Another edition of China’s not-so-hotly-anticipated "Human Rights Record of the United States" was released early this month. The release was given its customary and cursory acknowledgment by the Washington Post, among other news papers, websites, and news aggregators. As is mentioned in all of these media sources, the release is based almost totally on U.S.-based media reports, press releases, and Human Rights organizations (many of which have been frequently criticized in Chinese media and censored), and as in the case of earlier such reports, everything is surprisingly and responsibly cited and documented with thorough in text citations.
Is there anything especially revealing inside the report? Nothing in particular. The folks at the Chinese State Department clearly busied themselves with internet search engines for several weeks, mining U.S. and international media sites for negative press about the United States. Since so much of the material came from U.S. media sources, no United States resident would find any of the information here to be fresh or new.
The Iraq War and the War on Terror was a goldmine of information for this year’s report with a year of news on secret prisons and mistreated detainees. It provided a great springboard to jump into some of China’s favorite foreign policy themes: violations of sovereignty, interfering in other country’s affairs, and hegemonism. There was also mention of the increase of U.S. internal surveillance and incursions on peoples’ rights to privacy.
Some reoccurring themes that have appeared in the last few reports such as U.S. high crime rates, racial discrimination, high rates of incarceration, sexual discrimination, police brutality, high rates of poverty, and poor healthcare coverage, return again this year.
In contrast the U.S. report on human rights in China focuses more on issues that Americans associate with human rights, addressing mostly judicial concerns including unfair trials, detainment, torture during police detainment, freedom of speech, religion, and movement, and also on things such as human trafficking. It is a long long dry read in spite of its thoroughness. Things that do not show up include crime, access to healthcare, and poverty statistics.
So what do you think about China’s criticism of the U.S.’s human right’s record? In some regards it reveals an approach to human rights very different one from the west—i.e. a focus on social stability over individual freedoms. Or is it just poor spirited tit-for-tat where they just wrote down everything they could find in the newspaper?