UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Publishes 2007 Human Rights Annual Report

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On 25th March 2008, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office published its 2007 Human Rights Annual Report.

Regarding the human rights situations in China, the report stated that the UK Government has “ongoing concerns” about “the scope of the death penalty and lack of transparency in its use; torture; the lack of an independent judiciary; obstacles to fair trials; arbitrary detention, including reeducation through labour (RTL); unsatisfactory prison conditions and ill treatment of prisoners; failure to protect human rights defenders; harassment of religious practitioners; restrictive regimes in Xinjiang and Tibet; and limitations on freedom of expression and association.”

Regarding the notorious labour camp or RTL system in China, the report says “We remain concerned that large numbers of Chinese individuals are detained without judicial process in RTL centres. … We continue to raise concerns about this practice, particularly the reportedly high number of Falun Gong practitioners detained, and encourage China to abolish all forms of administrative detention.”

The report further stated that the UK Government “remain very concerned by the narrow range of officially sanctioned religious groups in China, the restriction and harassment of unregistered believers, and reports of the harassment and detention of Falun Gong adherents.”

On the issue of unethical organ harvesting, the report explained “On 1st May 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Health implemented new legislation banning the sale of organs and requiring the written consent of donors. (This replaced a temporary regulation which came into effect on 1st July 2006.) The regulation did not rule out the use of organs from executed prisoners. We hope the Chinese authorities will continue to make progress towards international ethical standards for transplantation.”

Other specific areas highlighted include freedoms of press and expression. The Report states “A new law on reporting emergencies came into force on 1st November 2007, which bans the dissemination of “false information”. It provides for punitive measures, from shutting down publications to criminal prosecution.

“During the run-up to the 17th party congress in October 2007, there was an increase in pre- emptive action against protestors and activists. We have expressed concern to China about such cases. It is strongly in China’s interests to allow greater freedom of expression as this will increase accountability and promote better policy.”

The report also outlined the actions taken by the UK and EU. For example, the “UK and EU continue to take immediate action on priority cases of concern. A number of démarches have been carried out during the period under review. The Chinese government has given disappointing responses. Officials from the British Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate General in Guangzhou have made repeated efforts to attend the trials of individuals in priority cases but have so far been denied access.”

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