Laogai Research Foundation

September, 1996 Newsletter

China’s Ambassor Responds to Human Rights Criticism

On April 15, 1996 the Chinese Ambassador at the United Nations in Geneva expressed his dissatisfaction with recent criticism about the number of public executions in his country. In trying to downplay the attacks, Wu Jianmin equated the number of China’s executed prisoners with Europe’s annual traffic fatalities. He said, "2,000 death penalties in a population of 1.2 billion. You see…How many are killed in road accidents in Europe each year?" Wu Jianmin went on to say, "He who kills must pay with his blood."

The reality is that the number released by the Chinese government is far less than the figures arrived at by many human rights organizations. They estimate that approximately 10,000 are publicly executed each year. Also, the showcasing of public executions does not respect the dignity of the prisoners.

To associate calculated, cold-blooded executions with accidental traffic fatalities is preposterous. His comments come at a time when China has embarked upon a massive crime campaign designed to root out all types of "criminals". In many cases, the executed prisoners are sentenced to death for nothing more than stealing a bicycle or dissenting politically. It is distressing that Wu Jianmin would feel inclined to offer such an outrageous comparison.

For years China’s human rights record has been called into question. To the disappointment of many, these recent comments reflect the Chinese government’s complete disregard for human dignity. And what is more unfortunate is China’s reluctance to improve conditions for the future. Wu Jianmin ended by saying, "Tradition is a strong force which cannot be changed overnight." Wu Jianmin and others in the Chinese government should realize that only with the correction of such outdated thinking can China be accepted in the community of nations.

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