Human Rights Achievements Undeniable in China

Human Rights Achievements Undeniable in China
By Sun Yuqing
Updated: 2008-11-12 11:20
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China has been blamed and to some extent stigmatized by some organizations as the notorious violator of human rights, such as the largest number of death sentences or the one-child policy. As this year marks the 30th anniversary of reform and opening-up policy, a historical, realistic and holistic reflection over the social and economical developments in past three decades may show the opposite of these criticisms.
Domestically or internationally, no county like China has made such massive progresses and achievements in a short time in protecting a broad range of human rights to the huge population, although there are still problems according to Western standards.
It’s impossible and intellectually challenging to provide a full picture of China ’s human rights situation in this short article. I would like to build upon my personal life experiences and share my observations from a human rights perspective, hoping to open a small window for rights activists to critically rather than emotionally understand China .
For many times, my parents told me about the extreme poverty 30 years ago and they said even dogs today would not eat the food at that time. Now in this small hilly village in East China’s Shandong Province , every family has TVs and other home appliances, and this summer I started to talk through webcam with my parents thanks to the computer of a disabled shop-owner. Young people either study or go to work in big cities of their free choices.. More interestingly, my mother, nearly 60 years old, and other old people find new career opportunities by working in the agricultural processing plants. As a result, my father has to prepare dinner, a big change of the traditional role of women. Today, the village leader is not appointed by the higher officials, but voted in a democratic election. “The candidates worked hard to win votes by visiting us and speaking nice words,” my mother said.
Similar political and social changes happen all over China , from the well-developed costal areas to the relatively under-developed inland regions, increasing people’s access to information and awareness of their own rights. Those changes certainly can be understood and interpreted under the framework of human rights. From the individual level, is it a progress when people don’t need to sleep in hungry, when the right to existence and security is guaranteed, when children can have free 9-year education? Is it an achievement when a house owner in Chongqing forced the usually arrogant real estate developers to stop the eviction with the help of Internet? On the state level, does it promote human rights when China amended its constitution to include formal guarantees of human rights and private property? It’s undeniable that, because of 30 years’ efforts, millions of Chinese people enjoy more rights enshrined in the international human rights law system, both in width and depth. People can easily find those progresses even in the most remote areas.
It is also a fact that China still has a long way to go in protecting human rights for one fifth of the world’s population, the most difficult human rights protection project and a huge challenge to the Government administration. Walking in my hometown also let you to easily recognize the various social problems already sprang out during the enormous social transition. Right before the local government office, I met retired soldiers staging a sit-in protest to voice their dissatisfaction over the welfare policy. In many public places, you will see the large slogans that say “treat boys and girls are equal” or “to get rich quickly needs to have less children.” Peasants in my howtown also got their compensation after their crops were destroyed by the polluted water from a biological company. The human right in China has been improved step by step on the comprehensive considerations of practical situations, not on the idealist and politically-motivated approaches.
The Beijing Olympics sever as the test and confirmation for China ’s reform and opening-up policy. Browsing the news reports on the influence of Olympics over human rights in China , I was shocked by the sharp contrast in conceptualizing and framing those issues between the Chinese scholars and their Western counterparts. The Western discuss the Olympics under a cold-war ideology that Communist Party of China wants to use the Games to showcase its achievement and increase its international and national legitimacy, turning a blind eye to the basic fact that CPC has already changed from a close and revolution-centered party to a ruling and reform-focused party in China . The most unbearable part of this biased interpretation is that they rarely report how the Chinese people think of the Games. The Chinese opinion leaders in newspapers emphasize that the Olympics are Chinese people’s century dream to better engage with the world community and Olympics make Chinese people more tolerant, open, and self-confident in the international stage, leave a rich spiritual heritage, and particularly promote the development of civic society (mostly referring to the volunteers). In my opinion, the growth of civic awareness will be the most valuable thing from the Olympics since it will provide the necessary environment and soil for human rights development, which can not be forced by international pressure but only from internally-born aspirations.
The main purpose of this short article is definitely not to sing an ode to the Chinese government, although it indeed deserves the world appreciation in effective leadership of the largest developing country. As China reflects its 30 years’ development, the international community, particularly the various human rights organizations, also needs to reflect their approaches and strategies in advocating their agendas. A good start may be from the understanding of China ’s history, specific situations, social systems and cultural diversities, so we can at least give up the stereotyped assumption and not well-founded condemnations of China , and have constructive and realistic dialogues on as well as the protection of human rights. For the Chinese government, it may be a good idea to actively introduce the achievements through human rights terms and perspectives and openly admit the difficulties, changing the Western dominance in human rights discourses.
I don't think that a stagnating western mind is capable to understand the above post

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