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June 29, 2012

Do as I say not as I do: U.S. human rights hypocricy

The Canadian Charger

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In response to the May 24, 2012 U.S. State Department report entitle Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China recently published a report entitled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2011."

Covering six full newspaper pages, China’s response is compelling to say the least. The Chinese government urges the U. S. Government to face up to its own human rights record as the U.S. government releases its Human Rights report criticizing the Human Rights record of nearly 200 countries and regions, year after year, yet it mentions not a word about human rights in its own country.

A report published by the U.S. Department of Justice on Sept 15, 2011, revealed that in 2010 US residents aged 12 and above experienced 3.8 million violent victimizations, 1.4 million serious violent victimizations, 14.8 million property victimizations and 138,000 personal thefts. The violent victimization rate was 15 victimizations per 1,000 residents (www.bjs.gov).

The Chinese government report accuses the U.S. of “prioritizing the right to keep and bear arms” over the protection of citizen’s lives and personal security, and exercises lax firearm possession control, resulting in Americans owning between 35 and 40 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

“Every 100 people having 90 guns (Online edition of the Foreign Policy, Jan. 9, 2011).

Although China leads the world in number of executions, it is delighted to point out that the United States leads the developed world in gun violence and gun deaths. According to a report in the online edition of the Jan 9, 2011 Foreign Policy, over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence and another 200,000 are estimated to be injured each year due to guns. Imagine the health care costs associated with such carnage. That is, of course, for the victims who can afford healthcare.

In Chicago, more than 10 overnight shooting incidents occurred between the evening of June 3 and the morning of June 4, 2011 (Chicago Tribune June 4, 2011). Over 40 years ago, then U.S. President Richard Nixon – a moderate on many social issues by today’s standards – said the United States should be careful about criticizing other countries’ human rights records because they’re going to say “You clean up Chicago and Detroit before you criticize us.”

While advocating press freedom, the United States in fact imposes fairly strict censoring and control over the press, the Chinese government report claims.

“The U.S. Congress failed to pass laws on protecting rights of reporters’ news sources, according to media reports. An increasing number of American reporters have lost their jobs for “improper remarks on politics.” Helen Thomas resigned for critical remarks about Israel in June 2010.”

Although US citizens are supposed to enjoy the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of the press, the Chinese government said recent events indicate otherwise.

“While forcibly evacuating the Zuccotti Park, the original Occupy Wall Street encampment, the New York police blocked journalists from covering the police action. 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 arrested 200 journalists, including reporters from NPR and the New York Times (uschinapress.com, Nov 15, 2011).”

While, here in Canada, it’s been widely publicized that police used illegal tactics during the G20, it is virtually unknown amongst the Canadian public that police were also confiscating cell phones from those taking pictures of the mayhem.

Meanwhile, as the Chinese government report pointed out, “The U.S. mainstream media’s response the Occupy Wall Street Movement revealed the hypocrisy in handling issues of freedom and democracy. A poll by Pew Research Center indicated that in the second week of the movement, reports on the movement only accounted for 1.68 per cent of the total media reports by nationwide media organizations. On Oct.15, 2011, when the Occupy Wall Street movement evolved to be a global action, CNN and Fox News gave no live reports on it, in sharp contrast to the square protest in Cairo, for which both CNN and Fox News broadcast live 24 hours.”

Internet users in the US are also facing far more restrictions than many people have been led to believe. The U.S. Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act both give the government the power to monitor and block any Internet content “harmful to national security.”

According to the Chinese government report, the U.S. Homeland Security Department routinely searched key words like “illegal immigrants,” “virus,” “death,” and “burst out,” on Twitter with fake accounts and then secretly traced the Internet users who forwarded related content.

According to the Globe and Mail (Jan. 30, 2012), Leigh Van Bryan, a British citizen, wrote on Twitter, prior to his flight to the U.S.: “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” As a result, Bryan, along with a friend, were handcuffed and put in a lockdown with suspected drug smugglers for 12 hours, by armed guards, after landing in Los Angeles International Airport, just like “terrorists.”

Democracy in America is increasingly becoming enslaved to the almighty dollar, according to the Chinese government report.  In November 2011, the US Center for Responsive Politics said that 46 per cent of the US federal senators and members of the House of Representatives have personal assets of more than one million dollars. Thus, it’s no surprise that that US administration’s plans to impose higher tax on the rich who earn more than $1 million annually have been blocked in Congress (www.finance.ol.com). As one commentator put it, money has emerged as the electoral trump card  in US politics, and corporations have a US Supreme Court recognized right to use their financial muscle to promote candidates and policies favourable to their business interests and resist policies and shut out candidates deemed inimical to their business interests. (Online edition of Time, Jan 20, 2011).

According to a Washington Post report on August 10, 2011, nearly eight of 10 Americans polled were dissatisfied with the way the political system is working, with 45 per cent saying they were very dissatisfied.

On Jan. 14, 2012, The Washington Post reported that US government continues to violate the rights of its citizens in the name of boosting security. The Electronic Frontier Foundation released a report in 2011 entitled “Patterns of Misconduct, FBI intelligence violations from 2001 – 2011,” citing as many as 40,000 violations of law, Executive Order, or other regulations governing intelligence gathering.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 20, 20-11, that the FBI has collected information about religious, ethnic, and national-origin characteristics of American communities. According to the Washington Post commentary on Jan 14, 2012, the US government can use “national security letters’ to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations, and order searches of everything from business documents to library records. The US government can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. On January 14, 2012, The Washington Post also wrote that the US government continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on sole discretion.

“The National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec 31, 2011, allows for the indefinite detention of citizens.”

 The Act will place domestic terror investigations and interrogations into the hands of the military and which would open the door for trial-free, indefinite detention of anyone, including American citizens, so long as the government calls them terrorists (www.forbes. Com, Dec 5, 2011).

Meanwhile, the US continues to have the largest “prison population’ in the world, and the highest per capita level of imprisonment.

With this kind of human rights record, one has to wonder how the US can criticize the human rights record of other countries and why it isn’t trying to improve its own human rights record. The Chinese government is obviously enraged at US criticism of its Human Rights record, when the US engages in a lot of conduct it can’t justify, so it just ignores it. The Chinese government often claims that China is a developing country that shouldn’t have to meet the same standards as developed countries because it has so many more serious problems to deal with. Chinese government officials seem to think this justifies executing more people every year than the rest of the world combined, as well as harvesting the organs of prisoners. In China, in 2008, a medical student, in the Chinese military, who was studying English, described to me in great detail, how he and his supervisor harvested the organs of a just-executed prisoner. The demand for organs in China is such that the China Daily News reported that it is legal for anyone to sell their kidney (for about $5,500) and there are even government approved hospitals where the procedures are done.  Meanwhile, The China Daily News reported that one million people per year are awaiting kidney transplants in China, while fewer than 4,000 kidneys were donated in 2011. It sounds like a suppliers’ market.

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