SAN FRANCISCO (March 16, 2008) – Chinese arrests for “endangering state security” (ESS) rose again in 2007 to their highest level in eight years, according to statistics announced by a senior Chinese law enforcement official on March 10. The increase in Chinese political arrests follows a doubling of such arrests in 2006 over 2005.

In delivering the Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s annual work report to the National People’s Congress, China’s highest legislative body, outgoing Procurator-General Jia Chunwang revealed that Chinese prosecutors had approved “formal” arrests for 2,404 individuals detained by public security and state security police in ESS cases during the five years from 2003 to 2007.

“The figure cited by Jia means that the number of ESS arrests in 2007 reached 742—the highest number since 1999,” noted Joshua Rosenzweig, manager of research and programs at The Dui Hua Foundation. “There’s no guesswork about this—the numbers for all the other years have already been published by the Chinese government.”

The latest figures show that more than half of all Chinese political arrests during the five-year period beginning in 2003 were concentrated in the years 2006 and 2007. The statistics revealed last week also show an increase in the number of prosecutions initiated in ESS cases, with 619 indictments in 2007, compared to 561 in 2006 and 349 in 2005.

Under Chinese law, “endangering state security” crimes include prohibitions against 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 in 1997, the ESS provisions are primarily aimed at suppressing political dissent in the name of protecting the “security and interests of the [Chinese] state.” Other, non-ESS charges are also commonly brought against individuals who lead “rights defending” protests against injustice or participate in unauthorized religious groups.

Among those formally arrested on ESS charges in 2007 were Zhejiang political activist Lü Gengsong (sentenced in February 2008 to four years in prison for “inciting subversion”); Runggye AdrakAdruk Lopoe, and two other Tibetans connected to an incident in August during which pro-independence slogans were shouted, and Yang Chunlin, a farmer from Heilongjiang currently awaiting sentencing for leading protesters in a demand for “human rights, not the Olympics.” (The case of activist Hu Jia, whose trial for “inciting subversion” is scheduled to open on March 18 in Beijing, is not counted under the 2007 statistics because he was not formally arrested until January 2008.)

“These numbers remind us that in spite of all of the information that comes out of China about the government’s crackdown on political dissent,” said Rosenzweig, “for the most part the arrests are taking place out of the public view. Even after all of our research, it turns out we still only know the names of two or three percent of those being arrested.”

The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
March 16, 2008