Report on United States human rights abuses in 2017

The Information Office of the State Council in China has published its annual report on human rights abuses in the United States. You can find a full copy of the report here, and a news summary at Xinhua News. While the report details abuses of civil rights, systemic racial discrimination, increasing flaws in US-style democracy, and flagrant abuse of human rights in other countries, an underlying theme concerns the right to economic wellbeing (a basic principle of Chinese Marxist approaches to human rights).

On this note, the following points are relevant:

In December 2017, 52.3 million Americans lived in “economically distressed communities” and 18.5 million were living in deep poverty.

Of those living in poverty in the United States, there were about 13.3 million children – 18 percent of those under the age of 18. The U.S. Urban Institute statistics revealed that nearly 9 million children in the United States (11.8 percent of American children) would grow up in persistently poor families.

The average wealth for white families is seven times higher than average wealth for black families and that median white wealth is twelve times higher than median black wealth. More than one in four black households had zero or negative net worth.

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White Paper: Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief in China

As soon as I arrived in China, the government published a new ‘white paper’, called ‘China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief’. The Chinese original can be found here, but translations into other languages are not yet available. The comrades at the Central and Compilation Bureau will be working on the translations as I write.

However, a number of new outlets have given a foretaste, such as this one at Xinhua News:

China Tuesday issued a white paper noting that the country adopts policies on freedom of religious belief, and that such freedom is protected under the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics.

The white paper, titled “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief,” was issued by the State Council Information Office.

It said that respecting and protecting freedom of religious belief is a basic policy of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government.

“Believers and non-believers enjoy the same political, economic, social and cultural rights, and must not be treated differently because of a difference in belief,” the white paper said, adding that the state respects citizens’ freedom to religious belief and protects their normal religious activities.

It said China manages religious affairs in accordance with the law, adheres to the principle of independence and self-management, actively guides religions to adapt to the socialist society, and unites religious believers and non-believers to the greatest extent.

Also, the document said the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics is continuously being improved, providing stronger guarantees for the lawful rights and interests of religious believers.

The religious activities of foreigners in China are also protected in accordance with the law, according to the white paper.

The document noted that religious extremism and violent terrorist activities are dealt with in accordance with the law. It said China opposes all extremism that seeks to instigate hatred, incite discrimination and advocate violence by distorting religious doctrines or through other means, and forbids any discriminatory behavior on the grounds of region, ethnicity and religion.

“China takes measures against the propagation and spread of religious extremism, and at the same time, carefully avoids linking violent terrorism and religious extremism with any particular ethnic group or religion,” it said.

DPRK statement on human rights: religion

In completing my chapter on ‘Religion and Revolution in Korea’, I found a great site for downloading recent statements on a range of issues. Volume 9 concerns human rights, which articulates some of the main points from the constitution. Of interest for my current purposes is the following (pp. 54-55):

68. Provision of the Freedom of Thought and Religion

In the DPRK everybody is fully provided with the right to choose and follow their thought and religion according to their own free will.

Through their everyday life and experience and through historical process, the Korean people have realized that the Juche idea is an idea that thoroughly defends and realizes their independence and truly guarantees human rights, and that when they advance along the road indicated by the idea genuine happiness and prosperity will be achieved.

And they have acquired this idea as an element of their faith and will on their own accord.

They follow the Juche idea and think and act as required by it.

In the DPRK the church and the state are clearly separated, and everybody is fully provided with the freedom of religion.

In accordance with the Constitution, people are free to choose and follow any religion, and can officially or personally, privately or jointly hold religious service, ritual and ceremony. They can also build religious structures or conduct religious education.

At present there exist in the DPRK the Korean Christians Federation, Korean Buddhists Federation, the Korean Catholics Association, the Chondoist Association of Korea and Korean Council of Religionists.

Foreigners resident in the DPRK and expatriates are also given complete freedom of religion.

Is China becoming a world leader on human rights?

They are certainly busy up north in the people’s republic. As the United States undergoes a UN investigation for extreme poverty, with the investigator citing profound human rights violations in terms of private wealth and public squalor, and as the USA refuses to ratify international human rights agreements (Australia, I should add, does not have a bill of rights), China moves on with a major ‘white paper’ on human rights. The full text may be found here, but this image provides a handy overview:

From the fuller document, I particularly like section V on CPC leadership and direction concerning human rights, as well as due attention to international concerns – in light of ‘building a community of shared future for humanity’ – in light of Xi Jinping Thought.

But you have to love this one, concerning the enhancement of social mechanism:

Guaranteeing people’s right to self-governance at the community level. China has made constant effort to improve self-governance at the community level, strengthen community consultation in urban and rural areas, and complete the mechanism to help urban and rural residents express their demands, coordinate interests and protect rights and interests. By 2016 about 85 percent of villages had set up villagers’ meetings or meeting of villagers’ representatives. Eighty-nine percent of communities had established congresses of residents. Sixty-four percent of communities had established consultative councils, and consultative forms such as “villager discussion”, “community consultation”, “property owner consultation”, and “villager hearing on decision-making” have steadily taken shape in China. By 2016, 98 percent of rural villages nationwide had formulated villagers’ codes of conduct or villagers’ self-governance regulations, while similar residents’ codes of conduct or residents’ self-governance regulations had been formulated in urban communities. These play an extensive role in social governance.

 

Beijing Declaration on Human Rights

It appears there is no resting for the post-19th Congress CPC. First there was a forum to examine new modes of cooperation between the CPC and other world political parties (here and here), and yesterday the first forum on South-South Human Rights concluded. With over 300 delegates from 70 countries, it was a major event. And it has produced a major statement on human rights (copied below). A news report on the closing of the forum and its achievements can be found here.

Note especially the focus on universal and particular dimensions, collective and individual, sovereignty and that the ‘right to subsistence and the right to development are the primary basic human rights’. These points come straight out of the Chinese Marxist approach to human rights, which I have discussed earlier. But they are also clearly the concerns of many countries in the developing world.

Beijing Declaration on Human Rights

(Copied from Xinhua News)

From December 7 to December 8 of 2017, the first “South-South Human Rights Forum” was held in Beijing. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter. Mr. Huang Kunming, Member of the Political Bureau and the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, Minister of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, attended the opening ceremony of the forum and read President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory letter and delivered a speech. Foreign Minister Wang Yi also attended the opening ceremony and delivered a speech. The forum is jointly sponsored by the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, and is attended by more than 300 representatives from over 70 countries and international organizations in the world. The representatives actively participated in discussions on the development of human rights in the developing countries and the world.

The participants believed that the congratulatory letter addressed to the forum by President Xi Jinping pursues the value of putting the people first and the development thought centered on the people, insisting on the unity of universality and particularity of human rights, emphasizing cooperation for development, promoting human rights through development, and calling for joint development of a community of shared future for human beings, which would play an important leading role in the development of human rights in the developing countries and the world at large.

The participants stressed that President Xi Jinping’s proposal to build a community of shared future for human beings is a major concept which conforms to the trend of the times, fits the requirements of development, and reflects the pursuit of a new human social value. It has pointed out the direction for solving global problems, including human rights governance, and is a major ideological contribution made by China to promote the development and progress of human society.

The participants pointed out that in today’s world, the population of developing countries accounts for more than 80 percent of world population, and the development of the global human rights is inseparable from the joint efforts of the vast numbers of developing countries. Over the years, the human rights situations in the developing countries have been continuously improved, which has made a major contribution to the promotion and development of human rights in the world. However, due to the constraints and impacts of various factors, there are still many problems in improving the human rights protection of developing countries. Therefore, it is necessary for developing countries and the international community to keep on making their unremitting efforts.

It is noted that China develops human rights based on national conditions, with the right to subsistence and the right to development as the primary basic human rights. China adheres to a comprehensive and evolving view of human rights, making not only great achievements in the development of its own human rights cause but also significant contributions to the development of human rights in the world, offering China’s experience.

Around the topic “Building A Community of Shared Future for Human Beings: New Opportunities for South-South Human Rights Development,” participants had in-depth reflection and discussions and they jointly declared the following articles:

Article 1

In order to ensure universal acceptance and observance of human rights, the realization of human rights must take into account regional and national contexts, and political, economic, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds. The cause of human rights must and can only be advanced in accordance with the national conditions and the needs of the peoples. Each State should adhere to the principle of combining the universality and specificity of human rights and choose a human rights development path or guarantee model that suits its specific conditions. States and the international community have a responsibility to create the necessary conditions for the realization of human rights, including the maintenance of peace, security and stability, the promotion of economic and social development and the removal of obstacles to the realization of human rights.

Article 2

Human rights are an integral part of all civilizations, and all civilizations should be recognized as equal and should be respected. Values and ethics of different cultural backgrounds should be cherished and respected, and mutual tolerance, exchange and reference should be honored. All governments and peoples should work together to build a community of shared future for human beings based on the principles of mutual benefit and sharing, build a world of lasting peace, universal security, common prosperity, openness, tolerance and cleanness, so that humanity is free from fear, from poverty, from disease, from discrimination and from isolation. The community of shared future for human beings represents the yearning of peoples of the world for peace, development and prosperity.

Article 3

The right to subsistence and the right to development are the primary basic human rights. The main body of the right to development is the people. In order to maximize the overall interests of mankind, it is necessary to uphold the unity of the right to development at individual level and the right to development at collective level, so that all peoples have equal opportunities for development and fully realize the right to development. Developing countries should pay special attention to safeguarding the people’s right to subsistence and right to development, especially to achieve a decent standard of living, adequate food, clothing, and clean drinking water, the right to housing, the right to security, work, education, and the right to health and social security. The international community should take the eradication of poverty and hunger as the primary task, and strive to solve the problem of insufficient and unsustainable development and create more favorable conditions for the realization of the people’s right to development especially in the developing countries.

Article 4

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Human dignity is not only related to human freedom, but also decisive to the all-round development of human beings. Human rights are the unity of individual rights and collective rights. The right to subsistence and the right to development, the right to peace, and the right to the environment are both important collective human rights and the prerequisite and basis for the realization of individual human rights. All human rights are indivisible and interdependent. The acquisition of civil and political rights is inseparable from the simultaneous acquisition of economic, social and cultural rights, which are equally important and interrelated.

Article 5

Human rights are inalienable, and all countries should make efforts to promote the legal guarantee of human rights. Restrictions on the exercise of human rights must be determined by law, and only for the protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of other members of society (including freedom from religious desecration, racism and discrimination) and meet the legitimate needs of national security, public order, public health, public safety, public morals and the general welfare of the people. Everyone is responsible to all others and to society, and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms must be balanced with the fulfillment of corresponding responsibilities.

Article 6

States should, in accordance with their national laws and international obligations, focus on guaranteeing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of specific groups, including ethnic, national, racial, religious and linguistic groups and migrant workers, people with disabilities, indigenous people, refugees and displaced persons. States have an obligation to respect and protect religious minorities, and religious minorities have the same obligation to adapt to their local environment, and this includes the acceptance and observance of the Constitution and laws of their localities, as well as their integration into the local society. Everyone has the right to choose his or her own beliefs, including the choice of believing or not believing a religion, and the choice of believing one religion or another, without being discriminated.

Article 7

South-South cooperation is an important way to promote development and human rights progress in developing countries. The South-South countries should adhere to the spirit of solidarity, sharing of responsibilities and obligations, mutual help and win-win cooperation, and insist on promoting cooperation with unity, advancing development through cooperation, and promoting human rights through development, making efforts to achieve more adequate human rights protection. The international community should, in line with the principles of balance, inclusiveness and sustainability, actively support better development of developing countries and constantly improve the protection of human rights in those countries.

Article 8

The international community’s concern for human rights matters should always follow the international law and the universally recognized basic norms governing international relations, of which the key is to respect national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of states. All countries should adhere to the principle of sovereign equality, and all countries, big or small, have the right to determine their political systems, control and freely use their own resources, and independently pursue their own economic, social and cultural development. The politicization, selectivity and double standards on the issue of human rights and the abuse of military, economic or other means to interfere in other countries’ affairs run counter to the purpose and spirit of human rights. The relevant actions of the international community to protect human rights must be in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and should respect the views of the concerned states and regional organizations.

Article 9

The realization of human rights is never-ending and the development of human rights is always ongoing. In terms of human rights protection, there is no best way, only the better one. The satisfaction of the people is the ultimate criterion to test the rationality of human rights and the way to guarantee them. It is the responsibility of governments to continuously raise the level of human rights protection in accordance with the demands of their peoples. The international community should promote human rights cooperation through dialogue and exchange, mutual learning and mutual understanding and consensus-building on the basis of equality and mutual respect.