Sun, Dec 10, 2017 - Page 6 News List

China fights to undermine rights

By Herbert Hanreich

Modern human rights are meant to ensure that people can live a life of dignity. They value individual lives, enhance people’s capabilities and seek to secure their right to self-determination.

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on Dec. 10, the day when the UN adopted its core document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1948.

There is hardly any nation on the globe that does not infringe upon these essential rights, but the degree of such infringements varies from nation to nation.

Among influential powers, China has long been a notorious “high-degree” violator of human rights, despite the economic progress that has elevated hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty.

However, people do not only wish to be private consumers — they also wish to be public citizens.

There are indications that China’s deplorable human rights record will not change in the near future. There are even signs that it has been continuously refining its methods and policies to undermine human rights, particularly at the international level.

This ongoing process was ideologically complemented in 2012, soon after the present leadership led by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) came to power. The campaign against human rights now has, in Newspeak, an official title: “Xi Jinping Thought for the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Special Characteristics.”

It began with massive attacks on Western ideas and ideals, often accompanied by a eulogy of China’s ancient and traditional values, and in 2015 climaxed in a speech by China’s then-minister of education Yuan Guiren (袁貴仁) at a forum lecturing educators to “[n]ever let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes.”

Those remarks came with a warning to university professors to refrain from publicly criticizing China’s leadership or the political system, thereby unveiling what China’s “ancient and traditional values” really mean for the present rulers.

I wonder whether the minister believed that Karl Marx, the main theoretician of communism and, subsequently, the People’s Republic of China, was an advocate of Chinese values.

In another high-profile speech in Beijing in 2013, officials of the omnipotent Chinese Communist Party were instructed to “eradicate seven subversive currents” that would undermine the party’s legitimacy.

Among those “perilous” currents were Western democracy, universal human rights, media independence and civic participation.

Those despised currents are not exactly in line with traditional Chinese values, but returning to the internationalization of China’s anti-human rights policies, it leads to the core of official UN policies, especially those of its bodies concerned with human rights.

In a report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) described in detail how China’s diplomats successfully obstruct any move at the UN that would officially denounce human rights violations resulting from a political agenda pursued by China (“Beijing seeks to silence critics at UN forums: HRW,” page 1, Sept. 6).

China spares no effort to turn any sensible human rights policy into its opposite whenever its interests are concerned. It does so by suppressing criticism related to its human rights record, weakening institutional mechanisms that would advance human rights, denying accreditation to people or NGOs that are critical of China, harassing and intimidating UN officials involved in China-related matters, keeping Chinese human rights campaigners out of UN meetings they are entitled to attend and more.

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