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Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

What is the future of Human Rights in China? To begin to answer that question you need to discuss current condotions.

Some conditions in the Chinese context affect the possibility of a positive development. Concerning the political climate for HR-development, China has for the first time explicitly mentioned the need for political reform to complement reform and development in different areas. More than that, it is mentioned that there are strategic opportunities for measures to improve China’s overall concert with the international system, building on the premise that good international relations are the basis for successful development in China.  A theory brought by Hu Jintao, “Scientific Development”, are concepts aimed at developing the western regions with measures like free education and subsidized commodities. Another concept “Inclusive growth” means to overcome the economic division between west and east China. However it could be expected they don’t go beyond administrative adjustments. Political reform being mentioned in the 12th Five year plan (or program as it’s now being called) at least gives an opening for such reform. The will of Chinese leadership and regime to fight poverty by new social reform with a greater opening towards political reform may give increased opportunity for NGOs and others to work with HR-issues in China. At the same there are many areas of concern that has been noted by international NGOs and UN human rights treaty bodies – as widespread torture, intern abusement, administrative detention, black jails, broad application of state secrets law, violence of HR-defenders, lack of legislation on violence against women and so on. Also weighing in the status of NGOs and the civil society, China’s current development policy is something that the CCP implement from a top-down perspective rather than to encourage and involve from civil society.

Furthermore, the diplomatic reactions from the Chinese government after the Nobel Peace Prize awarding – Liu Xiaobo – also shows that the CCP-regime premier political stability over reformation of political and civil rights. According to an international Chinese NGO, nearly forty individuals inside China have been put under house arrest in the weeks following the announcement of Nobel Peace Prize 2010. One domestic rights activist pointed out to the NGO that the intensity and scope of this crackdown exceed those of the crackdowns before the 2008 Beijing Olympics[1].

 China’s interpretation of human rights has traditionally emphasized economic, social and cultural rights. The well known slogan “harmonious society” launched in 2004 encompasses core ideas as rule of law, democracy, fairness, stability and order. Clearly the two latter ideas have been prioritized on the expense of the others.

Other conditions for development also have to be considered. China’s interaction capacity[2] grows nationally and internationally. It has become increasingly more difficult for the Chinese regime to maintain ideological monopoly. China also has an ambivalent relationship to global communications and there are different opinions on the level of censorship within the CCP. China’s international economy depends on the rest of the world and Internet is a risk they have to take. Wide ranging measures with more than sixty regulations have been made by the government in order to silence critique and the spreading of information. Censorship systems have been implemented by provincial branches of state-owned internet-service providers, businesses and organizations. Although the measures have been successful, the regime has reasons to be worried on the demands of political reform which a large educated middle class brings with it. The regime is also aware of foreign human rights organizations (HROs) and news organizations that can influence the public opinion and the new possibilities to reach citizens. The internet arena enables dissidents to shape communities of interests and grass root movements. This makes news censoring increasingly difficult since there are ways to bypass the censorship systems. Scholars believe that the government gradually will tolerate an increased freedom of expression which characterizes a modern society.

Is the answer continued gradualism? Talking with Chinese working with HR-issues: The official answer is: “Yes, in our own way”, the unofficial is: “Yes, just don’t tell anyone” or “I hope so, but the hardliners don’t”. Unfortunately the the popular and loved reformist prime minister Wen Jiabao is probably going to be replaced by a hardliner.

There is a both a silenced and silent conflict going on in China over these issues. With the conditions for development in mind, the answer is probably that Human Rights+China= true in the long run. But, how painful will it get? Either way the CCP-regime(s) have to reform its judiciary and politics on the expense of itself or the Chinese people.


[2] Interaction capacity is the technical level of ability to communicate, commute, exchange ideas, people and goods.

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