US report lists rights abuses in China, Russia

Report gives chilling account of alleged torture in China, including use of electric shocks, beatings, shackles, and other forms of abuse.

Chinese police 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Chinese police 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
China, host of the summer Olympics, is an authoritarian nation that denies its people basic human rights and freedoms, harasses journalists and foreign aid workers and tortures prisoners, the United States charged Tuesday. China is still among the world's human rights abusers despite rapid economic growth that has transformed large parts of Chinese society, the State Department said in an annual accounting of human rights practices around the world. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement that, despite challenges, champions of human rights are persevering around the world. "This document is collected and written with the optimism that no corner of the earth is permanently condemned to tyranny," she said. "Change may, indeed change will, take time; but change will come." The Chinese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But China annually lashes out against US criticism of its rights record. It has denounced the United States for rampant violence and widespread discrimination against minorities. The report gives a chilling account of alleged torture in China, including the use of electric shocks, beatings, shackles, and other forms of abuse. It includes an account of a prisoner strapped to a "tiger bench," as device that forces the legs to bend sometimes until they break. The report details the lengths some Chinese officials have taken to enforce China's well-known "one child" policy, and says forced relocations went up last year. The report notes claims that people were forced from their homes to make way for Olympic projects in Beijing. "The year 2007 saw increased efforts to control and censor the Internet, and the government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the domestic press," the report says of China. "The government continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison journalists, Internet writers, and bloggers." The country-by-country report is compiled separately from US diplomatic efforts, and presented to Congress. The report also notes further backsliding in President Vladimir Putin's Russia last year, and ticks off a string of undemocratic moves taken by close US ally President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. "In Russia, centralization of power in the executive branch, a compliant State Duma, corruption and selectivity in enforcement of the law," onerous restrictions on aid groups and the media "continued to erode the government's accountability to its citizens," the report said. The report said Pakistan's human rights situation worsened during the year, "stemming primarily from President Musharraf's decision to impose a 42-day state of emergency, suspend the constitution, and dismiss the Supreme and High Provincial Courts." Political adversaries Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe and Syria were all listed as human rights abusers. Sudan's record was called "horrific." North Korea is called an absolute dictatorship with repressive policies that control the most basic aspects of daily life. The report does not mention the intensive US campaign for nuclear disarmament in North Korea, which included the first regular visits in decades by US diplomats to the secretive regime in 2007. "Pregnant female prisoners underwent forced abortions in some cases, and in other cases babies were killed upon birth in prisons," the report noted in its section covering detention and imprisonment in the North.