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China

China's media blitz targets US rights record

Move follows Washington-led criticism of alleged abuses by Beijing at UN council

ucanews.com reporter, Beijing

ucanews.com reporter, Beijing

Updated: March 17, 2016 06:07 AM GMT
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China's media blitz targets US rights record

Demonstrators take part in a protest calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison on Jan. 11 in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. China's media has launched a scathing attack on the U.S.' human rights record in the wake of U.S.-led criticism of alleged rights abuses committed by Beijing.  (Photo by AFP)

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China's state media has launched a stinging attack on the United States' rights record following unprecedented criticism of Beijing at the U.N. Human Rights Council on abuses including the detention of hundreds of lawyers and violations against faith groups.

Since the U.S.-led criticism by 12 countries also including Japan and Australia on March 11, Chinese media has published dozens of news articles and commentaries attacking the United States.

"Unfortunately, these Western countries, instead of taking responsibilities for their own actions, continue to accuse the victimized countries of violating human rights. This is totally unacceptable," Chinese diplomat Fu Cong told the U.N. rights body on March 15.

China is due to defend its rights record in Geneva on March 19. Rights groups have accused Beijing of overseeing the removal of 1,700 church crosses in Zhejiang province, the reintroduction of mass trials and forced confessions and persecution of minorities including Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs.

Beijing's response has seen a media blitz against the United States including a 45-minute documentary first aired by state broadcaster CCTV on March 13 "to reveal how the U.S. infringes on American people's human rights in all walks of life."

Its themes of homelessness, substandard prison conditions, racial inequality and gun violence in the United States were just, said William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International based in Hong Kong.

"But it essentially misses the broader point," he added. "The standard the U.S. uses in discussing China and other countries is the standard agreed upon by the international community: the standard based on international law."

CCTV's documentary includes footage of workers from global rights groups, including Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA's human rights program, who were not identified by their professional titles, said Nee.

"One might guess this is because China wants to use the expertise of these human rights experts in criticizing American human rights violations," he said. "But acknowledging the valid work of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in their criticism might make it harder to dismiss their similar criticism of Chinese human rights violations."

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are barred from operating on the Chinese mainland although both have offices in Hong Kong.

At a March 13 media conference in Beijing, the director of China's Human Rights Institution Liu Hainian continued criticism of the United States, blaming recent military action in the Middle East for the rise of the Islamic State.

Both Liu and Chang Jian, vice director of the human rights research center of Nankai University in Tianjin, ducked questions about recent "confessions" aired on Chinese television, including that of Christian lawyer Zhang Kai.

"While this tactic has been used before, we do see that there is a trend for more frequent usage of 'confessions,'" said a spokesperson for the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group in Hong Kong.

U.S.-based Christian rights group China Aid said it had no update on Zhang's situation after he was detained in Wenzhou late last month on accusations of endangering state security after he offered legal aid to churches trying to rebuff a cross-removal campaign.

In a rare display of public discontent, dozens of Christian leaders from Wenzhou and other Chinese cities issued a letter to church members earlier this month criticizing Beijing over Zhang's "disturbing" televised confession. Some of the co-signatories included Chinese from Los Angeles and New York.

China's state media has accused the United States of leading a campaign to embarrass Beijing as the ruling Communist Party oversees high-level political meetings.

In a press conference to mark the end of the meetings on March 16, China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang appeared to strike a conciliatory tone with the United States by saying that common interests with the U.S. outweighed differences.

"Deepened China-U.S. cooperation will not only benefit the two countries, but the whole world," he said.

 

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