The renowned Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization has released its latest report on the state of freedom throughout the world. It outlines particular concern for China, which not only violates the liberty and humanity of its own people, but seeks to export its authoritarian model throughout the planet.
The study finds that,
“China’s government sees human rights as an existential threat.”
It describes the nation’s ruling Communist Party as being deeply concerned that any level of freedom could jeopardize its iron stranglehold on the nation. To ensure that it doesn’t lose its grip on power, Beijing has developed an,
“Orwellian high-tech surveillance state and a sophisticated internet censorship system to monitor and suppress public criticism. Abroad, it uses its growing economic clout to silence critics and to carry out the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights since that system began to emerge in the mid-20th century. […] No other government is simultaneously detaining a million members of an ethnic minority for forced indoctrination and attacking anyone who dares to challenge its repression. And while other governments commit serious human rights violations, no other government flexes its political muscles with such vigor and determination to undermine the international human rights standards and institutions that could hold it to account.”
China’s totalitarian state differs from other authoritarian governments in its skillful use of technology. As many other observers have noted, not content with merely censoring contrary opinion, it aggressively uses surveillance and other means such as a “Social Credit” system to enforce its power. The Social Credit System is a national reputation system which ties in all aspects of an individual’s life -- from their jobs, ability to travel, and just about anything else one can think of, to the extent that person displays agreement with and obedience to the government.
When it comes to international attention on personal freedom, Human Rights Watch notes, dishonesty has been a hallmark of Beijing’s dealings with the United Nations and other countries. Beijing frequently signs onto international rights treaties, then proceeds to violate them.
The ruling Communist Party government scrupulously avoids any independent evaluation of its internal governing policies. To do so would run the risk of giving dissenters an opportunity to air grievances.
I spoke with Salih Hudayar who is a spokesperson for the Uyghurs, the minority Moslem community that Beijing has severely oppressed. He described the existence of numerous concentration camps that have been established in China to eliminate any trace of adherence to cultural or religious traits not sanctioned by the Communist Party. The harsh repression of religion has been a central tenet of Beijing’s effort to exert unquestioned control over the lives of its citizens. China engaged in extraordinary acts of oppression against Buddhists following its invasion of Tibet. U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom notes that throughout China, Christian churches have been bulldozed and crosses have been banned in public.
Beijing’s economic muscle has proven effective in silencing criticism from nations and business leaders throughout the world. Human Rights Watch explains that,
“Although China is the driving force behind this global assault on human rights, it has willing accomplices. They include a collection of dictators, autocrats, and monarchs who themselves have an abiding interesting in undermining the human rights system that might hold them to account. They also include governments, as well as companies and even academic institutions, that are ostensibly committed to human rights but prioritize access to China’s wealth.”
Beijing’s control of approximately 16 percent of the world economy has proven to be very persuasive.
Human Rights Watch praised the Trump Administration as the “one government that has been willing to stand up to China…”
Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government