Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - Page 8 News List

China’s human rights still wrong

By Joseph Zhou

Some of the criticisms contained within the Chinese report are very problematic. For instance, the Occupy movement is depicted as an event that reveals the US’ serious economic, social and political problems. However, if the discussion is limited to human rights issues, it has to be conceded that such protests would not even be allowed in China, where freedom of assembly is inadequately protected.

The Chinese report even brings up the freedom of the press by stating that there is no law protecting news sources in the US. However, this criticism is substantially weakened when the First Amendment of the US Constitution is taken into consideration. The Chinese report invokes the resignation of reporter Helen Thomas over her controversial remarks about Israel. This is not a particularly strong criticism either, because Thomas’ comments — that the Israelis should leave the Palestinian region and become stateless people once again — arguably contains messages of hate, and in the US, it is common practice for journalists to apologize and even resign after such remarks.

The Chinese report accurately points out that women are disadvantaged both in the US legislature and in the country’s job market. However, it is unfair to criticize the US government for these problems. The discriminatory institutions have already been eliminated and today, if a woman wants to run for Congress, nobody can stop her from doing so. It is totally up to the voters whether to vote for a woman candidate in an election. Similarly, it is at the discretion of an employer whether to hire a particular female employee, and gender equality remains more of a cultural issue than a simple political problem.

If the Chinese report is read while keeping modern-day China in mind, it would be fair to say that China is in a much deeper crisis than the US on all levels, except perhaps around the issue of race.

There is nothing wrong about China criticizing the human rights record of the US. However, the criticism will not stick until China can show that it really is committed to improving human rights within its own borders. Until then, it will remain nothing but a political parody.

Joseph Zhou is a doctoral student and a teaching assistant in political science at the University of Iowa.

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