Last week, the UN Human Rights Council reviewed China’s human rights record for the first time. After China submitted the record for review at the UN, developing countries praised it for its economic development and efforts to eliminate poverty.
Western countries, however, were more concerned with issues such as Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as civil and political rights.
China says it is preparing its first-ever National Human Rights Action Plan. In response, international human rights groups said that 20 years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, China continues to persecute political dissidents, undermine press freedom and mistreat Falun Gong practitioners, Uighurs and Tibetans.
China says one thing and does another. Early in December, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was arrested for proposing changes to China’s Constitution that included an independent judiciary, the protection of human rights, the nationalization of the military and more freedom of association for Chinese.
Despite many international calls for his release, the Chinese government, which claims to uphold a ban on torture and ensure fair trials, plans to charge Liu with a crime and his case has not yet entered the regular judicial process.
Especially worthy of attention are recent reports that human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) has been tortured, beaten, electrocuted and had his nose and eyes burned with cigarettes while in prison. No wonder that exiled Chinese democracy activist Wang Dan (王丹) has criticized China’s statements at the UN’s Human Rights Council as a “load of rubbish,” while writer Dai Qing (戴晴) has said the report they submitted was “official speak” that cannot be trusted.
China’s saying one thing and doing another is legendary. Before last year’s Olympic Games, it had promised to improve its human rights record and relax media restrictions. However, human rights groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, recently said that China failed to deliver on those promises. They have stated that China has made no improvements in human rights and press freedom and that last year, China clamped down even harder on the media, including Internet-based media, thus keeping its record as the country arresting the most journalists in the world. China’s failure to treat its citizens properly makes its socioeconomic problems even more likely to cause disaster during this time of global economic crisis.
The Dalai Lama warned a few days ago that the situation in Tibet was very tense and that riots could occur. The total disregard for human rights by one-party dictagorship makes it very hard for China to establish a harmonious and civilized society and to become a respected great power.
We cannot afford to ignore the state of China’s human rights and democracy. The old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) used to talk of “peaceful transformation” and helping Chinese democracy activists financially, as did the Democratic Progressive Party government.
However, the new KMT has remained silent at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mistreatment of its citizens. More importantly, freedom and human rights in Taiwan have decayed following President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) accession to power and closer cooperation between the KMT and the CCP.