China Issues Report on ‘Terrible’ U.S. Human Rights Record
U.S. and Chinese officials may have struck conciliatory tones at high-level talks this week amid festering mutual mistrust, but their annual bickering over human rights has resumed unabated.
A day after the U.S. State Department issued global human-rights scorecards that included criticism of China, Beijing offered a scathing rejoinder that accused Washington of “showing not a bit of regret for or intention to improve its own terrible human rights record.”
“Plenty of facts show that, in 2014, the U.S., a self-proclaimed human rights defender, saw no improvements in its existent human rights issues, but reported numerous new problems,” said the Chinese report, published Friday by the information office of China’s State Council, the country’s Cabinet. “While its own human rights situation was increasingly grave, the U.S. violated human rights in other countries in a more brazen manner.”
America’s record remained blotted by rampant gun crime, racial discrimination, the pernicious influence of money in politics, widening income and social inequality, and state infringements of individual privacy, according to the State Council’s latest yearly assessment.
By Beijing’s reckoning, the U.S. also violated human rights abroad through the use of torture, mass electronic surveillance of foreign governments and citizens, and frequent military drone attacks that have inflicted civilian casualties.
China has issued annual scorecards on human rights in the U.S. since the late 1990s, typically within days of the State Department’s yearly rights reports. According to Washington’s latest appraisal, “repression and coercion were routine” against civil and political rights advocates in China while “discrimination against minorities remained widespread,” as authorities continue to place tight curbs on freedom of speech, assembly and religious practice, among other civil liberties.
The two reports bookended the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, where top officials parleyed for 2 ½ days on cybersecurity, maritime tensions and bilateral economic ties. Clashes on these issues have strained U.S.-China ties over the past year, though officials from both governments said they hope the latest talks could soothe discord ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the U.S. in September.
China’s human rights record is a longstanding bugbear in bilateral relations, though officials and rights advocates in the U.S. have expressed growing concern over Beijing’s diminishing tolerance for activism and dissent since Mr. Xi took power more than two years ago.
For its part, China has long defended its human-rights record by arguing that individual rights sometimes need to be sacrificed for the more immediate needs of social stability and economic growth. Just this month, Beijing issued a white paper on its human rights record, touting its burgeoning television and film industry, legal reforms and expanding access to public services, among other markers of economic and social progress.
China has also been quick to point out what it describes as U.S. hypocrisy on human rights. In its latest assessment, the State Council took particular aim at “institutional discrimination against ethnic minorities” in the U.S., citing recent high-profile police killings of black citizens that have stirred racial tensions, as well as reports of disenfranchisement of minority voters in the 2014 mid-term elections.
“We couldn’t help but have humility when we have seen what we have seen in the last year in terms of racial discord and unrest. So we approach this with great self-awareness,” Mr. Kerry said. “But we also understand that when human rights is the issue, every country, including the United States, has room to improve.”
– Chun Han Wong. Follow him on Twitter @ByChunHan.