China pans 'unbalanced' report claiming it is a threat to the world
The Chinese government’s use of the social credit system, repression of Uighur Muslims and crackdown on Hong Kong protesters presents an “existential threat” to the world, the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation has warned, as it heaps pressure on the United Nations to publicly condemn Beijing.
In a 652-page global report heavily focused on the Chinese government, the advocacy group said, if not challenged, Beijing’s actions “portend a dystopian future in which no one is beyond the reach of Chinese censors” and “an international human rights system so weakened that it no longer serves as a check on government repression”.
The Chinese mission to the UN interrupted the press conference in New York on Wednesday morning to condemn the findings. “The report is full of prejudices and fabrications and ignores the factual information provided by my government,” spokesman Ji Shing told the media briefing.
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth had originally planned to present the report in Hong Kong but was barred from entering by authorities on Sunday. In a tense exchange, Mr Roth was told by Mr Ji, the report “made it clear” why he was denied entry.
“We have been making every effort to advance human rights,” said Mr Ji. “[China’s] human rights story has been one of the most successful, including lifting up to 750 million people out of poverty. Any report that fails to mention this fails to be balanced and neutral.”
The report noted an estimated one million Muslims are being indefinitely held in “political education” camps in the northwestern Xinjiang region where they are forced to disavow their identity and swear loyalty to the Communist Party. In Hong Kong authorities have arrested nearly 7000 people and denied at least 17 applications for pro-democracy protests since June.
“This is the most severe repression that we have seen in decades in China, going back to the cultural revolution,” Mr Roth said in New York.
China's ambassador has delivered a veiled threat to Australia to keep quiet about human rights abuses or risk losing billions in Chinese investment.
China’s ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye strongly rejected allegations in December about the treatment of Uighurs, maintaining the reports of mass detention in Xinjiang were “utterly fake news” and that the camps were used for vocational education training and to reduce the threat of terrorism. He urged Australia and other Western powers to stop meddling in China's internal affairs and to have a better “understanding of China’s achievements so far".
The Human Rights Watch report said the “social credit system” which the Chinese government has instituted in some areas to reward good conduct and punish bad behaviour, such as jaywalking and failure to pay court fees, had now become an “off-the-shelf” product available to other countries – opening the door to a proliferation of surveillance states.
Mr Roth said global leaders “should stop pretending that quiet diplomacy suffices” and strongly criticised UN secretary general António Guterres for a lack of public advocacy on human rights issues.
“Unless we want to return to an era where people are pawns to be discarded according to the whims of their overlords the Chinese government's attacks on human rights must be resisted,” he said.
“If you make some private representation in the back room of a foreign ministry it doesn’t change anything.”
Mr Roth also urged US President Donald Trump to maintain human rights pressure on China’s President Xi Jinping as the two countries move closer to signing a trade deal after a dispute that has roiled markets for more than two years.
The first phase of the deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday, US time.