News / Asia

Human Rights Increasingly Challenged in China

Demonstrators in China (file photo)
Demonstrators in China (file photo)

Multimedia

A wide range of contentious issues will loom over next week's summit between Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama when they meet in Washington D.C., and one issue the two sides remain deeply divided over is human rights.


The way China treated food activist Zhao Lianhai is one recent example  where perceptions in the United States and China diverge.

Late last year, Zhao was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for allegedly inciting public unrest. His crime - organizing a support group for parents affected by one of the country's worst food safety scandals, the tainted baby formula scandal that killed six children and sickened nearly 300,000.

As China's assertiveness and importance in the international arena grows, human rights activists say it is becoming difficult to draw attention to human rights issues there - from Chinese authorities tight control of minority regions like Tibet to the imprisonment of individuals such as Zhao or Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo who have spoken out about injustices or called for change.

"Ten years ago, it was not particularly difficult to get 25 members of Congress to sign a letter demanding the release of a particular individual. It’s much harder to do now because members of Congress are concerned about whether businesses from their districts are still going to be able to invest in China, whether they are going to make any money, whether the Chinese government will refuse to be more cooperative on sanctions on Iran or North Korea if they sign that letter," said Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch in Washington D.C.

Activists say there is a perception problem in the West that development equals improvements in personal freedom.

"There is a feeling that because the Bund in Shanghai could now easily be confused with Manhattan or L.A., surely things are all heading in the right direction. And often what we say to people is - "sure some aspects of life in China are certainly better than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago, but there are still red lines people cannot cross," Richardson said.

Wan Yanhai, an AIDS activist in China has some personal experience with that. Wan was forced to flee China with his family last year after his organization, the Aizhixing Institute of Health and Education, came under increasing pressure and harassment. He is now a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

Wan says there is a perception problem among Chinese officials as well. "Many who should be tolerated, they could be sought as potential partners of the Chinese government in the development agenda, but they were targeted like Liu Xiaobo. Although Liu Xiaobo is a political dissident, he’s a moderate and he chose peaceful petition and democratic transition but also he is friendly to the communist party, but he was targeted," Wan said.

Wan was one of several activists who flew to Norway last month to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Liu Xiaobo. China refused to let Liu or his family attend. He is currently serving an 11 year sentence for launching an online petition that called for political change in China.

China calls the award an obscenity because it was given to a man it considers a criminal and accuses the U.S. and the international community of trying to meddle in its internal affairs.

John Kerry, a Democratic U.S. Senator from the northeastern state of Massachusetts says Washington needs to continually stress to China that such actions hurt its international standing. But, he adds the two need each other to address a wide range of issues such as the global economy, terrorism and climate change.

"But whether we’re impressed or disappointed with China’s progress. Let me make this clear, the simple fact is that - We need China and China needs us. We have to get this relationship right," he said.

U.S. officials say President Obama will discuss human rights with Mr. Hu during their meeting and list the issue as one of several "tremendously important" topics the two will discuss. How much will come out of that discussion, however, is unclear. Activists, for their part, say they do not expect any surprise announcements from Mr. Hu.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid