CHINA'S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD IS STILL BAD
Your editorial of January 16 headlined 'Welcome Change', misrepresents what Human Rights Watch said in our 2003 World Report about human rights conditions in China last year.
Nothing in our report suggested a change in attitude or policy on the part of the Chinese government. Restrictions on free expression, association and assembly, and religion remain in place. Labour activists peacefully protesting loss of wages and pensions, political dissidents writing about democracy on the Internet, and religious believers who chose to worship outside of state control, were subject to arbitrary detention and to trials lacking even a semblance of due process. The report also documented China's use of anti-terrorism rhetoric to crack down hard on cultural and religious expression by ethnic Uighurs in the country's northwest Xinjiang region.
What Human Rights Watch did say was that the tools of repression had become more finely crafted. In the case of labour activists, for example, the government, wary of a backlash, avoided mass arrests, but tried worker leaders on subversion charges. It is a mischaracterisation of our position to say we are 'guardedly approving a perceived change of attitude' in China.
Quite to the contrary, with respect to human rights, China's performance still falls far short of international standards.
Human Rights Watch
New York, US