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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Rights groups criticise China

Police have arrested thousands in the run-up to 1 October

Human rights groups have attacked China's human rights record and called for reforms, as the country prepares to celebrate 50 years of communist rule.

China: 50 years of communism / Revolution Glossary
The UK-based Amnesty International said the anniversary should be an occasion for the government to deepen the process of reform and ensure respect for the rights of Chinese people in future.

It also called on China to "stop arbitrary detention, torture and executions" and take radical action to reform the law enforcement and justice systems.

Mass executions

The state-controlled Chinese media announced last Friday that the courts intended to sentence more than 200 to death before the anniversary celebrations begin on 1 October.

[ image: The authorities are more keenly wary of unrest than usual]
The authorities are more keenly wary of unrest than usual
One report said 238 prisoners will be executed in the southern province of Guangdong alone before the anniversary.

Correspondents say most executions in China are usually carried out immediately after the sentence has been handed down.

According to Amnesty, which campaigns against the death penalty worldwide, about half of all executions take place in China.

[ image: President Jiang asked the Global Forum to
President Jiang asked the Global Forum to "understand" China
Another group, the US-based Human Rights in China (HRIC) urged international business leaders with links to the country to put human rights on the agenda.

"There's little for the Chinese people to celebrate" on 1 October, HRIC said in a statement timed to coincide with the Fortune Global Forum meeting in Shanghai.

President Jiang Zemin told 300 chief executives of multinational companies gathered in Shanghai that they must understand Chinese values and the "right to survival and development" before making judgements about human rights.

'Prisoners of conscience'

Although there is no evidence to suggest dissidents are among those expected to be killed this week, reports from China say political activists have been targetted before the anniversary celebrations.

[ image: China used death penalty freely after the 1989 pro-democracy rallies]
China used death penalty freely after the 1989 pro-democracy rallies
Amnesty says in recent months China has carried out "the most serious crackdown on peaceful dissent" since the aftermath of pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989.

"The government has detained a broad range of people who dared to exercise peacefully their rights to freedom of expression or association," the group said, adding that long sentences have been handed down for subversion under sweeping national security provisions introduced in 1997.

Amnesty said that as well as dissidents, those detained included people who had raised a whole range of issues, such as labour rights, the environment and corruption, and members of religious groups.

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