China on U.S. Human Rights Abuse: ‘I Know You Are, But What Am I?’

China no longer needs to invent U.S. abuses—the truth does just fine.

NYPD clashes with Occupy protesters in Zuccoti Park
Something is rotten in the land of the free when China can spin U.S. human rights abuse on par with its own. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)
Matt Fleischer is a TakePart contributor who was awarded a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant for his series “Dangerous Jails.”

In what’s become an annual rite of spring, the U.S. State Department released its annual global Human Rights Report last Thursday—with a heavy focus on abuses in China. Like clockwork, the Chinese government issued outraged responses.

“Countries can hold talks about human rights on equal footing to increase mutual understanding and help each other improve,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told the AP, “but should never use the relevant issue as a tool for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.”

Beijing’s fact finders quite transparently went line-by-line through the U.S. report on China, looking for similar examples in the U.S. to illustrate American hypocrisy.

China isn’t just getting mad about America’s accusations, it’s getting even. Over Memorial Day Weekend, China’s state-run media released its own report on U.S. human rights fails in 2011—and the results were disappointing to fans of truth and justice as the American way.

Keep in mind, this is the same Chinese state media that two months ago issued a report suggesting the Dalai Lama’s activist efforts to liberate Tibet from Chinese rule were on par with the Nazi quest for Aryan hegemony during World War II. “The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the cruel Nazis during the Second World War,” the report stated. “How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews!”

It’s tough to give full credence to a report commissioned by a nuclear nation of more than one billion that—with a straight face—compares itself to Jewish Holocaust victims and calls the Dalai Lama Joseph Goebbels.

Yet, shockingly, TakePart thumbed into China’s report on America’s human rights abuses and found a sober, exhaustively sourced, hyperbole-free document.

The report is clearly a political F.U. to holier-than-thou U.S. policy makers. Beijing’s fact finders quite transparently went line-by-line through the U.S. report on China, looking for similar examples in the U.S. to illustrate American hypocrisy.

The Chinese rebuttalists certainly didn’t have to look very hard.

For instance, the U.S. has recently made an international stink over the horrific treatment and physical abuse of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng. China counters with dozens of similar instances of police pepper spraying and mass arresting peaceful Occupy demonstrators, as well as the journalists covering those protests.

From the report:

While forcibly evacuating the Zuccotti Park, the original Occupy Wall Street encampment, the New York police blocked journalists from covering the police actions. They set cordon lines to prevent reporters from getting close to the park and closed airspace to make aerial photography impossible. In addition to using pepper spray against reporters, the police also arrested around 200 journalists, including reporters from NPR and the New York Times. By trampling on press freedom and public interests, these actions by the US authorities caused a global uproar. US mainstream media’s response to the Occupy Wall Street movement revealed the hypocrisy in handling issues of freedom and democracy.

TakePart called several prominent Occupy organizers for reaction. None wanted to chat about China’s report on the record, but they all said the same basic thing—China is clearly using the Occupy movement to distract from its own human rights record; at the same time, its report isn’t wrong.

China was also able to single out several uniquely American civil rights abuses.

For instance, the U.S. is one of only three countries in the world to forgo ratifying the treaty of the Convention on the Rights of the Child—which, among other protections, designates the minimum age a child can be tried as an adult (12). The Rights of the Child treaty also bans life without parole sentences for juveniles convicted of crimes. The U.S. is the only country in the world to impose such sentences. Not even Somalia and South Sudan—the other countries to skip out on the treaty—go to such extremes.

During the worst state-backed international torture and Patriot Act domestic crackdowns of the Bush era, civil libertarians warned of a day when whatever lingering moral standing the U.S. carried in the world would be obliterated.

That a notorious human-rights abuser like China and its propagandist state media can cast itself as not morally inferior to the U.S.—and not need to fabricate events to make the argument—shows that day may now be here. 

Is the United States in danger of losing the moral high ground? Say why or why not in COMMENTS.

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