News / Asia

US: China Human Rights Continue to Deteriorate

A policeman points to a supporter of Southern Weekly newspaper in a wheelchair before taking him away during a protest in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, Jan. 10, 2013.
A policeman points to a supporter of Southern Weekly newspaper in a wheelchair before taking him away during a protest in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, Jan. 10, 2013.
William Ide
A top U.S. official says China’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate. Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, says talks that were held in China earlier this week fell short of U.S. expectations.  
 
This week’s human rights talks were the 18th time that U.S. and Chinese officials had gathered to discuss a topic that Zeya says is central to Washington and Beijing’s bilateral engagement.
 
She says that while the dialogue recognized the Chinese people’s remarkable record in lifting hundreds of thousands out of poverty, it did not shy away from the full range of issues where China’s policies and practices have fallen seriously short of international standards.
 
“We highlighted some of the various ways in which Chinese citizens are speaking out more about their expectations of their government, with respect to corruption, environmental degradation, worker and consumer safety, lack of rule of law, religious freedom and other aspects of government policy," Zeya said.
 
The meeting, which took place in the southern city of Kunming, was the first since Chinese President Xi Jinping assumed office in March.  Rights groups note that since Mr. Xi has taken office, Chinese authorities have placed more than a dozen activists under detention for calling on government officials to publicly disclose their assets.
 
The crackdown has occurred despite the fact that Chinese officials have voiced support for cracking down on graft and lavish spending by government agencies. China’s Communist Party says it is in a life or death struggle against corruption.
 
Other activists have been detained for trying to free petitioners who are being held in so-called “black jails.”  The secret detention centers are an extralegal method authorities use to silence dissent.
 
“We noted that such actions are contrary to China’s international obligations and indeed in most cases China’s own laws and constitution," Zeya said. "We also conveyed our deep concern about attempts to control or silence or activists by targeting family members and associates of those activists.”
 
China routinely dismisses such criticism as meddling in its internal affairs. It also insists that those who have been detained are being handled in accordance with its own laws.
 
When asked how Chinese authorities responded to the mention of specific individual cases, Zeya says officials did provide some information, but overall their responses fell short of what U.S. officials had expected to get out of the meeting.
 
Some human rights groups have questioned the effectiveness of the dialogues, which have been taking place since the early 1990s. They argue that the discussion have become routine exercises in diplomacy that have achieved few results.

Despite the U.S. government’s assessment of the deteriorating human rights situation in China, Zeya argues that the talks are not just an empty exercise. She says that although Washington and Beijing may differ on human rights, the Chinese public’s expectations for government accountability and change have not been static since the talks began more than a decade ago.
 
“I personally do not see human rights as an area of disagreement between the American and Chinese people. Like people everywhere the Chinese people deserve to be treated with dignity, to have accountable government and to have their voices heard," Zeya said. "These discussions then are ultimately about Chinese citizens' aspirations and how they are navigating their own future.”
 
During the talks, U.S. officials also expressed their deep concern about China’s attempts to silence dissent and tighten controls over its Tibetan and Uighur minorities. They also urged China to engage in dialogue with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama or his representatives.
 
Since 2009, more than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest of Chinese policies in Tibet and in Tibetan areas in China. They have also called for the return of the Dalai Lama.
 
China says the Dalai Lama is behind the self-immolations, an accusation the exiled spiritual leader denies.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid