Feb 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department’s annual report on human rights conditions worldwide in 2008 highlighted continued repression in communist-ruled China, North Korea and Vietnam as well as army-controlled Myanmar. Here are rights issues in selected Asian countries, according to the report released on Wednesday:
CHINA - China’s human rights record "remained poor and worsened in some areas." It cited tight curbs on freedom of speech and media, including the Internet, and harassment of dissidents, human rights activists and lawyers. China’s cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities worsened in predominantly Muslim Xinjiang and in Buddhist Tibet, and abuses peaked around the Olympic Games. The government harassed and detained signatories of the Charter ‘08 movement, which called for respect for universal human rights and political reforms. The detention and forced repatriation of North Korean refugees remained a problem.
NORTH KOREA - The record of the reclusive state led by Kim Jong-il "remained abysmal" with the government controlling almost all aspects of citizens’ lives. Reports of abuses such as extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and arbitrary detention emerged with increased frequency, but remained difficult to confirm. Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening, with torture and forced abortions on pregnant female prisoners. Some repatriated refugees faced severe punishment.
VIETNAM - Vietnamese citizens faced significant restrictions, including suppression of dissent, arbitrary detention for political activities, denial of fair trials and abuse in official custody. Limits on freedom included a crackdown on press freedom and restrictions on assembly, movement and association. Workers’ rights were restricted and labor activists were arrested or harassed.
MYANMAR - The former Burma’s military junta "continued its oppressive methods" and "showed contempt for the welfare of its own citizens" by holding a fraudulent referendum and blocking international aid in the aftermath of a deadly cyclone. Severe abuses including extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture. Rights and democracy activists faced harassment, arbitrary detentions and lengthy prison sentences in life-threatening conditions. The army attacked ethnic minority areas, with ongoing severe violations of ethnic minorities’ rights and trafficking in persons. (Reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington, editing by Patricia Zengerle)