China and Human Rights - The Intrepid

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

China and Human Rights

Recently Slate Magazine asked the question: are the media being too mean to China? Well, the answer is yes and no. There has undoubtedly been some Western bias in the coverage of the Olympics. Criticism sells. With American economic decline mirroring Chinese economic expansion, Americans have demonstrated an interest in stories that show China’s negative side. However, China deserves the criticism it is getting.

China designed the Olympics as a coming out party; a festival of extravagance designed to show the rest of world that China deserved to be treated as a world power. However, the prestige that China seeks is best earned by addressing its own dismal human rights record than by spending billions on a show that will fade from memory. When the IOC awarded China the Olympics, the country promised that it would address human rights. Unfortunately, China has only swept what it considered problems under the rug, and has made very few lasting changes. According to Amnesty International, China has committed more human rights violations in 2008 than in the past decade.

In anticipation of the games, China promised that the internet at Olympic venues would be uncensored. It appears that China has broken this promise. While foreign journalists have been given more freedom in China, domestic journalists continue to be cracked down on. Even the freedom given to international journalists was curtailed after the situation in Tibet in March and the Sichuan earthquake. Even the areas where citizens can supposedly hold demonstrations are highly suspect. People who have applied to demonstrate in these areas have been imprisoned and the Chinese government has created a spy network to report on any individuals who desire to demonstrate.

As Tim Wu from Slate Magazine puts it: “the West wants to see the dirt, not the rug it was swept under. It's the dishonesty, as much as the substance of what's wrong in China, that seems to get under the skin of Western reporters.”