Wow. China released its annual human rights report on Monday, leaving itself open to scorn and ridicule.
State-owned media urged all to let the facts speak for themselves.
With a report that weighs in at more than 21,000 words in nine chapters and a preface that touts China’s “tremendous achievements” in protecting human rights, you’d expect great strides from the authoritarian one-party state that as recently as 2013 citied car ownership in defending its human rights record.
Instead, the white paper goes off on a bunch of head-scratching tangents that I’m sure were meant to deflect western criticism but do a great job of the opposite.
In the report’s first section, titled Right To Development, this year’s white paper backed up Beijing’s claim to have better protected the Chinese people’s cultural rights by pointing to, among other things, China’s burgeoning television, cartoon and film production, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In 2014, the paper noted, China produced 429 TV series, accounting for 15,983 episodes, and cartoon programs amounting to 138,496 minutes.
The report also flagged growth on the silver screen, saying the country produced a total of 618 feature films — 36 of which earned more than 100 million yuan (US$16.11 million) each — and racked up total box office revenue of 26.9 billion yuan last year.
While that’s just great — a 36 percent increase over 2013 — no amount of brain gyrations get you to see how that growth advances human rights in any way, shape or form.
Stranger still, under a section on promoting basic cultural rights, the government said it “carried out a rural film program, projecting at least one film per month in every administrative village” — indoors, no less.
While that’s admirable, to me, watching propaganda movies like The Founding Of The Republic, whether inside or out doesn’t matter much.
The report also touts “progress” in “rights” for ethnic minorities, citing a higher quality of life for those living in Tibet and Xinjiang.
In 2014, the paper noted, GDP growth in Tibet was 3.4 percentage points higher than the national average while that of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was 2.6 percentage points higher.
Sorry, but this compels me to think human rights for China’s minorities have improved because…?
In fairness, the paper also noted that a total of 104 radio stations and television stations in ethnic autonomous areas at provincial and municipal levels now run 191 radio programs, including 45 broadcast in ethnic-minority languages and 215 TV programs including 42 broadcast in ethnic-minority languages.
On the other hand, the report points out that Tibetan monks and nuns get free physical exams.
Clearly, the report, as Quartz correctly noted, is an illustration of the disconnect between China’s definition of human rights and that of its critics.
Specifically, China equates economic development with human rights — as opposed to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights which includes statements such as “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, and “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”, Quartz said.
A Global Times editorial on the report said that China “is taking the correct path of human rights development that suits its national conditions.”
The “correct path”, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, means continued curbs on expression, association, assembly and religion; a ban on labor unions and human rights organizations; and party control over all judicial institutions.
It also means continued censorship of the press, the internet, print publications, and academic research and sundry human rights abuses as necessary to preserve “social stability”.
The facts have spoken.
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