Special Report

The Chinese Lecture on Human Rights

Communist China issues a report criticizing America's human rights record.

By 3.20.06

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It is that time of year again when all of a sudden Beijing is concerned with human rights. The Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China issued a report on March 9 entitled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2005." This is a yearly ritual conducted by Beijing in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released annually by the United States. The PRC's report states its intentions with the following explanation: "To help people realize the true features of this self-styled 'guardian of human rights,' it is necessary to probe into the human rights abuses in the United States in 2005." Thus, China has entered into a political clash with the United States in an effort to expose Washington's "hypocrisy." But is this report anything more than a state-sponsored joke? You be the judge.

Entitled "On Life and Security of Person," the first section of the report explores the performance of the United States government in providing the necessary security required to protect its citizens. The crime rate in America is provided with particular emphasis on violent cities and well-publicized cases of homicides throughout the year. The idea here is that "the unchecked spread of guns has caused incessant murders" and that this constitutes a transparent violation of human rights. Perhaps if the United States only had a one-party dictatorship that squashed individual freedoms Americans would be fortunate enough to have a more peaceful society on the model of the Peoples Republic of China.

The following section details the supposed excesses of law enforcement and the judiciary. As evidence the report provides the juvenile epithet for the issue of domestic wiretapping as the "Snoopgate scandal" and notes: "Secret snooping is prevalent and illegal detention occurs from time to time." Additional support includes the allegation that while the "United States proclaims to be a 'paradise of freedom,'" more Americans are imprisoned than anywhere else in the world. However, to really drive home the human rights situation in America it is noted: "On December 21, 2005, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the Patriot Act, a move that aroused keen concern in public opinion." Oh, the nerve of the United States Senate!

The third section seeks to illustrate the deficiencies of political rights and opportunities in the United States. "The United States has always boasted itself as the 'model of democracy' and hawked its mode of democracy to the rest of the world," the report proclaims. It is than added, "In fact, American 'democracy' is always one for the wealthy and a 'game for the rich.'" To support the claim, Beijing explains that money plays a large role in elections and that lobbying can influence politics in Washington. In Beijing's opinion -- or at least in it rhetoric -- the United States is not really the model democracy to which it claims.

According to the State Council's report, to understand the state of democracy in America one must look no further than former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The report states: "Clark said it is an offense to democracy to describe the United States as a democracy." This is the same former 1960s official who has defended Slobodan Milosevic, Rwandan butchers, and Saddam Hussein. In his January 24, 2005 Los Angeles Times commentary entitled "Why I'm Willing to Defend Hussein," Clark proclaims that members of the Bush administration and the military should be tried for war crimes. He demands that "any court that considers criminal charges against Saddam Hussein must have the power and the mandate to consider charges against leaders and military personnel of the U.S., Britain and the other nations that participated in the aggression against Iraq, if equal justice under law is to have meaning." It's reassuring that the Chinese State Council relies on such a reputable barometer of law and justice as the unimpeachable Ramsey Clark.

Astoundingly, the report disparages the lack of representation of women in politics in the United States. This is a rather odd complaint considering that American women have the identical opportunity as men to run for political office, while it would not be reaching for straws to suggest that there is a slight lack of political representation in China of anyone who is not a member of the Communist Party. However, it is worth noting that it is not just the content of the government that is determined by China's communist elite.

The Chinese government's control of the press is so excessive that the non-governmental organization Freedom House rated China at 177 out of 194 countries in their 2005 global survey on press freedom. Nonetheless, Beijing's report contends that America "flaunts its press freedom but scandals about the U.S. government blocking and manipulating information came out continually" in 2005. The charge is that the United States is responsible for planting stories in the news media -- especially in Iraq -- that portray a positive image of America and its Armed Forces. While this may be true, the comparison of the United States government's ability and desire to shape the news with those of their counterparts in China is absurd at best. Twenty-seven million Iraqis today have a far more independent news spectrum than the 1.3 billion Chinese are permitted by their repressive government.

A substantial portion of the report is also devoted to racial discrimination and the rights of women and children in the United States. Beijing's report determined that racial discrimination is a problem in the justice and law enforcement communities in the United States. A primary piece of evidence to support this claim is that "William Bennett... once said that the only way to lower the crime rate in America was for all black women to have an abortion." If the inclusion of such an inconsequential support item were not enough, it should now be undebatable that Mr. Bennett's words were taken out of context, as he emphasized that such a suggestion would be reprehensible. This points clearly to the disingenuousness of China's State Council and is indicative of their report as a whole.

THE FINAL SECTION OF THE REPORT is entitled "On the United States' Violation of Human Rights in Other Countries." Several themes of dubious validity are offered in an attempt to portray the United States as a country that speaks of democracy and universal freedoms, but is, in fact, a principal violator of international human rights. The report states: "Pursuing unilateralism on the international arena, the U.S. government grossly violates the sovereignty and human rights of other countries in contempt of universally recognized international norms."

One area in which such violations occur is that Washington "frequently commits wanton slaughters of innocents in its war efforts and military operations in other countries." Beijing charges that the United States does not only use excessive force but deliberately targets civilians. "The year 2005 also witnessed frequent overseas military operations targeting at civilians by U.S. forces, causing quite a number of deaths and injuries." The dictators running Beijing should know that the United States does not target civilians in Iraq or anywhere else in the world, but has freed millions from the very tyranny that the Communist Party of China continues to support around the globe.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang stated in a March 9 press conference: "The U.S. should put an end to its erroneous act of interfering with other countries' internal affairs and mind more of its own human rights issues." Make no mistake about it; this rather candid remark illuminates the genuine motivations of the State Council's annual report on the United States. Beijing seeks an international system where human rights and democratic institutions are a domestic matter, and any foreign concern for such affairs is intrusion on one's sovereignty. Such an international order would give the communist leadership of China the freedom to limit liberty at home, re-create 1989's Tiananmen Square massacre at will, seize Taiwan by any means possible, and continue to advance its strongest relationships with the most repressive and anti-American regimes on Earth.

As noted by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang, certain actions by the United States "have met increasingly stronger criticism by its domestic public and the international community." This statement is accurate, but it is also telling. Periodically, the citizens or officials of the United States damage its reputation both at home and abroad, but the transparency of the American society permits these issues to be criticized and corrected openly. This is not the case in China, and this is what will continue to distinguish America's human rights record from that of the Peoples Republic of China. As long as Beijing fails to note the difference, its criticism will never be considered more than a state-sponsored joke.

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About the Author

Robert T. McLean is a Research Associate at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.