Monday, April 13, 2009

National Human Rights Action Plan of China fails to impress

'National Human Rights Action Plan'
Fails to Impress the China Support Network

April 13, 2009 (CSN) -- The State Council (cabinet) of China today released its National Human Rights Action Plan of China for 2009-2010. The Chinese government appears to be responding to the United Nations, which had challenged China to create a national human rights action plan. The China Support Network was reached for comment by a reporter for the People's Daily, and we have decided to make a public statement that encapsulates our response.

The report seems to be half humorous and half serious. It begins with self-congratulation for the Chinese Communist Party. Perhaps the CCP wants to fool the world into believing that it is "great, glorious, and correct" about human rights, while in fact the CCP has been the world's biggest human rights abuser. Can you imagine a man with a criminal record of 80 million burglaries, saying "Okay. I'm not going to burglarize any more." The government of China deserves the same amount of credibility that we would ascribe to the recidivist burglar in this analogy.

In that light, the report's first three sentences are sheer comedy:

"The realization of human rights in the broadest sense has been a long-cherished ideal of mankind and also a long-pursued goal of the Chinese government and people. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese government, combining the universal principles of human rights and the concrete realities of China, has made unremitting efforts to promote and safeguard human rights. Hence, the fate of the Chinese people has changed fundamentally, and China has achieved historic development in its efforts to safeguard human rights."

This is the sound of government propaganda. However, the report turns serious as its third paragraph concludes: "China still confronts many challenges and has a long road ahead in its efforts to improve its human rights situation." Clearly, the report has more than one author, and at least one has his feet on the ground, and is doing his writing from the planet Earth.

Yes, in fact. China still has a long road ahead of it to emerge from its human rights hell-on-earth. The English version of the report is posted in 26 web pages by Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

What the report tells us is that Chinese authorities are learning to "talk the talk" of human rights. The bulk of the report is a review of the actual areas in which China has problems. Section 1 speaks of economic, social, and cultural rights. Section 2 speaks of civil and political rights. Section 3 mentions ethnic minorities, women, children, elderly people, and the disabled. Section 4 promises more education on human rights. Section 5 might be summarized, "We've done our homework."

The actual title of Section 5 is "Performing International Human Rights Duties, and Conducting Exchanges and Cooperation in the Field of International Human Rights." However, it reads like a student making a list of all of his school homework assignments completed. China has been submitting many reports to many international panels, and this section of the report makes China seem to be very fastidious, "crossing its t's and dotting its i's."

In this report, the high minded words are laudable. But, the China Support Network finds this immediate problem: the report is words, not actions. As noted above, Chinese authorities have learned to "talk the talk" of human rights. This is not the same thing as "walking the walk."

The Chinese government would not publish its "first working plan on human rights protection" unless leaders at the highest levels feel that it is imperative to do so. Economic conditions, social unrest, and Charter 08 (a renewed democratic movement) are the factors which make the high leaders feel "pushed into a corner." In fact, if the government cannot guarantee a growing economy, then it needs new legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens.

The party line has been that "China is successful because of our growing economy." The party leaders did not say, "China is successful because we are improving human rights." Now, the new working plan may does a splendid job of moving rhetoric around, but rhetoric is rhetoric -- words and not actions. The party leaders may have a new story: "We are improving human rights."

Before reporting that story uncritically, I hope that Western news organizations will check the facts on the ground. The China Support Network wants China to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The human rights community will rightly have skepticism, if not suspicion, of this report. That is because we know that three factors: the falling economy, social unrest, and Charter 08 -- are eroding the last legitimacy of the CCP. The party leaders needed a new story line -- an excuse to rule, and a way to placate the people.

First, they raised expectations about economic growth and now they cannot deliver on those promises. Now, they are raising expectations about human rights, but when the promises are not kept the people will be very angry. Accordingly, the China Support Network calls upon the leaders of China to take the following actions to match their words:

1.) Unblock internet access to overseas human rights web sites, including Tibetan and Falun Gong web sites.

2.) Abolish Laogai and Laojiao systems (reform through labor camps and administrative detention).

3.) Respect the rights of the Dalai Lama as a resident of Tibet. Allow him to return.

4.) Free Wang Bingzhang, Peng Ming, and Zhou Yongjun. They were exiles; now, allow them to live in China and welcome ALL of the exiles home.

5.) Free Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xiaobo, and founders of the China Democracy Party.

6.) Free all related prisoners of conscience from, and apologize to, the following groups: the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans, June 4 victims, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong.

If the six steps above are performed, then we can herald a breakthrough on human rights. The new report from China's State Council, if not accompanied by decisive action, is not a breakthrough on human rights.

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1 comment:

Khiang said...

Press Release

Khiang H. Hei – Zero
May 29 – June 28, 2009
Opening Reception: Friday, May 29, 6 – 9 PM
Gallery Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 11 – 6, Monday and Tuesday by appointment

Christopher Henry Gallery is honored to present “Zero,” a solo exhibition by photographer Khiang Hei commemorating the 20 year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising. Hei’s photographs tell the story of humanity and the struggle for freedom in a society of censorship.

The title ‘Zero’ refers to the number of search results found in Google China commemorating the June 4th incident at Tiananmen Square. Historically Tiananmen Square had seen its share of protests before 1989, including a rather significant uprising 90 years ago on May 4th in which the student revolt led to drastic changes in the political and intellectual landscape. What made the1989 uprising unique among the many others throughout the square’s history was its broadcast around the world and its subsequent censorship.

Hei, a Cambodian photo student in Beijing at the time, was present from the beginning on April 15th when a small civilian gathering took place around Monument to the People's Heroes to mourn the reformer Hu Yaobang. As a student himself, Hei was more than just a journalistic voyeur at an historic event, he was an impassioned observer. His ability to capture the intensity of the moment as it grew from a student to a national movement is evident in the iconic images captured throughout its duration.

As the numbers swelled within a month to over 100,000, it began to spread from students to workers to civilians. Hei’s phot ographs capture that infectious spirit of Liberty in the square as even children began to join in the activities. As the crowds grew the communal spirit of the gathering took on a darker tone, leading the Chinese government to declare Martial Law. On June 4th, 1989 tensions boiled over as violence broke out as the Chinese military attempted to clear the square resulting in the June 4th massacre. The bright light of Liberty was extinguished by the dark cloud of an oppressive, authoritarian regime. What started out as a documentation of ideals turned into a nightmare of crushed hopes and dreams.

Christopher Henry Gallery
127 Elizabeth Street NY, NY 10013
Tel: 212.244.6004