I was walking around Budapest with a couple Scandinavians last summer, when we passed by a little tent that was erected on the street so that people could drink beer and watch the Olympic games together. I stopped for a second and watched some fellow contort himself in some odd way on the television. The [...]
I was walking around Budapest with a couple Scandinavians last summer, when we passed by a little tent that was erected on the street so that people could drink beer and watch the Olympic games together. I stopped for a second and watched some fellow contort himself in some odd way on the television. The Scandinavians kept walking.
“We have boycotted the Olympics because they are in China, and China abuses human rights,” they spoke in almost robotic unison.
“I am sure the Olympics will weep the loss,” I muttered to myself sarcastically.
I stopped walking with the Scandinavians.
There is a lot of ground static about China’s human rights abuses, and I must say that it is true to a large extent. But Chinese society is different, and cannot be compared on the same plane as the West. For I can surely find just as many human rights violations perpetuated in America as the ones that are so well broadcast about China all over the world.
In point, the Chinese government is a brutal power that rules with a close fisted iron hand. Criminals are killed publicly and due process of law is swift. Public works take precedence over private interests. The Labor conditions are sometimes atrocious. The environment is highly polluted. Chinese people are often shunted about the land like pawns on some geo-political chess board.
This is true.
But China is a very safe country, most people have work , food, shelter, access to education, and I have observed a modest sense of well-being in the country from stem to stern. There is a real sense of community all through China and, in general, it is my impression that the people are not groveling. For a population of over 2 billion people, it is my impression that China is working wonders. The government is not kind, it is not empathetic, and it is not fair, but it keeps its people above water. . . perhaps by any means necessary.
I have written this before but I must restate that in China, the individual is steam rolled at the hands of society; in America, society is steam rolled at the hands of the individual. Which is better? I cannot determine. The societies are different and cannot be judged on he same human rights criteria.
It is ordinary in America to hear of someone being shot dead in the streets. Murders hardly even make the local news. But when this happens in China the entire country is rocked. China is a safe country. No, China is one of the safest countries that I have ever traveled in, whereas the United States is among the most dangerous.
Last night my father told me a story about how a lady who he knows from work’s husband was recently murdered. He was a barber, and one night as he was closing up shop some guy walked in and shot him dead for the scraps of money that he earned that day.
This is normal in America. This is not normal in China.
Is it not a human rights violation when large sectors of urban populations in America cannot go outside at night for fear of being held up, murdered, raped, or attacked? Is in not a human rights violation that criminals are perpetually allowed make victims of innocent people who cannot legally carry instruments to defend themselves? Is it not a human rights violation that people have grown to accept crime as an ordinary part of life?
Is it not a human rights violation when more than 30% of the population of a country cannot afford to see a doctor?
Is it not a human rights violation when large companies can at a whim dismiss the livelihoods of virtually entire cities of people and relocate to other countries to make more of a profit?
Is it not a social abuse that young people have to dig themselves into pits of life long debt just to be educated?
Is it not blatant trickery that the freedoms granted by the Bill of Rights is actually disseminated on a case by case basis?
America rages abut human rights violations in China while China rages about human rights violations in America. I suppose it is sometimes difficult to fully acknowledge the parameters of what you perceive as ordinary. Sometimes that which is perceived as normal in one place is considered a human rights outrage in another.
China rules on China’s own terms. Perhaps these terms can be blown out of proportion when taken out of context.
It is trendy to bad mouth China. It is also politically convenient for Western governments to use China as a wiping clothe to brush away their own horrid human rights records. I cannot blame the Scandinavians, they had never been to China before, and Europeans seem to have an inherent love for speaking badly about other countries that have nothing to do with them. But I must say that before you complain of the weeds in your neighbor’s lawn, perhaps you should take a look at the brambles in your own backyard.
Like the fat girl who picks on other fat girls, like the geek who tries to bully other geeks, it is my impression that the Western media has had a field day with placing the human rights record of China on an uneven plane.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
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