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China will plot its own path on human rights, Xi Jinping says, as report takes aim at US record

  • Various conditions including cultural and social factors must be considered, Xi tells Politburo

  • China is trying to shift attention away from the Chinese government’s ongoing crimes, rights advocate says

by Mimi Lau

1 Mar, 2022

China has been accused of human rights violations in Xinjiang, claims it denies. Photo: AP

President Xi Jinping has pledged to promote China’s own path in human rights development in an assertive response to criticism from the West.

In an address to the Communist Party’s inner circle on Friday, Xi said China had blazed a path of human rights development consistent with the trend of the times and the nation’s conditions, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The address to the Politburo came in the lead-up to the release of the State Council’s “Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2021”, which takes aim at the US death tolls from Covid-19 and gun violence.

The message was also conveyed on Monday when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a video address to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Beijing has been pushing for its own narrative on human rights in the face of increasing pressure from Washington and its allies, attacking the records of Western nations at international forums and UN conferences.

During the Politburo study session on Friday, Xi said China had eradicated absolute poverty, operated the world’s biggest education, social security and health systems, and effectively tackled Covid-19 to protect the health and safety of the people. “China maintains that all ethnic groups are equal, respects people’s religious beliefs and safeguards the lawful rights and interests of people of all ethnic groups,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.

China has been accused by Western governments of genocide and forced labour against its Muslim ethnic minorities, particularly in the far west region of Xinjiang.

Chinese diplomats and officials have vigorously rejected the claims, defending the country’s policies and accusing the West of using Xinjiang and Hong Kong as excuses to curb China’s rise.

Xi said human rights could not be separated from the social and political conditions of each country as well as their history and cultural traditions.

He added that all these criteria must be considered when assessing whether human rights were upheld in a country.

He also said applying double standards or using human rights issues as political tools to interfere in others’ internal affairs must be opposed.

In the State Council report released on Monday, China said the “sharp surge in Covid-19” and shooting deaths in the US was the result of its own political manipulation.

“Fake democracy trampled on people’s political rights and violent law enforcement made life harder for migrants and refugees in the United States,” the report said.

The report also criticised the US’ growing ethnic tensions, especially among Asian-American communities.

Commenting on Xi’s remarks and the State Council report, Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson said no government had a perfect human rights record but the comments appeared to be “just another effort to shift attention away from the Chinese government’s ongoing crimes against humanity targeting Uygurs”.

“If Chinese authorities are truly concerned about fake democracy why not let a billion people vote in competitive elections? If it’s worried about life for migrants and refugees, why not stop terrorising diaspora communities?” Richardson said.

“And if it’s concerned about discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, why not halt – and remedy – the extraordinary assault on Tibetans’, Uygurs’, and other communities’ rights and identities?”


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