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Human rights in China

From Academic Kids

The situation of human rights in the People's Republic of China has been criticized by various sources, including other nations - particularly Western democracies - as well as international organizations, as being poor in many respects. While acknowledging major deficiencies, the PRC government has asserted that the human rights situation is improving and better than ever. In addition, the PRC argues that the notion of human rights should include economic standards of living and measures of health and economic prosperity. Many contentious events have been seen as abuses by groups or nations outside China, while the PRC government tends to view them as necessary for public safety and social stability.

Contents

The Situation in China

Multiple sources, including the U.S. State Department's annual People's Republic of China human rights reports, as well as studies from other groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have noted the PRC's well-documented abuses of human rights in violation of internationally recognized norms, stemming both from the authorities' intolerance of dissent and the inadequacy of legal safeguards for basic freedoms. Abuses reported have included arbitrary and lengthy incommunicado detention, including use of laogai (prison labor) and reeducation through labor (involuntary labor without trial), forced confessions, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners as well as severe restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, privacy, and worker rights.

Amnesty International recently released the following statement: In 2003, 84 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, the USA and Vietnam. In China, limited and incomplete records available to Amnesty International at the end of the year indicated that at least 726 people were executed, but the true figure was believed to be much higher: a senior Chinese legislator suggested in March 2004 that China executes "nearly 10,000" people each year. At least 108 executions were carried out in Iran. Sixty-five people were executed in the USA. At least 64 people were executed in Vietnam.

Perspective of the PRC government

At the same time, mainland China's economic growth and reform since 1978 has improved dramatically the lives of over a billion Chinese, increased social mobility and expanded the scope of personal freedom. This has meant substantially greater freedom of travel, employment opportunity, educational and cultural pursuits, job and housing choices, and access to information. In all, this suggests a substantial rise in the quality of life/standard of living of the Chinese people, forming a certain contrast to China's reputation abroad. In recent years, the PRC has also passed new criminal and civil laws that provide additional safeguards to citizens. Village elections have been ostensibly carried out in approximately 80% of China's one million villages.

The PRC government argues that the notion of human rights should include economic standards of living and measures of health and economic prosperity. In analyzing the situation of human rights in its own nation or abroad, China often takes into account social trends such as crime and poverty. In other words, when critiquing its internal situation, it sees the rise in the standard of living of the Chinese people as an indicator of improvement of the human rights situation, and when looking at the situation abroad, often notes the high rate of crime and/or poverty in places reputedly having a high standard of human rights. Thus it must be noted that a significant difference of viewpoints may exist as to what constitutes human rights, making it difficult for direct comparison between analyses from the two sides.

The PRC government argues that the PRC does have significant human rights problems including impartial access to the courts, the use of torture, and lack of due process. However, the government argues that these issues can be and should be addressed within the current one-party political system, and that to push for fundamental change is foolish as it risks the tremendous economic gains that the PRC has accomplished over the last generation.

Views of the United States goverment

In 2003, the United States declared that despite some positive momentum in that year, and greater signs that the People's Republic of China was willing to engage with the U.S. and others on this topic, there was still serious backsliding. The PRC government has acknowledged in principle the importance of protection of human rights and has purported to take steps to bring its human rights practices into conformity with international norms. Among these steps are signature of the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in October 1997 (ratified in March 2001) and signing of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in October 1998 (not yet ratified). In 2002, the PRC released a significant number of political and religious prisoners, and agreed to interact with United Nations experts on torture, arbitrary detention and religion. However, international human rights groups assert that there has been virtually no movement on these promises, and that the PRC still has a long way to go in instituting the kind of fundamental systemic change that will protect the rights and liberties of all its citizens.

Human Rights and the 2008 Olympics

China's capital, Beijing, has been chosen to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, but some groups consider the honor inappropriate in light of these alleged violations of human rights. Indeed, modernization, construction, and urban planning in Beijing, and specifically the process of preparing the city for visits and study by the International Olympic Committee is reported to have involved authoritarian measures possibly in violation of the civil rights of some residents.

Given, however, that the Games were awarded to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and pre-democracy South Korea, that line of argument seems irrelevant in light of well-established Olympic practice.

See also: Media in China

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