Is China Abusing The Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Report: Written by Orla Knox-Macaulay.

The People’s Republic of China has been called out by NGO’s such as Amnesty International regarding its human right infringements. The country has severely restricted its populations freedom of expression and speech due to authoritarian control; and this alone abuses at least four articles in the Human Rights Declaration.  

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, China made leaps and bounds in terms of their economic growth. However, it seems that this has somehow superseded the need for human rights.

In 2015, George Osbourne put the head of the FCO, Sir Simon McDonald’s words of “wisdom” into practise on ranking economic prosperity over human rights. On his visit, he denied the plights of 249 lawyers and activists about the jailed economist IIham Tohti. This blatant disregard highlights the real abuses and problems that occur in China.  In relation to this, there are thirty articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and China appear to be abusing the following four:

One-Child Policy and Gender Inequality: Violation of Article 1

The first article stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is “all human beings are born free and equal.”  However, one could argue that each child born into the Republic of China is not born equal.

For example, from 1978 to 1980 the One-Child Policy was slowly introduced into China. Even though this has recently dissolved from Chinese Law, this form of population control created gender disparity. What this policy did was force those who lived in rural areas, and sometimes urbanised, to leave their female babies to die so they could procreate and have a son.

In 2012, female infanticide became noticed in the city of Anshan, China. A baby girl had been thrown away with her throat cut, thus horrifying the nation. She was an innocent baby and the pressures on having sons and only have one child became too great for many families.

This gender inequality has had real implications, not only on the lives of females, but also on their economic prospects. In a village called Dadun, men are seen as more “equal” than women. While being forced to move out of their homes for tourism development, 92 women were neglected their rightful compensation, while all the men were given theirs.

In an interview discussing women and economy, Leta Hung Fincher claims that “women in China have missed out on the greatest accumulation on residential property wealth.” This is because men have a place in the economy, so therefore can provide the household; the women provide the decorations and furniture.

As well as economic inequality, the Chinese government are actively thwarting the progression of women’s rights. On March 8th, 2015, five women were detained on International Women’s Day because of their activism of sexual harassment towards women.

Torture in Detention Units : Violation of Article 5

This article concludes that people shall not be subjected to torturous acts or anything inhumane. Like the above article, China infringes upon this. In regards to infrastructure, this is very much a bottom up problem. The government have made pledges to eradicate torture. However, those still held in police custody have to endure, on some occasions, torture and cruelty beyond belief.  In an Amnesty International led project in 2015, they uncovered that torture was used to extract confessions from people like lawyers and activists.

The majority of torture is confined to jail or custody; this is routine. This all occurs due to the corruption of the legal and judicial systems in China. In 2015, The Geneva report from the UN conference stated that on their fifth count, China were unable to state the accountability for the use torture in their detention units.

China’s director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, stated that in an interview in response to the UN conference, “China has shown no serious willingness to adopt the independent experts’ recommendations to eradicate torture and ill-treatment in detention.”

This has had a major effect on the inhabitants of many prisoners and innocents; their lives have worsened. Even though China’s government has addressed its accountability, no measures are being put in place to stop the high levels of torture in prisons and detention units.

Freedom of Religious Belief: Violation of Article 16

Article sixteen centres on freedom of religious belief. However, this continues to be stifled in China. According to Amnesty International’s annual report on China, in 2013 a campaign was set up to demolish churches across the Zhejiang province. This consequently strengthened in 2015.

The Communist party which is an atheist body only recognises five religions in China: Protestantism, Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism and Taoism. Therefore, at the heart of China comes religious scrutiny. Alongside this, the U.S government compiled a list of countries that had the worse religious expression grades; China was ranked in the top 10.

From the outset, The People’s Republic of China have exercised freedom of religious expression. However, this does not include the protection over religious houses or activities. If your religion does not fall under the ascribed list of acknowledged religions, then you are likely to be subject to violence and persecution.

Falun Gong practitioners have continued to be persecuted and held in detention centres merely for their belief, alongside being brutally attacked and tortured by prison guards.

In the International Religious Freedoms report of 2015, the report mentioned that “the government continued to cite concerns over the “three evils” of “ethnic separatism, religious extremism, and violent terrorism” as grounds to enact and enforce restrictions on religious practices of Uighur Muslims.” This was a government led pursuit, which highlights how religious expression is not permitted to an extent.

This is a huge problem in China that is yet to be resolved because the government refuses to be accountable for the countless deaths that have occurred within man religious communities like the Falun Gong, as aforementioned.

Political Freedom: Violation of Article 21

Finally, due to the nature of governance, the people’s right to take part in elections is at the discretion of the government and its thoroughly chosen representatives.

Even though the electoral system is open to everyone over the age of 18 of any background, in practise, people’s views are not taken into consideration. Therefore, their democracy is very limited.

In terms on encroaching upon people’s human rights, the government openly punishes those who call for a multiparty rule.

Since 2012, democratic and politically repression has increased under the rule of Xi Jinping. Again, the Human Rights Watch Chinese Director Sophie Richardson, spoke out about the corruption in the governance of China. In an interview she stated that “Under President Xi, China is rapidly retreating from rights reforms.” The Rights Reforms, to improve Human Rights, had been improving at a steady pace until 2012. Only recently has it been re-evaluated by the Chinese government, and new legal measures are being put in place this month to improve human rights across the country.

Human rights in China has always been dubious topic with no straightforward answer or solution. The country fluctuates in terms of the improvements made to those who are victims of human rights abuses. Conclusively, China needs to invest time into bettering equality and freedom of expression among its citizens, perhaps by intertwining its expanding economy with less-developed demographics.



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