“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”
– Nelson Mandela
Today one of the most debatable topics around the world includes human rights. Human rights are a set of norms that describes how an individual should be treated by states and non-state actors. These rights are given to all human beings regardless of their nationality, sex, colour, religion, language etc. These basic rights are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence.
It is almost impossible not to mention The People’s Republic of China when the topic of human rightsarediscussed around the world. It is a well-known fact that China has been known for violating human rights for years now. In the World Report of 2019 many incidences have been mentioned, wherein the state is accused of abusing these rights on a large scale. Many significant people like Mike Pompeo has compared Xi Jinping’s China with that of the Nazi Germany and the Stalinist’s Soviet Union. Religion is considered to bethe main reason why Chinese citizens have been facing torture and human rights abuse. In 1989, Chinese troops killed and arrested thousands of pro-democracy protestors at Tiananmen square, with many of them being students. 3 weeks later, U.S.A imposed sanctions on China for the brutal violation of human rights. The event was covered by western journalists, although the event has not been mentioned anywhere in Chinese history or media. Furthermore, the Chinese government has not released the official death toll, as per CNN various human rights groups estimates the number of deaths to be in hundreds or thousands.For several weeksChina was expecting a massive social change but in just one night this expectation was crushed. The world was stunned by this atrocity conducted by the Chinese authorities.
Recently, the world’s concern lies in the Xinjiang region. It is estimated that up to one million Muslim ethnic minorities are being detained in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. These Muslim minority groups includes Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minority groups whohave different cultural and religious identity, these people are being detained in transformation through education centres. The detention period is also not clear, it can last up to months or years. The measure to check if a person is “educated” or not is also mysterious. Those who were sent for transformation have no access to a lawyer or the right to question the authority. People who are sent to this centre are forced to learn Chinese language and are taught how “religious radicalism” is dangerous. Those who resist are punished in different ways- verbal or physical abuse.This move is an effort by the Chinese government to eradicate their cultural identity and to ensure political loyalty in the state. Although the government has brought economic prosperity but it has failed to acknowledge basic human rights and has also failed to eradicate religious and ethnic discrimination. The government has tortured, mistreated and detained people. Many organisations like the Amnesty International have documented various cases and have written a report with regard to this issue.
The ruthlessness of the authority is clearly visible in every aspect, the Chinese government collects biometrics for surveillance to tighten their control over the society, they have also developed “social credit system” which is basically reward and punishment system. According to Amnesty International, The authorities have not only violated the rights of it’s citizens but many foreigners who passed critical comments on the government or it’s policies. The journalists who have been reporting about the human rights issues are physically assaulted and detained. The expansion of the internet censorship is a well-known fact now, China has it’s own sites but has censored many sites that are used globally (e.g. Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to suppress the views of people and also to ensure that people remain unaware of various issues. The excessive surveillance, monitoring and restrictions makes it easier for the government to control the population.
In contrast to all of the above,the constitution of China talks about eliminating all forms of discrimination. China’s goal is to resolve the issue of terrorism and extremism targets the ethnic groups which jeopardizes their cultural identity and their freedom of religion. A prominent argument given by China in respect to accusations of gross violations of human rights, is that its actions are taken to protect national security. While national security is of utmost importance, its maintenance at the expense of human rights needs to be re-evaluated. China is often represented with a dragon’s image which portrays strength and power, although the strength of any country is its citizens. The overall development of any country, is in direct relation to human beings being the priority of a state, which allows it to function efficiently. Protecting human rights should not remain an option anymore but a duty. With multiple testimonies arising from a variety of sources such as news agencies and NGOs, the actions taken by the Chinese government must be met with much more international scrutiny. Human rights are the foundations upon which society can exist harmoniously, and violations that are left unchecked or ignored, lead to atrocities that the world collectively regrets for generations later. The violations faced by the Jews in Nazi Germany or the Rwandan Genocide are still not forgotten today, and the repercussions are being faced in the contemporary world. Hence, higher and more extensive deliberation is required on the way the Chinese government treats its citizens, as when a government fails it’s people, the international community will be looked at with scrutiny.
(Abhilasha Sharma is a first year student of the MA International Studies Program batch of 2019-21 at the Symbiosis School of International Studies, Pune)
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Indian Review of Global Affairs or of Symbiosis School of International Studies.