Human Rights in China – change any time soon?

27 Feb

Whilst China has grown substantially in the past decade in terms of its economic growth and prosperity, it has arguably failed to allow its human rights record to catch up with this modernisation, unlike other countries that have gone through the same transition. Today, US ambassador Gary Locke commented on this, suggesting it was about time China began focusing more on human rights after a spate of issues. For example in 2010 figures showed that China executed at least 1,718 people, 72% of the World’s executions from that year. As well as unfair sentencing of the death penalty there are many issues with regards to the treatment of people who stand up for their human rights, fierce internet repression, lack in freedom of speech across the media, persecution of people due to their beliefs and torture. More recently this has included the arrests and detentions of activists and journalists speaking out about various problems in China such as corruption and campaigning for equal rights, which former law lecturer Xu Zhiyong has currently been on trial and sentenced to four years in prison for.

Whilst economic growth has allowed the standard of living and quality of life in China to increase substantially in some areas, many countries now feel it is time for China to move forward in terms of equality. The recent opening up of the economy on a world level through the Open Door policy in order to create competition and utilise foreign capital has shown that China has been willing to change policies against their usual strict control and modernise to similar levels of that of Western countries. However, whilst there has been some freedom within the economy, political control has remained very tight under the Communist regime. China remains an authoritarian one-party system in which Chinese citizens have no selection in the choice of their leaders and tight restrictions over their everyday actions.

Nonetheless, there has been pressure worldwide for this to change and 2013 reflected a year where more people stood up for their rights within the country. On average there are approximately 250-500 protests a day within the country, some including tens of thousands of people. Dedicated civil society groups continue to make great efforts towards developing more human rights, despite the strict restrictions in place, increasingly making headline news and drawing attention to the issues through groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. Some have argued that Western news exaggerates the human rights issues in China because they feel threatened by the emerging power of the country, but, nonetheless, there is clear evidence that human rights are being breached and therefore action is needed. Whether this will change in the future will only show through a matter of time, but as China continues to grow on the global stage and become an increasingly strong power, pressure will only increase for it to alter its ways.


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