SAN FRANCISCO (November 27, 2007) – Chinese arrests for “endangering state security” (ESS) doubled in 2006 over the previous year, according to official statistics recently released by the Chinese government.

The just-published 2007 China Law Yearbook reveals that in 2006 state prosecutors approved the arrest of 604 individuals detained by public security and state security police in ESS cases, up from 296 in 2005. This marks the highest number of ESS arrests in China since 2002.

The statistics also show the initiation of prosecutions in 258 ESS cases involving 561 individuals in 2006, compared to 185 cases involving 349 people in 2005.

“These are some of the only official numbers that the Chinese government publishes with respect to its handling of political crime,” notes John Kamm, executive director of The Dui Hua Foundation. “This dramatic increase in arrests confirms the heightened crackdown on dissent in China that we’ve been witnessing since at least the middle of 2005.”

Since its founding in 1999, The Dui Hua Foundation has been engaged in a global search for information about Chinese political detainees and maintains a comprehensive database of information about Chinese political prisoners. Yet despite their intensive research efforts, foundation researchers were surprised to see how few of the individuals arrested for ESS in 2006 were in that database.

“Given the lack of transparency in the Chinese criminal justice system, we’ve estimated in the past that we know about roughly 10 percent of all Chinese political cases,” explains Joshua Rosenzweig, Dui Hua’s research manager. “But these latest figures suggest that arrests have been taking place on a larger scale and under even greater secrecy than before.”

Among the roughly two dozen cases in Dui Hua’s database that can be correlated to the 2006 statistics are the arrests of veteran political activists such as Yang TongyanChen ShuqingYan Zhengxue, and Zhang Jianhong; the crusading defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng; and brothers Alim and Ablikim Abduriyim, who were implicated in the activities of their Uyghur-rights activist mother, Rebiya Kadeer. Also presumably included in the arrest figures for 2006 are more than 10 unconfirmed arrests of Tibetan activists in the eastern Tibetan regions traditionally known as Amdo and Kham.

Under Chinese law, the “endangering state security” category comprises such crimes as subversion and “splittism” (including the incitement thereof), as well as espionage and “illegally providing state secrets to overseas entities.” Basically replacing the category of “counterrevolution” following legal reforms ten years ago, the ESS provisions are primarily aimed at suppressing political dissent in the name of protecting the “security and interests of the [Chinese] state.”

In addition to those charged with ESS crimes, the Chinese criminal justice system punishes a much larger number of individuals for participation in banned organizations such as Falun Gong, membership in unauthorized religious groups, and taking part in “mass incident” protests against corruption, land seizures, environmental damage, and other injustices. These individuals are typically charged with crimes under the category of “disturbing the social order,” a category too broad to draw any meaningful conclusions about total numbers from the annual statistical information revealed in the China Law Yearbook.

The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
November 27, 2007