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China’s report on U.S. human rights

A boost to the protest movements

Published May 30, 2012 9:39 PM

The Chinese government has responded to accusations by the U.S. government and media criticizing that rapidly developing country for purported violations of human rights. On May 25, it issued a very detailed report called “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2011.”

The Chinese report relies heavily on U.S. government and media sources for the extensive information it presents. It includes within the category of human rights such violations as the great income disparity in the U.S., the massive incarceration rate, racial discrimination, the high rates of unemployment and homelessness, the lack of health care for tens of millions, the heavy repression of the Occupy movement, the abuse of immigrants, the growth of the national security state, and U.S. military interventions in other nations.

The full text of the Chinese report is available online in English — and other languages — at news.xinhuanet.com.

China’s public criticism of the U.S. government for its hypocrisy on human rights should be embraced by the progressive movement here. Even if this was forced on China’s leaders by Washington’s increasingly aggressive stance — in which each insult to China’s sovereignty is accompanied by a chorus of self-righteous lecturing on human rights — the fact that China has responded by speaking truth to power is a welcome development.

China’s State Council Information Office released its report immediately after the U.S. State Department issued its annual Country Reports on Human Rights on May 24. Washington’s government of the 1% presumes to pass judgment on every other country in the world — as though it were just an impartial and independent arbiter of human rights.

But, as China rightfully points out, while the U.S. assumes the right to criticize nearly 200 countries and regions, it said not a word about “its own woeful human rights situation and kept silent about it.” The Chinese have released their own report “to reveal the true human rights situation of the United States to people across the world and urge the United States to face up to its own doings.”

Repression of Occupy Wall Street

The section of the document called “On Civil and Political Rights” cites many U.S. and British media sources on the treatment meted out to the Occupy Wall Street movement: “Claiming to defend 99 percent of the U.S. population against the wealthiest, the Occupy Wall Street protest movement tested the U.S. political, economic and social systems. … [T]he single fact that thousands of protesters were treated in a rude and violent way, with many of them being arrested — the act of willfully trampling on people’s freedom of assembly, demonstration and speech — could provide a glimpse to the truth of the so-called U.S. freedom and democracy.”

“On Oct. 9, 92 people were arrested in New York (New York Times, Oct. 15). The Occupy Wall Street movement was forced out of its encampment at Zuccotti Park and more than 200 people were arrested on Nov. 15 (The Guardian, Nov. 25). Chicago police arrested around 300 members of the Occupy Chicago protest in two weeks (Herald Sun, Oct. 24). At least 85 people were arrested when police used teargas and baton rounds to break up an Occupy Wall Street camp in Oakland, California on Oct. 25. An Iraq war veteran had a fractured skull and brain swelling after being allegedly hit in the head by a police projectile (The Guardian, Oct. 26). A couple of hundred people were arrested when demonstrations were staged in different U.S. cities to mark the Occupy Wall Street movement’s two-month anniversary on Nov. 17 (USA Today, Nov. 18). Among them, at least 276 were arrested in New York only. Some protesters were bloodied as they were hauled away. Many protesters accused the police of treating them in a brutal way (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18).”

The Chinese statement then referred to the thousands of OWS demonstrators arrested in the last months of 2011, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Chicago and Oakland, Calif.

The report describes how police prevented reporters from getting close to the protesters as the Zuccotti Park encampment was being torn down. Reporters were pepper sprayed and some 200 arrested. The result was a news whiteout: “[W]hen the Occupy Wall Street movement evolved to be a global action, CNN and Fox News gave no live reports on it, in a sharp contrast to the square protest in Cairo, for which both CNN and Fox News broadcast live 24 hours.”

‘Homeland Security’ & the Internet

The document then takes up the question of government control of the Internet: “The U.S. Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act both have clauses about monitoring the Internet, giving the government or law enforcement organizations power to monitor and block any Internet content ‘harmful to national security.’ Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 stipulates that the federal government has ‘absolute power’ to shut down the Internet under a declared national emergency.

“According to a report by British newspaper the Guardian dated March 17, 2011, the U.S. military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas, and will allow the U.S. military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives. The project aims to control and restrict free speech on the Internet.”

Rounding out its section on government repression, the document takes up the incarceration of millions in the U.S.: “The U.S. remains the country with the largest ‘prison population’ and the highest per capita level of imprisonment in the world, and the detention centers’ conditions are terrible. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of prisoners amounted to 2.3 million in 2009 and one in every 132 American citizens is behind bars.”

The report addresses the issues of sexual victimization in prisons, youth suicides, the elimination of weekend lunches as a cost-cutting measure, the large number of life sentences and prisoners in isolation units — and then gives recognition to two hunger strikes by California prisoners last year that were prompted by these unbearable conditions

‘Capitalization’ of politics

The document explains how the “capitalization” of politics creates a system that serves the “master of money.” It backs up this assertion with quotes from Time, the New York Times and the Washington Post on how powerful members of Congress get huge campaign contributions from industries regulated by the committees they sit on. It also recalls the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that allows corporations to “use their considerable financial muscle to promote candidates and policies favorable to their business operations and to resist policies and shut out candidates deemed inimical to their business interests.”

Perhaps this section of the report can also be read as a warning about the inroads made in Chinese society by so-called entrepreneurs, many with close ties to U.S. corporations, who have unlimited funds to corrupt officials and influence economic decisions.

Unemployment & polarization of wealth

When the economic crisis that began in the U.S. in 2008 hit China, the central government, led by the Communist Party, responded with a $700 billion stimulus program. Unlike the stimulus program of the Obama administration, however, the money did not go to bail out banks or provide businesses with tax “incentives” to expand production — which didn’t work so far as jobs were concerned.

In China, the stimulus money was invested in the country’s infrastructure. Some 30 million jobs were created in railway expansion, an improved electrical grid, roads, green technology and other projects — about equal to the number of workers who lost jobs in export-oriented assembly plants.

Thus it should be no surprise that this document sees unemployment in the U.S. as a failing of the government, not as an inevitable fact of economic life.

It says that “At no time in the last 60 years had the country’s long-term unemployment been so high for so long as it was in 2011. … The New York Times reported on Dec. 12, 2011, that at last count, 13.3 million people were officially unemployed and that 5.7 million of them had been out of work for more than six months (The New York Times, Dec. 12, 2011). The unemployment rate was 8.9 percent for 2011 (www.bls.gov), and the unemployment rate for American youth between 25 and 34 stood at 26 percent in October of that year (The World Journal, Nov. 18, 2011), with more underemployed.”

The report takes up the claim that the United States has a large and growing “middle class”: “However, this is not the truth. According to the report issued by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Oct. 25, 2011, the richest one percent of American families have the fastest growth of family revenue from 1979 to 2007 with an increase of 275 percent for after-tax income, while the after-tax income of the poorest 20 percent grew by only 18 percent.”

As for accumulated wealth, or assets, the gap is much, much wider: “The wealthiest 400 Americans have 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars’ worth of assets (The China Press, October 13, 2011), or the same combined wealth as the poorest half of Americans — over 150 million people (www.currydemocrats.org).”

Poverty, homelessness & cuts in education

Next, the document lays out the social effects of this wealth gap: “Contrary to the wealthiest 10 percent, the number of Americans living in poverty as well as poverty rate continued to hit record high, which is a great irony in the affluent America. A report published by the Census Bureau on Sept. 13, 2011, showed that 46.2 million people lived below the official poverty line in 2010, 2.6 million more than in 2009, hitting the highest record since 1959. The report also said that the percentage of Americans who lived below the poverty line in 2010 was 15.1 percent, the highest level since 1993.”

The study cites statistics on children living in poverty (22 percent) and people dependent on food stamps (46 million), as well as the sharp increase in homelessness and the number of people who lack health insurance (49.9 million). It points out that women and children are the most affected.

The report includes figures on the relentless cuts in education budgets. It mentions a demonstration of students in Berkeley protesting tuition increases and notes, “Reuters reported that two-thirds of undergraduate students would graduate with student loans about 25,000 U.S. dollars on average owing to the expensive college tuition (Reuters, Feb. 1, 2011).”

Racism & oppression

In a section called “On Racial Discrimination,” the Chinese report cites such authorities as the Urban League and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as major newspapers, to show that conditions of employment, police harassment and poverty for those it calls “ethnic minorities” have actually worsened in recent years. It says that “According to the annual report released by the National Urban League of the U.S., African-Americans’ 2011 Equality Index is currently 71.5 percent, compared to 2010’s 72.1 percent — among which the economic equality index declined from 57.9 percent to 56.9 percent, and the health index, from 76.6 percent to 75 percent, and the index in the area of social justice, from 57.9 percent to 56.9 percent.”

The study then shows that the unemployment and poverty rates among African Americans, Latinos/as and Native people are nearly double those of whites because “Ethnic minorities in the United States have long been suffering systemic, widespread and institutional discrimination.” It gives figures on police stop-and-frisk rates being highest in these oppressed communities, and also describes the chilling effect of government surveillance and harassment on Muslim communities based on so-called anti-terrorism laws.

The document also reports on the “ferocious mistreatment” of what it calls “illegal immigrants,” citing laws in Arizona and Alabama that lead to mass detention of immigrants in camps where they are “denied enough food, water, medical care and sleep, even beaten up and confined in extreme coldness or heat, suffering both psychological abuse and threats of death (The World Journal, Sept. 24, 2011).”

Much of the information in this comprehensive report is well known to progressive activists in the United States. But not since the Chinese leadership opened up the country to foreign capital investment has the government produced such an indictment of the U.S. system. It is bound to reverberate around the world as the capitalist economic crisis sharpens the class struggle, both inside and outside the U.S.