Pride and prejudice are out of date
Updated: 2012-05-25 07:54
By Shan Chu (China Daily)
On May 24, the US Department of State released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, which cover almost all the countries and territories of the world except for the US itself, of course. I went through the chapter dedicated to China, trying to find something new. But unfortunately what I read is just the same old story: China's human rights situation is deteriorating, again.
But then these tired old clichs that the United States keeps propagating don't really count, because it is the truth that matters.
So what is the truth?
Here are a few examples of China's achievements: Over the past three decades, China has grown to be the second largest economy in the world. In the process it has lifted more than 200 million people out of poverty, which makes China a pioneer in pursuit of the United Nations' first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. And, after the principle of "respecting and safeguarding human rights" was written into the Constitution, it was recently incorporated into the Criminal Procedure Law adopted by the Fifth Session of the 11th National People's Congress of China. Also rural residents can now vote to choose their village heads.
Blaming China for repressing freedom of expression based on the complaints of a few individual cases is a tactic the US adores. But the reality is Chinese people voice their opinions on political and economic affairs in various ways everyday, freely and openly. The number of Chinese netizens is increasing dramatically on a daily basis and the Chinese government at all levels values their opinions in its decision-making process.
Contrary to the US' criticism that China restricts religious freedom, it's common to see committed Buddhists praying in monasteries, Tibetan Buddhists paying pilgrimages to Lhasa, and Muslims chanting the Quran in the 24,000 mosques in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. These are some of the truth the US turns a blind eye to.
Like previous editions of its human rights report, the US expresses sympathy for some individuals it crowns as human rights defenders. But these individuals have either tried to overthrow the government or disrupted social harmony. The US' concern for those individuals is understandable because it's no secret that some of these people are subsidized by groups in the West.
Defending China's human rights situation by no means suggests that this country is flawless. As a Chinese citizen, I am worried about the growing income gap between the rich and poor, concerned about the shortcomings in our legal system, saddened about the vulnerable situation of the poor and homeless. After all, China is a big country with a large population and a number of obstacles and challenges to overcome as it strives to improve the well-being of its citizens.
But I have every confidence in this country, because it has made tremendous progress and is on its way to achieving more. As Premier Wen Jiabao said at the opening of the Fifth Session of the 11th National People's Congress in March, China will "promote all reforms in its economic and political systems with greater resolve and courage".
Confucianism has instilled the virtue of self-reflection in Chinese society. It is a virtue the US would do well to cultivate. Then perhaps it might stop ignoring its own human rights violations, such as the use of torture at Abu Ghraib, the illegal detention of suspects at Guantanamo, and the unauthorized surveillance of citizens. The recent incidents involving US troops in Afghanistan, such as the murder of civilians and the burning of the Quran, demonstrate how cheaply the US values religious freedom and the lives of non-Americans.
In fact, the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices serve as a mirror for the US, reflecting its self-obsessed pride and prejudice. It is not surprising this meticulously orchestrated literature of superiority always encounters sneers and jeers around the world.
I am wondering when the US will wake up and see that its naming and shaming mentality is out of date and genuine dialogue with an open mind is now the trend. Unfortunately, this requires courage and wisdom, qualities that up until now the US has failed to show.
The author is a Beijing-based scholar on international relations.
(China Daily 05/25/2012 page8)