According to a Voice of America editorial broadcast on April 7, 2002, “China’s release of Takna Jigme Sangpo is good news. Further steps — many further steps — would be welcome.”

From Voice of America April 7, 2002:

This past week, the Chinese government released a man said to be its longest-serving political prisoner. Takna Jigme Sangpo [TAHK-nah JIG-may SAHNG-po], seventy-six, had been in prison since 1983 for speaking out against Chinese rule in Tibet. He was released on medical parole from a term due to end in 2011.

China’s release of Takna Jigme Sangpo is good news. Further steps — many further steps — would be welcome. As the U.S. State Department points out in its latest human rights report, many political prisoners remain in Chinese jails and forced-labor camps. China’s Communist authorities are quick to suppress any person or group, whether religious, political, or social, that they deem a threat. Citizens who seek to express dissenting views face an environment of repression.

Human rights abuses in China include extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest, lengthy incommunicado detention, and denial of due process. Cases of forced abortion and forced sterilization continue to be reported. There are tight restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, and the Chinese government seeks to control and monitor the Internet. The Chinese government continues to jam broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in the Mandarin and Tibetan languages. Freedom of assembly, association, and movement are severely restricted.

In recent years, the number of religious believers has grown rapidly in China. But fundamental violations of religious freedom continue. Crackdowns continue against groups that refuse to submit to government control, including many Protestants and Roman Catholics, Muslim Uighurs, and Tibetan Buddhists. Many religious leaders have been imprisoned. Thousands of adherents of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement have been jailed, and some two-hundred have reportedly died in custody.

On his visit to China in February, President George W. Bush pointed out that, “For centuries, [China] had a tradition of religious tolerance. My prayer,” he said, “is that all persecution will end, so that all in China are free to gather and worship as they wish.” As President Bush said, respect for religious freedom and other rights “will lead to a stronger, more confident China — a China that can astonish and enrich the world.”