China: the true costs of success

As President Hu Jintao arrives in Britain on a controversial state visit, these are the true costs of the economic success story of our age
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China executes about 10,000 people a year. Amnesty International says that in any three-month period, it kills more of its people than the rest of the world does over three years. The executed include those found guilty offences such as bribery, embezzlement and stealing petrol. Innocent people are frequently killed. Most executions take place after sentences are imposed at rallies in front of massive crowds.


Disappearances and torture of supporters of the Dalai Lama are commonplace. President Hu Jintao ruled as Communist Party secretary with a rod of iron from 1988 to 1992 when hundreds of Tibetans were killed or imprisoned. Last week he said Tibet had been an "inalienable part of Chinese territory" since the 13th century, and he challenged the Dalai Lama to "renounce his Tibetan independence proposition ... and really do something useful and beneficial for his country".


Police psychiatrists systematically misdiagnose political dissidents, religious nonconformists, persistent complainers and petitioners, independent trade unionists, and whistleblowers against corruption as being "dangerously mentally ill". They are "treated" at mental asylums.

Armed force

While protesting it is a peace-loving country, China is now the third or fourth mightiest military power in the world. China is a strategic nuclear force and its navy is moving into the open seas. In the past two years, China has unveiled a new attack submarine and a new light battleship. There has been sabre-rattling against Taiwan and even Japan.


In the mostly Muslim autonomous region of Xinjiang China has cracked down on religious practitioners and activists and abused them in prisons and "re-education through labour" camps. Some have been executed. Detainees are beaten with shackles, given electric shocks, and kicked unconscious. China's support for the "war against terrorism" will gain it international support (or at least silence) for its own crackdown.

Bird flu

China's secrecy and initial denials over the 2003 Sars epidemic were criticised by world health officials. Beijing has taken a similar approach to bird flu. There are fears that the culture of secrecy will disguise the scale of outbreak and help the spread of a pandemic that may kill millions.


As China's economy expands with double-digit growth, it is becoming probably the single greatest threat to the planet. With a population of 1.3billion, it has overtaken the US as the world's leading consumer of grain, meat, coal and steel.

Its drive for coal-fired power stations is vastly increasing the world output of greenhouse gases, and it is resisting limits. Within 20 years, its output will dwarf any cuts the rest of the world can make.


Falun Gong and Protestant groups face severe repression. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion are restricted. No organisation is tolerated that could challenge the Communist Party's control over aspects of society it deems crucial. Google has agreed to Beijing demands to exclude 'objectionable' links. Microsoft stops internet users searching for the words for democracy, freedom, human rights or demonstration.