Human Rights in China?
Does China’s record of human rights violations square with the image of a modern China that it wishes to project?China is perceived to be a country that is notorious for human rights abuses. Is this image justified?
What are our Human Rights? In part the Declaration of Human Rights states ; “The Declaration recognizes that the “inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” and is linked to the recognition of fundamental rights towards which every human being aspires, namely the right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to an adequate standard of living; the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution; the right to own property; the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right to education, freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and the right to freedom from torture and degrading treatment, among others. These are inherent rights to be enjoyed by all human beings of the global village — men, women and children, as well as by any group of society, disadvantaged or not — and not “gifts” to be withdrawn, withheld or granted at someone’s whim or will.” (www.un.org/rights/50/carta.htm)
The one child policy that has been enforced in many parts of China has led to a gross infringement of the human rights of families . The desire of the government to control the population has in the implementation of the policy created human rights abuses. There are many reports of forced abortions even as late term as 8/9 months and some babies have been murdered as soon as they have been born. Families affected by the policy who have defied the edict have been penalized by huge fines. Surely, considering the birth rate was already declining before this policy was introduced in 1978, other ways of raising standards of living should have been considered , but to attack the weakest and vulnerable in society is repulsive to most people. Also has this policy contributed to China having one the highest rates of female suicide in the world? “In general, women are at a lower risk of suicide than men and a protective effect of child-bearing in terms of suicide risk has been postulated (Catalan, 2000).” bjp.rcpsych.org/content
The Chinese government has also abused the peoples right to freedom of expression and religion. Many religions such as Falun Gong are banned in China, their followers tortured and persecuted , and who can forget the notorious Tiananmen Square massacre unless you are one of the many Chinese who are not even aware of it. Search engines in China are sufficiently censored to make it difficult to get accurate information about the event. See this link http://youtu.be/s9A51jN19zw?t=1m26s
There is a plethora of information on the internet documenting abuses of human rights which have and still are taking place in China, what is worrying is that if China is to have more influence in the world , it wants more power and influence and it is likely that it will get it considering the strong economic position China is now in, and as Jeremy Paxman acknowledged “ economic gain is generally a forerunner of political power”, what kind of influence will it exert in the world?
Many countries have taken a pragmatic stance rather than a principled one . For example Canada has chosen to engage in constructive engagement tied in with free- trade which they suggest will have a positive impact on China’s political development . http://www.irpp.org/po/archive/feb10/lacharite.pdf
What is the view from China? Peoples Daily , the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China ,in response to a damning report from Human Rights Watch reported that an “unsaid understanding” has been reached between many Western governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that China is on the “opposite side of human rights.” and argues” that the attitudes held by Western countries concerning China’s human rights conditions are the result of different political and ideological systems and are a legacy of a “Cold War mindset.”
Clearly the Chinese government feels a sense of injustice and it is true that Western countries have committed human rights offenses themselves, China feels that it should be given a chance to develop and improve. In the meantime millions of dollars have been spent on improving Chinas image in the West such as the video shown in Times Square in New York. The Chinese government hope it will help improve the national image but as one observer pointed out“This renewed effort has not come a minute too soon. According to an index of country brand from FutureBrand, a consultancy owned by McCann Worldgroup, China’s international reputation has slipped since the Beijing Olympics. Ranking China at 56, down eight places and well behind India at 23, FutureBrand said its “public relations challenges” had included environmental damage and censorship battles with Google. A “significant decline in perceptions of political freedom” contributed most to its decline in the rankings, the group added, saying: “A fall for China despite its promotion to the second-largest economy shows that financial growth is no guarantee of brand strength.”http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e63db99c-23f8-11e0-bef0-00144feab49a.html#axzz1ksF5VM89
So while China works on its image abroad there is still disquiet about human right abuses and it will take more than slick advertising to dispel it.