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State Dept. Human Rights Report Hits China

By Steve Hurst/CNN Human rights

WASHINGTON (Jan. 30) -- China wiped out public dissent against the Marxist regime in Beijing last year through torture, mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions and other classic abuses of power by the Communist Party and government, the State Department said in its annual human rights report.

The report also pointed a finger toward Cuba, and called Russia's human rights experience of the last year "mixed." U.S. allies Turkey and Israel were also criticized in the report.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is scheduled to visit Beijing in late February as part of her first tour abroad in office. Among the report's findings regarding China:

"The Chinese government in 1996 continued to commit widespread and well-documented human rights abuses, in violation of internationally accepted norms, stemming from authorities' intolerance of dissent, fear of unrest and the continuing absence of laws protecting basic freedoms.

"All public dissent against party and government was effectively silenced by intimidation, exile, or the imposition of prison terms, administrative detention, or house arrests. No dissidents were known to be active at year's end."

Looking ominously to the return of Hong Kong, the British colony, to China this year, the report says Beijing was threatening the "civil liberties and political institutions" of the enclave through "restrictive measures taken by the Chinese government."

The report's overview dealt with Cuba, an longtime U.S. nemesis, in just 16 words:

"Cuba remains a totalitarian anachronism, where human rights deteriorated in 1996, and suppression of dissent worsened."

The authors called the Russian human rights record last year "mixed," as the former communist monolith "continues to undergo profound transformations as its as yet unfinished democratic institutions and practices continue to evolve."

The report congratulated Moscow for its first-ever democratic presidential elections and a second multiparty balloting for parliament, while noting that "always harsh" prison conditions have worsened and lengthy pre-trial detentions continued.

NATO ally Turkey, which regularly receives dismal marks, was said to have been "unable to sustain improvements made in 1995," which made 1996 an "uneven" year. The report focused on the continuing battles between the central government and Kurdish separatists in the southeast of Turkey, where atrocities from both sides are regular events.

Israel, the State Department said, generally respects human rights, but "authorities continue to hold and mistreat Palestinian security detainees, and detention and prison conditions, particularly for Palestinians, are poor."

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