HRW denounces China's massive attack on human rights at home and abroad
By Mario Villar
Jisheng Xing (C), the head of the Chinese mission to the United Nations, responds to comments made about China's record on human rights by Kenneth Roth (3-R), the executive director of Human Rights Watch, at a press conference where Roth discussed the group's 2020 world report - highly critical of China - at United Nations headquarters in New York on 14 January 2020. EFE/EPA/JUSTIN LANE
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, talks with journalists during a press conference where he discussed the group's 2020 world report - highly critical of China - at United Nations headquarters in New York on 14 January 2020. EFE/EPA/JUSTIN LANE
By Mario Villar
United Nations, Jan 14 (efe-epa).- The policies of the Chinese government both at home and abroad are a threat to the entire global system protecting human rights, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, calling on the international community to unite to halt Beijing's abuses.
In presenting the NGO's annual report, which examines human rights policies and practices in about 100 countries, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth at a press conference accused the government of Xi Jinping of engaging in "the most brutal and pervasive oppression that China has seen for decades," including building a "nightmarish surveillance system" in far western Xinjiang province.
"Beijing has long suppressed domestic critics. Now the Chinese government is trying to extend that censorship to the rest of the world," Roth said.
"If not challenged, Beijing's actions portend a dystopian future in which no one is beyond the reach of Chinese censors, and an international human rights system so weakened that it no longer serves as a check on government repression," he added.
Roth presented HRW's 652-page annual World Report 2020 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, although originally he had been scheduled to make it public in the semi-autonomous Chinese region of Hong Kong until Chinese authorities denied him access to that special administrative region, which has been experiencing violent street protests for the past seven months, a situation that constitutes China's more severe political crisis in years.
The Chinese government justified its decision to bar him from Hong Kong by claiming that HRW had spurred the protests there, an accusation that Roth said was "ridiculous" and "insulting" to Hong Kong residents.
Roth also said that it was "absurd" to think that he and his colleagues had the ability to mobilize a million or more people to take to Hong Kong's streets for those protests.
The HRW official said that the problem is that Beijing is terrified of admitting that there is a genuine desire for democracy in a territory it governs, above all because it fears that such a sentiment could spread to the rest of China.
The report also accuses China of "repeatedly threatening other member states at the United Nations to protect its image and deflect discussion of its abuses," noting that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been reluctant to publicly demand that China - which holds a veto-holding seat on the UN Security Council - end its detention of about a million Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
In Xinjiang, Beijing has built a "nightmarish" monitoring system to control millions of Muslims there and politically indoctrinate them.
Roth said that technology has been central element of Chinese repression, with massive intrusions into the privacy of people via measures such as forced collection of DNA samples and the use of artificial intelligence to nip any dissident activities in the bud.
To halt any reaction from abroad for those abuses, the report says, China has expanded its efforts to undermine international institutions tasked with protecting human rights and is intimidating other governments by using its growing economic and diplomatic power.
In addition, Roth said, Beijing is taking advantage of the vacuum left by other powers on the international stage, for instance US President Donald Trump's lack of "credibility" on human rights given his regular support of autocrats and the difficulties within the European Union in finding a common position on the matter.
To counter Beijing's efforts, HRW said that democracies should act together to offer other nations alternatives to Chinese loans and to freeze the assets of officials involved in the crackdown in Xinjiang, adding that red-carpet treatment for Chinese officials should be conditioned on "real progress on human rights."
Meanwhile, Chinese diplomat Xing Jisheng, who attended the UN event, called the HRW report "very prejudicial," adding that it includes "fabrications" and saying "we completely reject the content," while claiming that Beijing has made extensive efforts to advance human rights in China.