Thursday, March 13, 2008

US, the self-appointed leader on human rights continues to bark but is the world listening

By China Watcher

The US, the self-appointed leader in this particular aspect of human social development, recognized China rapid economic development and social change and hence, decided to remove the country from the list of world’s top human rights violators, as stated in the latest US State Department's annual global human rights report. Countries like North Korea, Myammar, Sudan and Iran remained on the top of the list of greatest human rights offenders.

The US report however continued to label China as an authoritarian country that has "not undertaken democratic political reform”. The report further stressed that China's "overall human rights record remained poor" in 2007, citing tightened controls on religious freedom against Buddhists in Tibet and against Muslims in northwestern Xinjiang. It also highlighted the Chinese government unrelenting actions to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison activists, writers, journalists, and defense lawyers and their families, many of whom were seeking to exercise their rights under the law.

I was taken by surprise of the heightened criticism leveled at Hong Kong's human rights record. The report criticized the Basic Law for requiring separate majorities of geographical and functional constituencies to pass individual member bills, and for banning the Legislative Council from pushing forward bills that affect public expenditure, political structure or government policy. The US published report also claimed that the rights of residents to change their government peacefully were limited by the Basic Law. It highlighted other concerns, including claims of press self-censorship, violence against women and the fact that workers do not have collective bargaining power. It also condemned the slow-paced of democratic reform.

The Hong Kong government hit back saying the present system allowed government policies and proposals to be frankly discussed and for government to make adjustments when necessary based on the input. The spokesman said the comment was "untrue," and that relation between the executive and legislature was one of "mutual regulation and co-ordination."

A political professor, at Hong Kong City University, was also disappointed with the report arguing that the slow-paced democratic reform did not suggest that the citizens had worse rights. He added that citizens enjoy a wide spectrum of rights, including freedom of expression and that the media held the government accountable. If there were no rights of free expression, how come the internet users recently have the unobtrusive means to spread the celebrity nude-photos among its subjects? If you picked up a Hong Kong Daily, you can quickly noticed that there are editorials which speaks against the Hong Kong governor and the Chinese masters.

In conclusion, I think that the report is oversimplified and is written with a hidden agenda. I am also questioning the US authority in this aspect of civil liberties and by what means do they nominate themselves to speak as the world’s spokesperson. If I am not mistaken, we do have the United Nations, the legalized authority, in which there is a human right office to promote the human rights agenda. Well, the US is the arrogant superpower as it is and when it speaks, we listen…but is the world listening when they themselves could not even take care of its own backyard which is littered full of human rights infringements.

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