Mainland China brushes off global human rights criticisms

By Kelly Olsen, AFP

BEIJING–Mainland China authorities on Monday touted ��tremendous achievements�� in human rights, citing legal improvements, poverty alleviation, and protections for minorities and freedom of speech, even as campaign groups highlight a tough crackdown on dissent and civil society. ��The tremendous achievements (mainland) China has made in its human rights endeavors fully demonstrate that it is taking the correct path of human rights development that suits its national conditions,�� read the preface of a newly released government human rights report. ��Progress in (mainland) China’s Human Rights in 2014�� was issued by the State Council Information Office, which falls under the State Council, or mainland ��cabinet.�� According to the official Xinhua news agency, the report has been released 12 times since 1991. It was published as the mainland authorities have made more robust efforts in recent years to deflect foreign criticism of its rights record, such as issuing its own report on human rights in the United States as a rebuttal to the U.S. State Department’s assessment of the situation on the mainland. The mainland, under the grip of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has traditionally stressed the collective nature of human rights as opposed to the largely individual approach of Western-style democracies. International economic organizations including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have lauded Beijing for strides made in lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty in the more than three decades since it embarked on economic reform and opening up.

But human rights groups have lambasted the Communists for a harsh crackdown against critics of the ruling party that has seen scores of journalists, lawyers and academics detained and dozens jailed as well as taken it to task over what Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month said was ��appalling�� torture carried out by the Commuist-led police on criminal suspects. ��Progress in China’s Human Rights in 2014�� said that legal and judicial reforms were proceeding and stated flatly that: ��The rights of the accused, detainees and criminals are protected.�� It cited as an example the use of audio and video recordings of interrogations. HRW said in May, however, that such videos are prone to manipulation. ‘Alternative reality’ The lengthy report relies on copious data to back up progress, such as citing as evidence of improved living standards a slew of numbers including last year’s annual economic growth of 7.4 percent �X though does not mention that it was the slowest rate of increase since 1990. The report also cites the establishment of a ��China Poverty Alleviation Day�� in a section on reducing poverty, and included what it described as efforts to build ��138 bridges to replace ropeways in seven provinces and regions�� as progress.