China is fast becoming a force to reckon with in the global arena, whether in politics, the military or in the economy, the Chinese are in an upward momentum. When you look around you, everything is virtually “Made in China. If you look at it in that light, much of the world’s economy depends heavily on China. Labor is cheap and so are materials. In that way, businesses can save a lot of money and still make lots of profits. However, just from that alone stems a lot of human rights issues. From poor (even inhumane) working conditions to very cheap labor, the Chinese workforce is full of human right violations that can make you shudder if you hear about it for the first time.
The People’s Republic of China may be a socialist state but it is governed by the people’s democratic dictatorship that is led by the Chinese working class. It is among the handful of socialist states in the world that openly endorses communism. And as such, the Chinese people have to endure many forms of restrictions in their lives. There are restrictions on freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, free access to the web, right to have children, freedom of religion, and free formation of social organizations. China is known all over the world to have a one-child policy among its people. Indeed, important human rights remain a highly contested topic in all of China.
On Monday, Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper revealed that 11 democratic nations jointly condemned China’s increasing human rights abuses in a secret February 27 letter sent to Chinese representatives. The U.S. failed to sign it.
“Apparently the U.S. was asked to sign but declined, unlike Australia, Canada, Japan and Switzerland, along with seven European Union member countries: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom,” according to Bill Bishop, the publisher of Sinocism China Newsletter. “This does not seem to bode well for the hopes in some circles that Trump is going to take a harder line on China over human rights.”
But it seems that despite being a powerful country and a country that loves to meddle with the affair of others (Think of Saddam, Lebanon etc.), the U.S. seems to be quiet on the human right issues of China.
China is an increasingly powerful country that regularly violates human rights at home and international law abroad. If the U.S. wants to maintain a position of global leadership, we will have to lead, not lag, our allies in taking the moral high ground. President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad need to step up to the plate and ensure that they strongly and publicly represent U.S. values of democracy and human rights when dealing with China.
Since assuming office, Trump finally meets the Chinese leader and it is a great time than any to discuss pressing economic and political issues along with issues concerning human right abuse. Trump should be able to handle this well considering he is a businessman who has likely been in more uncomfortable situations in the past, similar to this one. However, President Trump is a flawed man himself. How can he even lecture the Chinese leader on valuing the rights of its citizens when he himself is a known chauvinist?
As President Donald Trump prepares to meet China‘s President Xi Jinping this week, it’s unclear whether any discussion will be had about each country’s approach to human rights. While the Chinese government has long been known for its human rights abuses, the recent U.S. rollback of human rights at home and abroad by the Trump administration sets the stakes higher than usual for Thursday’s meeting.
There is no doubt that Trump has a significantly dismal human rights record for someone who’s been president for less than 100 days. With his bigoted travel ban under legal scrutiny and the devastating effect of his immigration and refugee policies on thousands of families in the U.S., he’s not in the strongest position to encourage Xi to improve the Chinese human rights record. But there must be a discussion.
To understand the situation more clearly, Trump should take a cue from one of his predecessors, President George W. Bush, and meet with former Chinese prisoners of conscience now living in the United States. These individuals will provide him with firsthand accounts of the state of human rights in China.
For instance, two years ago, China enacted a series of sweeping laws and regulations used to silence dissent by human rights defenders. Individuals critical of the Chinese government have been charged with “inciting subversion,” “separatism” and “leaking state secrets” – all under the pretext of national security. These laws restrict organizations and individuals working to create sustainable solutions to human rights challenges.
The Chinese are unforgiving. With all these cases (and allegations) of human rights abuse, how can the U.S. just turn a blind eye and keep on doing business with this emerging superpower from Asia? But aren’t you also considered an accomplice to a crime if you know about the crime but opt to intentionally ignore it? Because that is just what the U.S. is doing. Although Trump criticizes China on their military activities and trade policies in his favorite platform – Twitter – he seems to overlook other more pressing issues like Internet censorship, punitive detention and other forms of human rights abuses.
The Chinese government should not just keep on holding political prisoners because these people have spoken about topics China considers as sensitive. All these abuses have just got to stop. But who will tell them when the leader of one of the most powerful nations on the planet refuses to talk about human rights practices in China unlike his predecessors? Although the Trump administration insists they would still discuss these issues in private, human rights advocates don’t get their hopes up. True reform will likely elude the Chinese for now but we’ll see where international talks lead us. At least now, China no longer shy away from the global stage unlike before where they have totally confined themselves in their own country, which happens to be second largest nation in the world in terms of land area with a population of over 1.3 billion. They are such a force indeed.