Anonymous F&M Student Shares Opinion on Human Rights Violations in China

The following comes from an anonymous author; due to the current political climate in China, it can be dangerous to speak out against the government. 

Whether it’s jailing civilians for spontaneous reporting on the pandemic, officially denying charges of genocide in Xinjiang, or systematically suppressing women’s rights, it is evident that the Chinese government deliberately undermines human rights and carries out wide-range persecution and propaganda campaigns. In this article, I will briefly criticize the Chinese (PRC) government and an underlying Chinese culture, both of which encourage sheer suppression of freedom of speech and what is essentially a police state through aggressive imperialist tyranny. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic grew out of control last January in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the government turned quickly against all those who wanted to share true information regarding the virus with others. Journalists who went to the epicenter to report on the pandemic were threatened by national security agents and then arbitrarily detained—and likely tortured. These citizen journalists [公民記者] include Mr. Fang Bin [方斌], Mr. Chen Qiushi [陳秋實], Ms. Zhang Zhan [張展], and dozens of others. 

While there’s no news about many of them, we did hear about Ms. Zhang’s verdict in Shanghai Pudong District Court in late December, a sentence to four years in prison for the alleged crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” [尋釁滋事罪]; such a versatile charge to penalize anyone for what they have said or done to the government’s dislike. 

While on the ground in Wuhan in February 2020, Ms. Zhang took pictures and video footage of crowded hospitals, where patients stood or lay on the floor, looking desperate. She uploaded her videos through online platforms such as WeChat, Twitter, and YouTube.

The link to her YouTube Channel is here, where she uploaded many videos in February. [5]

The 37-year old former lawyer entered the Wuhan city jurisdiction on Feb 03, 2020. Ms. Zhang went missing on May 14, 2020. She was then transported to Shanghai for indefinite detention, awaiting a court hearing. While in custody, Ms. Zhang embarked on a hunger strike for several months. In December, she appeared in extremely poor health before her lawyer at the court hearing. According to her lawyer, Mr. Ren [4], she “looked devastated when her sentence was announced, and her mother sobbed loudly.”  

The Chinese authorities were not at all happy with her reporting in Wuhan. Was it because it showed how bad the pandemic was, thus inciting excessive fear amongst the public? Or was it because she had shown how incompetent the local authorities had been in dealing with the pandemic, thus inspiring public distrust in the government? We do not know the precise reason why the Chinese government has reacted so negatively to citizens’ exercise of media freedom—normal citizens shooting videos about other normal citizens’ life—especially those in dire need. 

It is also reported that Ms. Zhang had previously been detained in 2019 for voicing her support for activists in Hong Kong.

After the court hearing ended on December 28, 2020, the British Embassy in Beijing tweeted [6]:

“The case of Zhang Zhan – who was arrested for her reporting on COVID-19 in Wuhan earlier this year and today sentenced to 4 years – raises serious concerns about media freedom in China. A British diplomat tried to attend her trial, but was not allowed access.”

“Ms. Zhang is one of at least 47 journalists currently in detention in China. The whereabouts of other citizen journalists – including Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin – is unknown. We urge China to release all those detained for their reporting.”

China is one of the world’s most oppressed countries in terms of media freedom. Agreeing with what UK diplomats said above, I not only urge the Chinese government to release all those detained for exercising their freedom of speech, but I also urge commoners, experts, and institutions—in the West and the rest of the world—to pay attention to these serious matters. We must protect and promote a humanitarian discourse ourselves and keep pushing Chinese authorities to do the right thing. Basic human rights should never be compromised.

Unfortunately, Ms. Zhang’s reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan is merely the tip of the iceberg for China’s violations of human rights. Censorship and persecution pervade in Chinese civil society not just in matters of the press but in other aspects of public life, too. Such official inhumane agendas in relation to official genocide and torture in Xinjiang and civilian crimes against women also demand our attention. 

— 

On July 21, 2020, BBC invited over Chinese Ambassador in the UK for a live TV interview on Andrew Marr Show [1]. The BBC host asked Ambassador Liu Xiaoming what’s happening in video footage taken by a drone, which showed suspected prison inmates—in shockingly large numbers—being transferred by railway trains to different locations. Liu never directly answered Marr’s simple question but instead avoided it by responding that the natural landscape scenes in Xinjiang are the most beautiful in the world and that every country does some sort of internal transfer of prison inmates. Liu denied there was any intentional, deliberate, and systematic persecution of Uyghurs in prison camps to change their behaviors (religion and language) or to execute forced abortions to reduce Uyghurs’ birth rate. This is genocide and torture, though Liu and his government denied these charges. 

In the UK, the Chinese Embassy held a press conference in November 2019, reported by Guardian News [2]. A BBC journalist, Richard Bilton, asked the ambassador about what’s going on in these prison camps, and to which he replied: “There’s no so-called labor camps as you described; these are what we call Vocational Education and Training Centres. They are there for the prevention of the terrorists.” 

Mr. Liu reiterated that the “documents” the journalist described [7] were “a pure fabrication” despite a consensus in the West that the documents are true, as they have been authenticated by intelligence communities and experts. “Don’t listen to fake news! Don’t listen to fabrications!” said Ambassador Liu, ending his reply to the journalist. 

Among insiders like many journalists and many compassionate netizens, China is also known for its official acquiescence of civilian crimes against women and LGBTQ+ communities. Remember that within the Great Firewall (GFW) of China, all internet traffic is monitored. Weibo, often considered the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, is no exception; it is a censorship tool against civilians and a propaganda machine officially employed by government agencies. Again, Weibo is not a Chinese equivalent to Twitter, and it works 24/7 to eliminate information that the government doesn’t want people to read.

Here is a link to a comprehensive list (in Chinese language only) of civilian crimes against women, shown on GitHub, an internet archive platform [3]. It includes both what is done (criminal actions) and what is said (reiterated utterances) by Chinese men towards women. Every time I come across it, it breaks my heart; for each event, there has been hardly any subsequent action by the judicial system. Simply put, rapists and murderers get away with their crimes; the government doesn’t even bother to deal with them. Instead, they are too busy dealing with the most modestly “subversive” dissidents than with actual crimes against individuals.

By all standards, China is very behind in comparison to the rest of the world in terms of gender equality. Even compared with countries that are known for suppressive patriarchal structures, like South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, China, in my opinion, is by far the worst. This is because, for one, commoners post misogynist content on Weibo and get a lot of “likes.” But if you ever report some authentic event in which a woman is the victim of a hate-crime or random-crime by a man, your post will be deleted quickly if not immediately by Weibo. This censorship is mandated by Chinese authorities in internet policing [網警] and designed to stifle compassion across civilians.

Secondly, crimes against women are officially condoned by the Chinese government; the judicial system often allows rapists who assault underage females to serve only two to four years in prison (whereas assaulting an adult will result in a penalty of ten years in prison or death), so we see many abusers get out and abuse again. There is approximately zero progress by the government (PRC legislation and judicial system) in protecting female citizens, young and old, (and not to mention the LGBTQ+ community) from sexual harassment and domestic violence.

In recent years the Chinese government has made it harder for married couples to register for divorce, even in cases in which there is clear evidence of severe domestic violence. If a woman files for divorce from her husband with all evidence of harm, clearly presented with a lawyer, judges in Chinese civil courts will often persuade the woman to “cherish the long-time relationship and tolerate the other person’s temperament” (similar responses abound in Chinese society, both in legal and everyday discourses) and then deny the case.

Ever since Mao, Chinese people’s marriages are neither political nor personal. World War II (1937-1945), the CCP-KMT civil war (1945-1949), the Great Famine (1950s), and the Cultural Revolution (1960s-70s) took a toll on the country’s population. My family has told me how the dictator Mao Zedong first ordered people to produce more children. A typical Chinese family in the 60’s would have six to eight children. Then, seeing the population growing too fast and threatening the economy, in 1979 the government-mandated the “One Child Policy,” which is self-explanatory. It has since been modified to “Two Children Policy” as of 2016 across China. Still, citizens are viewed as “reproduction machines” which will produce a new generation to continue to serve the country as cheap labor. 

For many of us from China, we feel the visceral pressure from our suppressive culture to conform to our government and culture’s rigid expectations for family life. When young people in their twenties nowadays talk about marriage, men focus on women’s appearance, and women focus on men’s money. Although people like Ambassador Liu, who is famous for his denial of the Xinjiang camps [1] [2], would probably argue what is happening in China is the same thing that “happens in every country in the world,” it is reasonable to believe that the Chinese people are in a more precarious situation. They have become immersed in a culture of total materialism and hedonism, which justifies any “incentives for crimes” typically of rape (a phrase popular among lower-class men). 

Now—as it has always been—in Chinese culture, both women and men are objectified; they are pressured by everyone around them to pursue their own self-interest in the upcoming transactional relationship called marriage. This way of life is pathetic. And it becomes the pretext from which totalitarian rule is easier to implement; when people are happy with material goods, they don’t care about freedom anymore. Sadly, this is likely the case for the majority of our fellow compatriots in China. 

Crimes against anyone of as a grave nature as rape, murder, and torture, are indefensible. It is upon us, the younger generation across the world, to implement fundamental changes to the suppressive culture and a corrupt PRC judicial system that has fostered so much malevolence and criminality in China.

Unlike many optimists, I insist that tomorrow will not be any better, especially when we do nothing about it and rather keep our suppressive culture alive—whether in China or abroad. We will not have a better future if we choose not to carry out the justice and compassion that many of us so direly need. 

——

[1].BBC News. “劉曉明:新疆沒有所謂的集中營“. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, interviewed by Andrew Marr. Jul 21, 2020. [Audio in English with Chinese subtitles.]

[2]. Guardian News. “China cables: ‘Don’t listen to fake news’ about Xinjiang camps, says Chinese ambassador.” Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, and Richard Bilton from BBC Panorama. Nov 24, 2019. [Audio in English with English subtitles.]

[3]. GitHub: CNwoman-bot. “Evil-Man.” Also listed as “Evil Man – 中国男性之恶“. Continuously updated. [In Simplified Chinese only]

[4]. BBC News. “Zhang Zhan: China jails citizen journalist for Wuhan reports.” Dec 28, 2020.

[5]. Zhang Zhan. YouTube Channel.

[6]. British Embassy in Beijing. Content on Twitter. Dec 28, 2020. 

[7]. The Guardian. “‘ Allow no escapes’: leak exposes reality of China’s vast prison camp network.” Nov 24, 2019. Including the leaked Xinjiang document archived on Scribd.com. 

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