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Human rights in China worsening, US finds
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) April 19, 2013

China Nobel laureate releases new book
Beijing (AFP) April 19, 2013 - Chinese Nobel literature laureate Mo Yan released a new book Friday charting his experience receiving the award in Sweden last December, state media reported.

The book, titled "Grand Ceremony", is his first to be published since he won the 2012 Nobel Prize, Xinhua news agency said. It was released at a national book fair.

Mo, speaking at a ceremony on China's southern island of Hainan, said he wanted to give readers a "first-hand" glimpse into his greatest achievement, the report said.

"The new book also shows my great eagerness to return to my desk to write my next book," he was quoted as saying.

The author, born Guan Moye, whose pen name means "not speak", won the Nobel in October for what judges called his "hallucinatory realism".

His works cover some of the darkest periods of China's recent history, and are often infused with politics and a black, cynical humour.

Though he has won praise from literary critics, Chinese dissidents have attacked him as a Communist stooge.

But Mo, a member of the Communist Party, said in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel earlier this year that he writes "on behalf of the people, not the party".

Historic Chinese silk scroll up for auction in France
Bordeaux (AFP) April 20, 2013 - A section of a silk handscroll depicting a historically important trip by China's longest-serving Emperor is to go up for auction in France next week.

Two other Chinese pieces from private French collections will also go under the hammer on April 27 as part of a sale hosted by auctioneers Alain Briscadieu.

The section of scroll on offer is part of the sixth in a celebrated series of 12 painted by the artist Wang Hui (1632-1717) to record a tour of inspection of southern China by the Emperor Kangxi.

Kangxi ruled from 1661-1722 and his trips to the south are seen as having helped consolidate Beijing's rule over all of what constitutes modern China.

The fragment on sale here depicts landscapes, crowds, horsemen and boats and measures 2.5m x 0.68m. It is expected to sell for up to 200,000 euros ($260,000).

Chinese art expert Philippe Delalande said such handscrolls were often split up in the 1930s or 40s after being imported by European merchants. At that time they were not nearly as sought-after as they are today, when a complete scroll would be likely to fetch up to fifteen million euros.

Delalande said he was aware of two other sections of the scroll, one owned by a Chinese collector and one by another enthusiast in Phoenix, Arizona. "The whereabouts of the other pieces is a mystery," he told AFP. "Everyone needs to have a good look through their attics!"

The other two prized items on sale are a Doucai porcelain plate from the Qianlong period (1736-1795) of the Qing dynasty which has the emperor's stamp. "It is an exceptionally fine and large (50.7-cm-diameter) example of the period," added Delalande. It is expected to sell for between 50,000 and 70,000 euros.

The third piece is a gilt bronze of a Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. It has been estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000 euros but could, according to Delalande, go for more than three times as much if there is significant interest from Chinese collectors.

Auctions of ancient Chinese relics often attract a lot of Chinese buyers who are keen to bring them back to their country.

China's human rights record worsened in 2012 amid an increasingly harsh crackdown on Tibetan and Uighur areas, the United States warned Friday in an annual report.

"The human rights environment in China continued to deteriorate in 2012," the State Department said in its human rights report.

It highlighted "a crackdown on human rights activists, increasingly harsh repression in ethnic Tibetan and Uighur areas" and growing online censorship.

"Individuals and members of groups seen as politically sensitive by the authorities continued to face tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel," the report said.

And it denounced the use of "enforced disappearance, soft detention and strict house arrest" to stifle dissent.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who traveled to Beijing over the weekend, raised specific cases during his talks with Chinese leaders, including Chen Kegui, the nephew of blind self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng.

Chen Guangcheng infuriated Beijing authorities by exposing forced abortions, and dramatically escaped house arrest in April 2012 by scaling the walls of his home and taking a getaway car to the US embassy.

His nephew was jailed for three years in November for attacking officials who descended on his village after the dissident fled to the US embassy.

The US report also highlighted the "deplorable" conditions in North Korea, where defectors "continued to report extrajudicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, arrests of political prisoners, and torture."

And it denounced the North's "vast network of political prison camps, in which conditions were harsh and life-threatening."

But there was praise for Myanmar, also known by its former name of Burma, where military leaders have brought in some lightning democratic reforms.

"Since 2011 the government has released more than 700 political prisoners, many of whom had been imprisoned for more than a decade," the report said, as it noted the free and fair by-elections in April in which long-time opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament.

"However, Burma's transition is not yet complete," it warned, adding a lot of work will be "essential" to ensure free and fair national elections in 2015.

"Many elements of the country's authoritarian structure -- repressive laws, pervasive security apparatus, corrupt judiciary, restrictions on freedom of religion and dominance of the military -- remain largely intact," it said.

Human trafficking remained an issue of great concern, and urgent work was needed to overcome ethnic tensions wracking Kachin and Rakhine states.

"It will require government action to protect the human rights of all individuals in Burma, and it will require real leadership from influential religious, political, and community figures," the report said.

Kerry also praised Myanmar's progress, saying that "the Burmese government has opened the doors to a stronger partnership with our neighborhood and with countries around the world."

"Has it reached where we want it to be? But it's on the road. It's moving," he told journalists in unveiling the 2012 report.

The report concluded that "ultimately, Burma's future will be determined by the Burmese people, but its democratic transition, if successful and fully implemented, could serve as an example for other closed societies."

Vietnam was also singled out for criticism, with the report saying that human rights had deteriorated there in 2012.

"Authorities restricted freedom of expression, imprisoned dissidents using vague national security legislation, harassed activists and their families, and disregarded the rule of law," it said.


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