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China Reform Monitor No. 156, January 19, 1999
American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, D.C.

Farmers, Workers Battle Police in Protests over Corruption, Taxes;
Beijing "Blasts" Washington for Remarks on Human Rights

January 12

Human rights talks in Washington between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Guangya and State Department human rights coordinator Harold Koh began as another prominent Chinese dissident Zhou Yongjun, a survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was reported missing and presumed arrested, the Washington Times reports. The talks were opposed by Chinese and Western democracy advocates. "There has been virtually no progress on any of President Clinton's human rights goals," wrote Amnesty International representative T. Kumar, in a letter to the U.S. Congress. Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House expressed skepticism, "They [Chinese government) think they can sign a treaty on human rights and appease the West while arresting Christian leaders and dissidents. It is a strategy of deception and they think the Clinton people will buy it."

January 14

The Chinese government lashed out at "irresponsible" U.S. criticism of its record on human rights, less than 24 hours after talks ended in Washington, Agence France Presse reports. At a Beijing news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi stated, "We believe that some of these issues are the domestic affairs of China and we do not wish to hear irresponsible remarks from other countries." Beijing was especially agitated over U.S. inquiry into the detention of a nine-year old Tibetan monk, the Panchen Lama.

January 15

Election observers from the Atlanta-based Carter Center issued a negative report on recent local elections in China, the Cox News Service reports. Following a recent six-day visit to China, the observers found "irregularities at almost all stages" of the balloting. According to the report, the elections for township government representatives around the central Chinese city of Chingdong, "fell significantly short" of all the benchmarks of democracy, including offering voters a genuine choice, a transparent nomination process, a secret ballot and a public vote count.

The Associated Press reports that 1,000 Chinese police used tear gas and clubs to break up a demonstration of more than 3,000 farmers in Hunan province, killing one person and injuring more than 100. The January 8 protest was sparked by the arrest of organizers of the local "Lower taxes and Save the Country Society," formed by local farmers to protest corruption and high local taxes. As word of the arrest spread, farmers in the area rushed to Daolin village, near the province capital, to thwart the police. At least 110 people were reported arrested during the demonstration.

January 16

New clashes have been reported in rural China between villagers and police, reports Agence France Presse. In northern Zhaanxi province, hundreds of police were sent to suppress some 1,000 villagers demonstrating against local elections dominated by Communist Party officials. And in the eastern province of Jiangsu, around 100 people demonstrated against taxes in the village of Guoyuan. The villagers marched to the nearby town of Xuzhou, where they clashed with police. Ten persons were injured and ten were arrested.

--Al Santoli

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