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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

China's Human Rights White Paper: The beggar and the Uygur

:: Xinhuanet - English ::

China Human RightsWell, as stated in my previous post the "surprise" "White Paper" on China's Human Rights progress is now available in it's full text copy on Xinhuanet.

The link above goes through a proxy as Xinhua block me from seeing their site so you might, if you want to take a look at it yourself, go directly to Xinuanet. The proxy is a little slow to say the least.

Well the "White Paper" is a big document of that there is no doubt. Like all the PRC's official responses to criticism, be it a press release through Xinhua or the more formal "White Papers", this has obviously been prepared for some time even though it's publication was only announced yesterday.

There is no doubt that this is China shifting into full "justification" mode. It is detailed, at least to the economic statistics, and it leaves virtually no stone unturned. We learn about the "Measures for the sheltering and send off of urban vagrants and beggars' law being replaced by the " Measures for assisting and managing urban vagrants and beggars" law which we are told provides for far greater treatment of homeless and beggars. I point this out not because it is not an important law change in itself but one hardly of import given some other areas of human rights shortfalls. (This law, by the way, has actually been put into practice and beggars/vagrants are now by all reports treated with a little more humanity than previously).

The PRC realises one thing and that is that when you talk statistics in China it is mind boggling to us in the west. They therefore use statistics to "sell" the idea that they are faced with situations that western countries could not imagine. In doing so they are saying that "our position is unique so please cut us some slack on Human rights".

This argument certainly is not without merit. The sheer size of everything they do is astounding. Some of the figures they rattled off are

  • Private car ownership in 2003 was 4.89 million vehicles up 1.46 million on the previous year. That is right, 1.46 million. Astounding.
  • Mobile phone ownership increased by 62.69 million units 2003 over 2002 to a total of 286.69 million.
  • 49.08 million new household telephone connections happened in 2003
  • Private dwelling construction rose 20% in the last few years and 72% of urban dwellings are now privately owned. 94% of all new private dwelling construction in urban areas is destined for private ownership

The "White Paper" has literally hundreds of similar examples covering virtually every aspect of China life and they are all very impressive.

There is no doubt that things are moving in the right direction if even half the data is correct.

Ethnic Minorities

Given the size of China's ethnic minority groups and the unique problems they face, for example the Uygurs and the Tibetans, the "White Paper" dwells vey little on this important subject.

It talks about religious freedoms, growth in the numbers of clerics and places of worship and even the size of the print run of the Bible. However the extent of what they say on this important subject can be summed up in the following quote:

Ethnic minorities enjoy " the rights to independently manage the affairs of their own regions and their own ethnic communities"

I wonder what your average Tibetan or Uygur would say to that? Quite frankly to call a "spade" a "bloody shovel" this statement is an outright lie, I can use no more diplomatic a term.

The Uygur and the Tibetans have no say in the management of "their regions" and the management of "their own ethnic minorities" is also almost non existent. They may for example have the "right" to manage their own religious culture to a degree but the rules by which they have to abide are firmly laid down by the government regardless of the wishes of the minority.

We could go on and on but suffice to say the "White Paper" "whitewashes" the ethnic human rights situation in terms both the space given over to it in this document and in terms of facts.

As I said it is an expansive document. To sum up, for the avid "China Watchers" it provides some very good detail and gives a very real an insight in to what the Party sees as being important as regards Human Rights.

For the average person, maybe not so close to the reality that is China, it would certainly provide a "warm feeling" that things are going in the right direction. Statistics often do that.

It does evidence progress in a lot of areas of that there can be no doubt, but is very much a case of the Beggar and the Uygur. The beggar is treated humanely and his treatment is hailed as a wonderful step forward for the cause of Human Rights in China. The Uygur, on the other hand, maligned and abused through none of their own fault, are not even mentioned and ethnic problems generally have not anywhere near adequately been addressed. The Chinese see the small picture but are blind to the larger at least where Human Rights is concerned.

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