| by Zhao Shanchu
(January 24, Beijing, Sri Lanka Guardian) All countries, developed and developing alike, are attaching unprecedented importance to human rights nowadays. Reports on human rights issues often grab headlines.
Because of the fast development, any news related to China may attract much attention from the international community. When someone mentions “human rights” and “China” in the same breath, it naturally draws eyeballs. Therefore, playing up so-called human rights issues in China has become a shortcut for certain Western media and politicians to grab attention and make a name for themselves.
US Ambassador to China Gary Locke has attracted attention recently. On the eve of assuming his duties in China, he claimed that he would “raise human rights issues and individual cases with Chinese government officials at the highest levels”. After coming to Beijing, he has pointed fingers at China’s human rights situation on several occasions. He has even said that human rights climate in China is “getting worse” days ago.
Maybe that’s part of Locke’s routine job. But he should know China more than other Westerners in a more objective way. He should have a better idea about whether livelihoods of the Chinese people in the past decades have improved or deteriorated, and whether the rights they enjoy have expanded or narrowed. He should be aware of the fact that “the State respects and preserves human rights” has been incorporated into China’s Constitution and the protection and promotion of human rights have been part of the overall strategy of national economic and social development.
China has taken remarkable strides in many aspects over the years. The legal system of human rights protection has developed. Democracy and rule of law has improved. The rights and interests of all ethnic groups are safeguarded, and poverty alleviation efforts strengthened. All these developments deserve credit if viewed in a fair manner. However, it’s really regrettable to see that Locke has turned a blind eye to China’s great achievements and dwelled on tiny issues and a few people and made such inappropriate remarks.
Some Westerners claimed that they were “deeply concerned” over the so-called crackdown on several “human rights defenders” in China. In fact, the “human rights defenders” they referred to are people that breached Chinese laws and regulations. Every government shoulders the responsibility to maintain social stability and safeguard the rule of law. It is the obligation of the Chinese judicial authorities to punish those who plot to subvert the State and jeopardize national security. It is a matter of China’s judicial sovereignty.
If certain Westerners insist on associating it with human rights, then how will they interpret section 2383 regarding the crime of rebellion and insurrection as well as section 2385 regarding the crime of advocating overthrow of government in Chapter 115 of the US Code? How will they interpret the cases, dealt by the US judicial authorities, of inciting confrontation between US citizens and the government over issues of military service and military operations abroad in the last century?
It is neither fair nor logical for certain Westerners to focus on a few individual cases while ignoring the remarkable achievements made by 1.3 billion Chinese people.
Recently, several incidents have occurred in the US, too. Western politicians and media that have always boasted that they fly the flags of freedom of speech were silent on this. They tried hard to play down the influence of the incidents. Here come questions: How to balance the relations between maintaining social order and protecting the lawful rights of every citizen? How to avoid double standard on democracy and freedom? Every country should make self-reflections on these questions.
If Locke could look at China’s human rights progress in an objective and fair way, he would better enhance mutual trust between China and the US.
The author is a Beijing-based scholar on international relations.