Posts Tagged ‘NGOs in China and Europe’

How utterly wrong a Chinese newspaper commentary can be…

May 14, 2015

Zhu Junqing, writing in the Shanghai Daily of 13 May 2015, is the prime example of how distorted the Chinese government’s view of the international human rights regime is. Under the title: “U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others“, the author quite rightly points to the UN Human Rights Council findings on 11 May and the comments by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, which conclude that there a lot of human right problems remain unresolved in the USA (including excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies, racial, religious and sex discrimination, Guantanamo Bay detention, migrant rights, environmental issues and counterterrorism practices). Also he recalls correctly that the United States is one of the two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is reluctant on other international instruments.

But then the article draws exactly the wrong conclusion. Instead of appreciating the UN’s courage to tackle a superpower, it call the USA the “ultimate human rights judge” (why??) and concludes that this “self-proclaimed human rights watchdog, needs to examine itself critically and improve its own human rights record before [!] blaming other countries for their violations”. Since “no country is perfect in its human rights record,” as Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying put it, “any country with human rights defects should work hard to resolve its own problems and improve its own human rights record before casting the first stone”.

Yep, that it the solution! Nobody criticizes anybody and we are all happy. The more obvious and consistent solution does not even get mentioned: IF the USA can be criticized, WHY is China so fearful and retaliates regularly against human rights defenders? [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/china-in-the-un-human-rights-council-manages-to-silence-cao-shunli-as-well-as-ngos/ ].

China’s own extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

Commentary: U.S. needs to work on own human rights record first before blaming others | Shanghai Daily.

China Update: human rights defenders suffer but Ukraine is not (yet) an example

February 26, 2014

On the heels of my post yesterday on Cao Shunli‘s health (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/serious-concern-for-health-of-detained-human-rights-defender-cao-shunli/), exiled, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng laments that China is cracking down harder than ever on human rights defenders, but says (somewhat unrealistically I should add) that the leadership should brace for a Ukraine-style uprising. “It is possible for the Chinese to have a similar revolution to the one in Ukraine. It could happen any time,” Chen told Nina Larson of AFP on 25 February in Geneva. “There are many, so very man arrests“, mentioning just as an example the arrest late last month of the parents of human rights activist Xue Mingkai, who had spent four years in prison for joining a banned party. While in custody, the father, Xue Fushun, plunged to his death from a window several stories up, in what police said was a suicide.

Frontline Defenders informed us a bit earlier that on 29 January 2014, the verdicts were released in the trials of human rights defenders, Mr Yuan Dong and Ms Hou Xin, both of whom are affiliated with the New Citizens’ Movement and had been facing charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order”. Yuan Dong was sentenced to 18 months in prison, whilst Hou Xin was found guilty but did not receive a sentence.  Yuan Dong and Hou Xin were originally detained, along with  Zhang Baocheng and Ma Xinli, on charges of “illegal assembly” on 31 March 2013 [http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/22993]  after banners with slogans such as “require officials to publicly disclose public assets” were allegedly unfurled during a rally in Xidan Cultural Plaza in Beijing’s Xicheng district. Hou Xin had only been photographically documenting the rally.

Besides the recent sentencing to four years imprisonment of one of the founders of the New Citizens’ Movement, Mr Xu Zhiyong, many more human rights defenders affiliated with the movement remain in detention (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/xu-zhiyongs-closing-statement-to-the-court-a-remarkable-document/)

On the other hand, on 25 February 2014 it was confirmed that Ilham Tohti (feared disappeared) has now been formally arrested on charges of  “splitting the country” and is being held in a detention centre in Xinjiang province. (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/has-uyghur-professor-ilham-tohti-disappeared-in-china/

For the full interview with Chen: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jLVlcgDJvTALGKEGE8kNJd3E43cA?docId=baf85933-271a-42b9-8e34-8210a195cbee

By the way China’s extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

The (eternal) humanitarian intervention debate moves to Reykjavik in April

March 7, 2013

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and the Ministry of Interior of Iceland organise the Reykjavík Congress on the topic: “Human Rights: Human Rights Protection & International Law: The Multifaceted Dilemma of Restraining and Promoting International Interventions”, in Reykjavik, Iceland from 10 to 13 April 2013.

It aims to argue and debate the notion of the responsibility to protect from a human rights perspective, taking into account the divergent dimensions in restraining or promoting international intervention. It plans to consider the current most vehement cases of human rights violations, and further comprehend the varied issues and approaches to these mass atrocities and crimes against humanity from a theoretical perspective, analyzing the complex layers and structures, and taking into account the ethical dilemma surrounding the responsibility to protect and international intervention. For more information please visit: www.reykjavikcongress.org

I would add that this is a most interesting and of course always ‘hot’ topic. I touched upon it in my own article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’. That the book was published also in Chinese makes it more interesting in view of the strong anti-intervention position taken by the Chinese Government: “Clearly, sovereignty is and remains one of the central organising principles of the international system as we know it. At the same time, there can be no doubt that the very idea and doctrine of internationally protected human rights is a powerful limitation. There is a clear tension between human rights law and general international law. The concept of the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs is laid down in Art 2(7) of the UN Charter, but the qualifying word ‘essentially’ should be noted. Moreover, the Security Council may use the existence of a threat to international peace and security to take action, which overrides sovereignty. From the beginning of the 20th century, international human rights NGOs played a major role in this process of norm shifting, from the Dumbarton Oaks Conference up to the recent debates on the ‘right to inference’ (droit d’ingerence ). After decades of slow but steady development, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993 confirmed that human rights are a ‘legitimate international concern’. Of course, this short chapter cannot settle the complex debate surrounding the issue of sovereignty and intervention, but it demonstrates that it is far from static and that the international human rights movement is an active ingredient in its development.” (from: Yuwen Li (ed), NGOs in China and Europe, Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).