America’s Human Rights Message to China: Do As I Say, Not As I Do!

As China’s State Visit to America winds up, an air of self-righteous indignation permeates much of the conversation among those eager for a reason to disagree with any understandings or agreements that President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao were able to achieve.  In fact, even Obama addressed, if only in general, the concerns of the American people over what are perceived to be the human rights violations by the Chinese government.

America, the country that has 2,500,000 citizens in prison, and over 3,200 awaiting execution — more than any other country in the world by far — is apparently concerned about China’s human rights record.   When racism is obvious, not only in the prison and judicial system but also throughout society, reflected in wage disparities as well as unemployment figures, health, and general standards of living, Americans seem to be in no position to lecture anyone else.

Yet somehow, Americans, living in a country that is currently invading two other countries that have never attacked them, or even threatened to attack them, and are carrying out drone strikes in a third, feel they are in a position of moral superiority to lecture others on what Americans feel are human rights violations.

Americans often cite what they consider to be China’s lack of freedom of speech and harsh treatment of its political opposition.  Americans say this as American politicians, pundits, and legislators call for actions including everything from kidnapping and incarceration, to assassination, against Julian Assange, the editor and chief of WikiLeaks, for simply publishing information leaked by others that happens to embarrass the American government and expose its malfeasance.  And, not to be outdone by any totalitarian regime, the FBI, under the Obama administration, has conducted numerous raids on the homes of anti-war activists. Yet despite this, there seems to be absolutely no compunction about arrogantly attempting to hold another country to account on the issues of free speech and obstruction of political opposition.

Over 2,000,000 Iraqi civilians, and 24,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since the unprovoked American invasion of their countries.  The number of Pakistani civilians killed by American drone strikes in their country is difficult to assess, as the American military refuses to share its data.  Figures range from several hundreds to close to 2,000.  None of these countries has threatened or attacked America.  Yet, Americans feel justified in criticizing China.

Perhaps Americans are able to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses that they outsource around the globe.  Perhaps only funding and supporting Israel as it assaults and violates the Palestinian people makes it better than doing it within ones own borders.  Perhaps invading other people’s countries and violating their human rights doesn’t count.  Perhaps labeling someone a criminal, even for a non-violent crime, justifies the inhumane treatment and exploitation of them, just as giving the label of ‘insurgents’ to innocent civilians, perhaps defending themselves, perhaps not, after you’ve invaded their country, makes it all seem more justified.

The prison at Guantanamo Bay is still open for business.  Prisoners are still being held without charge or due process.  Despite Obama’s campaign promise to close the prison, it remains open and the violations continue.  A covert prison system set up by the CIA soon after the invasion of Iraq has operated prisons in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several countries in Eastern Europe, as well as the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to intelligence officials and diplomats.  The current status of this clandestine system is unknown, but there have been no announcements of any closures of these facilities either.

There was actually a debate over whether water-boarding was torture, and yet another debate about whether it should be allowed anyway.  Human rights?

In February 2011, the Patriot Act will once again be up for either extension or discontinuation.  American citizens, under the Patriot Act  (allowed to continue by President Obama once already), are subject to gross violations of their constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.  Warrantless wiretapping, eavesdropping and spying, are all part of a judicial system that now includes indefinite detention without due process.  Suspicion is all it takes to rob you of your freedoms.  Evidence and due process are no longer standards of the American judicial system.

The fact that President Obama was last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and this year’s winner is sitting in a Chinese prison, seems a cruel joke.  When last years winner is prosecuting two illegitimate wars, conducting drone strikes in a third country, pursuing a journalist simply because he published material that the American government and its corporate and financial backers do not want published, and is poised to continue the American Patriot Act, severely impinging on the rights and freedoms of the citizens of his own country, the title of Nobel Peace Prize winner seems completely unjustified and criticism of China a blatant hypocrisy.

During the recent kerfuffle regarding who is more violent in America, the right or the left, a friend of mine, Michael McGehee, of Zcommunications, shook me from my tunnel vision and reminded me that with these global atrocities still being committed in the name of all Americans, no one has the right to claim innocence, let alone take solace in being part of what they believe to be the more peaceful portion of a violent whole.  While the left was mightily indignant at the violent rhetoric of the right, all seemed to forget that as a nation, as a people, America has a military so large, and spread out so far across the globe, that the sun never sets on the U.S. armed forces or the atrocities it commits and supports.

This does not excuse, by any means, the human rights violations committed by China, or any other country for that matter.  This article only addresses America.  If America thinks that it is the country to mount a soap-box proudly in defense of human rights and respect for humanity, it needs to take a long, hard, honest look at itself and broach the subject as a shared challenge rather than with a disingenuous air of superiority.  The only American exceptionalism on display here is its exceptional ability to excuse itself for that which it would gladly condemn and prosecute others.


10 Responses to America’s Human Rights Message to China: Do As I Say, Not As I Do!

  1. Kai January 21, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Beautifully spoken… such a shame that it will fall on (mostly) deaf ears… American Ignorance seems to know no limits.

  2. Wayne January 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Why are we not allowed to say that the one child policy is wrong when women are getting forced abortions and born babies are killed because people are only allowed to have one kid. What about the fact that since it was first put in place 400 million have been killed and forcefully aborted.. What about baby girls being left outside somewhere to die because people would rather have boys. What about the tens of thousands of people imprisoned, brutally tortured, and forced to work 12 hour days for being a certain religion or for peacefully protesting? Your saying we cant say anything about that because in comparison we have a couple small problems? Its against the law to be catholic and a large number of other religions. Its true that we are in a war with 2 countries that never attacked us but don’t forget that Afghanistan was supporting Osama bin Laden and hiding him. They refused to hand him over and do anything about the Taliban so we went after him. Unfortunately he escaped. Also we probably saved more lives in Iraqi than we have taken because tens of millions were killed under Saddam Hussein in genocides and killing anybody who disagreed with him. Its true that our reasons for going into Iraq were false but thats not a good reason to sit back and say nothing about china who is committing atrocities and causing so much pain, suffering, and death. People like you are what is wrong with this world. You will find any reason to ignore horrible human rights violations. People ignored Hitler and it came at a horrible body count. China has passed it by the hundreds of millions.

    • Liam Fox January 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      “a couple small problems.” You’ve gotta be kidding. ‘If’ Afghanistan was hiding Bin Laden, why invade Iraq? Your assertions have no basis. If you are going to make such claims, please provide links to support your argument. Claiming what ‘may have happened’ in a sovereign country had America not invaded it, is no justification for the invasion. Torturing individuals and killing women and children in a country you invade is not morally superior to someone who you say does the same thing in their own.

  3. Mo Maghari January 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Dear Mr. Fox
    you are missing a very important fact, China owns the US. If they would call the US debt, we will be in deep SH**. Besides the fact most americans like to buy that made in china cheap products ( and of-course we do not want to hear about the enslaved child labor who makes it).
    As far as the people of Pakistan, who cares, they are brown people who lives thousands of miles away.
    Now for sure, you expected too much from the US when it comes to the Palestinian people. How could we critisize what Israel did to the palestinians and their home land if we did to the American Indians ( the only real americans) what Israel did to the Palestinians. we even used the same execuse ( american indians and palestinians are savages). Beside all that, don’t we need some country to do some of the dirty work for us. you don’t expect us to dirty our own hands all the time.
    As far as Iraq, I am sure our intentions were honorable. We wanted to spread freedom and democracy. we wanted to bring stability and prosperity to the Iraqi people. I am sure ( as much as you are) that oil have nothing to do with it.
    The facts that things did not work as we expected, that is not knew. It seems we have the habit of miscalculating all the time. We miscalculated in Veitnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and few other countries.
    Dear Liam
    we are americans. we care about our cars, football, movies and our food. why are you trying to bother us with all the other nonsense about the value of human life, honor, princibles and morality. shame on you!
    ( I hope you know I am being sarcastic in my reply)

    • Sam January 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      You could have fooled me,because many Americans feel that way.

  4. jon de oenar January 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Very well said. Lots of hypocrisy and double standards.

    US Government’s Global rendition/kidnapping, torture, secret unofficial prisons, Occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan – Millions of refugees and deaths of innocent people, UAV Targeted Killings in Pakistan with collateral damage.

    US Government support both Israeli Apartheid and Arab Dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    US Government Sanctions against Cuban regime, but no sanctions against Arab regimes such as Tunisia, Libya, Jordan etc

  5. Wayne January 22, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Ok. Lets go with the theory that we invaded them for no good reason and the only positive is making them free people who can vote and making them friendly democracies. That’s not worth millions that have died. Thats probably not moral. So what? we are working on fixing our problems. china is not. How can we look away from people being killed for religious and political beliefs? When prisoners are having their organs soled against their will. What about babies being left to die? How can we look away from force sterilizations and forced abortions for having more than one baby? Should the USA have looked the other way when it came to Hittler because we had segregation? I hope you would say no. On the other hand now I think about it I would like some of these laws in the USA. All Christians and people of other faiths should be put in labor camps to work 12 hour days and to be brutally tortured. People that speak out against Obama should be put in prison also or killed. We should force millions to have abortions and sterilize others. We should have babies being left to die all over the place. We sould have tens of millions more men than woman under the age of 20 because of this. We should have no freedom of press so if you write something the government is against you will be put in labor camps. The internet should be filtered so the government can control what websites we visit. If you peacefully protest the government you should be shot or imprisoned. Thats the America I want. If I cant speak out against that in other places I cant speak out against that here

    • Liam Fox January 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

      America did turn a blind eye to Hitler, for quite a while. In fact, he had quite a bit of support from people in business and government.
      Iraq is not free. Having a puppet government installed by an invading power is not democracy and freedom. Iraq is terribly unstable, on the verge of a civil war and ripe for Iran to inject its influence. Iraq was a war prosecuted by a President and administration that had huge interest, personally, in Iraq’s oil.
      The current Patriot Act, in America, allows for political dissidents to be raided, arrested, and jailed… without due process. How does this substantively differ from China?
      As I stated in the article, nothing that China does is excused. But, America, and Americans, cannot think themselves superior when they commit equal and greater atrocities at home and abroad. You seem to think that ‘human rights’ apply only to Americans, as if Americans are the only humans that matter, or that have rights. Afghani, Iraqi, Palestinian and Pakistani citizens are equal human beings. Invading their country, or supporting others in doing so, and violating their human rights, killing civilians, is no different than doing it in America. Human rights are not an issue of borders.
      You seem to argue that others are somehow more evil than America; that their violations are somehow worse, making America’s acceptable. This is the disingenuous justification, the darkness of American exceptionalism , the prejudice and bias, that allows people to excuse their own villainous atrocities, on the basis that somehow it is OK for them to do it, but not others.
      Wrong is wrong. To have a self-righteous, holier-than-though attitude towards others, and other countries, while America commits violations both at home and abroad, is indefensible, and needs to stop.

    • Mo Maghari January 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm

      Hi Wayne
      Let me start by stating that I respect your opinion and passion about the subject. Let me also try to clarify what seems to be the point of disagreement. No one ( including the article by Mr Liam Fox) is condoning the abuse to human rights by China or any other country. I think the point is about being consistent in our policy instead of being hypocrites. The point is simply about taking a stand against all human rights weather in the US and china. The US goverment loses its credibility when talking about human rights abuse in China when we are ourselves commiting many of the human rights abuses around the world.
      Let me also state that your point about spreading freedom in Iraq is totaly wring. we did not spread freedom in Iraq. what we spread in Iraq is confusion, total chaos, and a state of lawlessness. Today, the crime rate in Iraq, the poverty, the fear and the unemployment is the highest in the history of that country.
      I have a lot of friends in Iraq. They all ( including me) hated saddam Hussein. we all wished if he would die. Having said that, I have to tell you that all the people I know in Iraq will tell you the situation in Iraq now is worst than what it was during the regime of that dictator Saddam. Sad but tre.

  6. Jeremy January 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I am not sure I fully understand why the horrific abuses of the U.S. government should mean that they are not allowed to criticize the horrific abuses of another country. The abuses of the U.S. do not make those of China less egregious, and sometimes it takes an outside voice to draw attention, particularly when activists within a nation are silenced, with prejudice, for criticizing their own government.

    I abhor the illegal and inhumane actions by both nations and hope that all people feel a duty to point out and protest these horrors whenever possible- regardless of their own citizenship. Foreign and domestic criticism is essential to ending such practices- although it is rarely as effective as I would want it to be.

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