reported.

From 1990 to 1999, Amnesty International recorded 27,599 death sentences and 18,194 executions in China. "Many defendants most likely did not receive a fair trial and death penalties were carried out immediately after sentence was passed, thus denying the condemned the right to appeal," Amnesty said. Many defendants have been subject to torture to obtain a confession. Many may be illiterate and have little way of arguing their defense or understanding the process.

Many have been executed for being declared guilty of, what would be considered outside China, non-capital crimes: corruption, rape, embezzlement, tax-fraud and even on occasions such minor charges as the theft of a bicycle. Such capricious sentencing usually occurs during nationwide "anti-crime" and "anti-corruption" campaigns when regions and provinces are required to meet certain quotas in arrests and executions. In 1996, the Chinese Government "Strike Hard" campaign led to the execution of more than 4,000 people that year - an average of 11 each day. Subversion and ethnic separatism are also crimes that warrant the death penalty, especially in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and Tibet. An American tourist, Mike Melnyk, in Tibet during the current "Strike Hard" campaign in May 2001, reported two children in school uniforms, no older than sixteen (and one possibly even as young as twelve) being paraded through Shigatse town in open military trucks with other prisoners, prior to execution.

The number of capital offenses on China's law books has grown from 28 in 1979 to 74 in 1995. Since then, non-violent and economic crimes as speculation, bribery, and the forging of value-added tax receipts have been added to the list so that the current figure is probably around 90.

Most executions take place after sentencing rallies in front of massive crowds in sports stadiums and public squares. Prisoners are also paraded through the streets past thousands of people on the way to execution. Tens of thousands of arrested suspects and thousands assigned to "re-education or reform through labour" without charge or trial, have also been paraded at such rallies. The immediate families of the victims were, formerly, required to be present at the execution and to make a denouncement of the victim. This is no longer mandatory. However, the victim's family is still required to pay the cost of the bullet used in the execution.

In the ongoing "Strike Hard" campaign, public executions in Yunnan province were broadcast live on state television. Execution rallies in Shaanxi in April and May were reportedly attended by 1,800,000 spectators. At the Public Stadium in Chengdu on 23 June 2001, 54 people were executed in one day, before a capacity holiday crowd.

An Amnesty International press release dated July 6, 2001 described the latest round of "Strike Hard" executions as "nothing short of an execution frenzy". The press release stated that "At least 2,960 people have been sentenced to death and 1,781 executed in the last three months ... More people were executed in China in the last three months than in the rest of the world for the last three years." Yet, according to Amnesty these statistics are likely to be far below the actual number. "The figures above fall far below the actual number of death sentences and executions in China and are based on public reports which Amnesty International has monitored. Only a fraction of death sentences and executions carried out in China are publicly reported, with information selectively released by the relevant authorities. National statistics on the use of the death penalty remain a state secret."

Harvesting transplant organs from executed prisoner In 1994, Human Rights Watch/Asia issued a 42-page report that charged China with using executed prisoners as its main source for organ transplants. The report clearly demonstrated how any notion of "consent" to organ donation in China is absurd, given what it calls the "fundamentally coercive" situation in which persons condemned to undergo judicial execution are placed. The complete lack of judicial safeguards in China guarantees that many people will be wrongfully executed - and become unwitting organ donors. What the report underlined most disturbingly of all was that the practice of using prisoners' organs was common.

Citing government documents, doctors' statements and medical journal articles, the report reveals cases of kidneys being removed from prisoners the night before their executions. It also cited cases where some inmates were still alive when their organs were removed, and that often executions appeared to be scheduled according to transplant needs. Some executions are known to have been deliberately botched to ensure that prisoners were not yet dead when their organs were removed. The use of condemned prisoners' organs involves members of the medical profession in the actual execution process, in violation of international standards of medical ethics. Patients requesting Chinese surgeons for transplants are often advised to wait until a major holiday, when authorities traditionally execute the most prisoners. China's preferred method of capital punishment, a bullet to the back of the head, is conducive to transplants because it does not contaminate the prisoners' organs with poisonous chemicals, as lethal injections do, or directly affect the circulatory system, as would a bullet through the heart.

This Human Rights Watch report caused a brief stir in the West but was soon forgotten. A few years ago, in New York City the police broke up a bespoke service in the sale of organs of executed prisoners organised by Chinese officials. An article in the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE on June 15, 2000 cited Dr. S.Y. Tan, one of Malaysia's leading kidney specialists, as claiming that more than 1,000 Malaysians have had kidney transplants in China from executed prisoners. Transplant patients from Thailand, Taiwan and other countries are reported to be using such services in China, and there are indications that this trend is increasing. All reports point to the absolute commercial nature of the transplant sales and affirm that organs are sold to the highest bidders, usually foreigners.

The latest report8 to date on this subject was one made in June of this year (2001) by a former Chinese Army doctor, Wang Guoqi, to a United States Congressional committee. Where he described how he removed skin and corneas from the bodies of executed prisoners. He described how injections of the anticoagulant heparin were given to the prisoners by hospital staff before the executions. After the prisoner was shot in the back of the head, transplant surgeons rushed to remove the liver, kidneys cornea and other organs either in an ambulance at the execution site or at a crematory. Dr. Wang reported that he witnessed doctors remove kidneys and other organs from victims who were still breathing. The Times article cited mounting evidence that China was selling organs from executed prisoners, sometimes to Americans. "Transplant doctors in the United States report that an increasing number of patients are showing up for post-transplant care after travelling to China for organs, particularly kidneys, that they would have to wait up to years in the West."

Routine torture of prisoners The use of torture to extract confessions is routine in China's penal system. Furthermore, torture does not appear to result from random police brutality, miscarriage of justice, or anomalies in the application of the law, but is inherent in the system. An Amnesty International Report released in 1987 concluded: "We believe the law enforcement system and the justice system in China actually fosters torture." China signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1988, but nothing has changed since then.

Methods of torture consist of solitary confinement in windowless cells too small to stand up in, kneeling on glass shards, electrocution with high-voltage currents, and some cultural revolution favorites like the "airplane" where one's arms are forced backwards-and-up till the shoulders pop from their sockets; and also being strung up by the wrist or thumbs for days. Older traditional methods like the bamboo splint under the fingernail, and extraction of fingernails, have made their reappearance according to the Amnesty report. Beatings with clubs and truncheons are regular and since security personnel have been trained in Chinese martial arts (wushu), they are knowledgeable as to pressure and pain points in the body.

An article in THE BOSTON GLOBE, May 10, 2001, mentions the death under torture of Zhou Jianxiong, a 30-year-old agricultural worker from Chunhua township in Hunan province, on 15 May 1998. He was tortured by officials from the township birth control office to make him reveal the whereabouts of his wife, suspected of being pregnant without permission. Zhou was hung upside down, repeatedly whipped and beaten with wooden clubs, burned with cigarette butts, branded with soldering irons, and had his genitals ripped off.

For women in particular, especially in the case of nuns in Tibet, torture routinely includes rape by security personnel. Furthermore, use of electric-batons on women's genitalia has been frequently reported from prisons in Tibet. Tibetan children, some as young as nine years old, have been detained and tortured by Chinese security personnel, according to a report entitled A GENERATION IN PERIL: THE LIVES OF TIBETAN CHILDREN UNDER CHINESE RULE, released in March 2001, by the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet. The report documents for the first time the routine practice of torturing even children arrested for "political" offenses. The report also states that children are detained in deplorable conditions, often without notice to their families, and held for months or even years without a trial or access to a lawyer.

Criminal psychiatric abuse of political prisoners Under Mao, psychiatry in any form was written off as the invention of bourgeois capitalism. But a report in The Columbia Journal of Asian Law authored by Robin Munro, a British researcher (cited in a New York Times article of February 18, 2001) condemned China's practice of imprisoning dissenters in psychiatric hospitals. The Times article mentions that previously "China has not been known for the systematic abuses of psychiatry that occurred in the Soviet Union, where hundreds of dissidents were spuriously diagnosed as schizophrenic and locked away. But Mr. Munro's article reported that at least 3,000 people who were arrested for some kind of "political" crime were referred for psychiatric evaluation, with many of them deemed mentally ill and subsequently imprisoned.

Besides labor activists like Cao Maobing, mentioned earlier, and Wang Wanzing (diagnosed as "paranoid psychotic" for unfurling a pro-democracy banner in Tiananmen Square), the latest victims of this criminal abuse of psychiatry are members of the Falun Gong religious sect, whom the official press have openly branded as mentally disturbed and needing treatment. Hundreds of followers have been forcibly hospitalized and medicated according to reports from human rights monitors and many locked away.

Military occupation and genocide in Tibet China invaded Tibet in 1950. After crushing all resistance, a systematic campaign was launched to destroy the Tibetan people and their way of life. This movement reached its crescendo during the Cultural Revolution, but continues to this day, in varying degrees of violence and severity. According to the latest estimates over six thousand monasteries, temples and historical monuments have been destroyed, along with incalculably vast quantities of priceless artistic and religious objects - and countless books and manuscripts of Tibet's unique and ancient learning. Over a million Tibetans have been killed by execution, torture and starvation, while hundreds of thousands of others have been forced to slave in remote and desolate forced labor camps.

In spite of the Dalai Lama's many concessions and repeated efforts to negotiate on the question of Tibet, Chinese leaders have rejected all his overtures. Beijing's declared strategy now is to wait until the Dalai Lama dies, after which it is confident that the Tibetan issue could be terminated without international outcry. To ensure this, Beijing has adopted a policy of escalating Chinese population transfer to Tibet, deliberate subversion of Tibetan culture and identity, and the demoralization of Tibetans through unemployment, inferior educational opportunities, and unrelenting and ruthless repression of the Tibetan people by the organs of state security. In the last year, political repression has taken on new rigor with more arrests, torture, executions and vastly increased deployment of informers and security personnel throughout the country, especially in urban areas.

Though such measures have been successful in suppressing large scale-demonstrations and the kind of violent "independence" riots that broke out all over Tibet, especially in Lhasa, the capital city, in the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, they have been unable to contain public protests by individuals and small groups (especially young nuns). More disturbing for State Security is the rise of bombing incidents in Tibet. These started in the mid-eighties with random and often harmless explosions of crude pipe bombs, but which now seems to be gaining in technical sophistication and political determination, as evinced by the case of a suicide bomber who disrupted a major official sports ceremony in Lhasa in 1999.

Draconian repression in East Turkestan In far western China, the Uighur (a Turkic people) have been waging a decades-long struggle to establish the republic of East Turkestan. Just in the past few years there have been more than 130 uprisings, according to Uighur sources. The Chinese have responded with a draconian campaign of terror to wipe out Uighur nationalism. Daily arrests and public executions are part of 'normal' life in the bazaars of the Silk Route today. Mass executions of over fifty prisoners at a time have been reported.

Besides the invariable human rights abuses, the "one-child policy", large-scale population transfer of Chinese people to East Turkestan, and Chinese racism, the Uighurs protest China's nuclear tests in the region, which they claim has been the cause of serious and unexplained health problems in Uighur society. China has conducted 46 nuclear tests so far, and all of

back to Tibet page

Main Page: Reverse Spins