Confidential Report Lists 'Significant' Abuses German Foreign Ministry Criticizes China's Human Rights Record

A new German Foreign Ministry report is extremely critical of the human rights situation in China. The confidential report, which has been seen by SPIEGEL, contains a long list of abuses of human rights and democratic principles.

The Chinese government was hoping that the Beijing Summer Olympics in August would be a PR coup for the country. Instead, China's controversial human rights record is increasingly overshadowing the high-profile sporting event.

Now SPIEGEL has learned that a confidential German Foreign Ministry status report on China lists "significant" abuses of human rights and serious breaches of democratic principles.

Although the report, which is dated March 18, says that improvements can be seen in the human rights situation in China, the document still contains a damning list of criticisms. The death penalty is "excessively imposed and carried out," the report reads. Laws are "introduced or ignored" for political ends, the report continues, while dissidents are held in custody for as long as is necessary "from the point of view of political expediency." Authorities censor the media and the government reacts to criticism with draconic punishments, the report claims.

The Foreign Ministry is also critical of the Chinese justice system. For example, trials of terrorism suspects often take place behind closed doors, and the defendants seldom receive a public defender to provide them with legal representation.

The report also lists several other abuses of human rights and democratic principles, including "torture, police misconduct and a lack of freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has consistently taken a firm stance on China's human rights record, saying recently that she was prepared to meet  with Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama again -- something that would be bound to antagonize China. Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama last year led to a prolonged chill in relations between Germany and China. However German industry leaders, worried about adverse effects on their business interests in China, have called for calm dialogue  and warned against pushing the country too far.

China's policies on human rights -- particularly in relation to Tibet -- have become a focus of criticism in the run-up to the Olympic Games. Pro-Tibet protestors have tried to disrupt the Olympic torch relay in several Western cities, prompting retaliatory anti-Western protests in China .


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