Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
Human Rights Watch has published a scathing report on China’s “attacks” on human rights, claiming that the “Orwellian” system Beijing has developed at home is now being used to silence critics abroad.
The report was launched in New York on Tuesday evening after HRW executive director Kenneth Roth was barred from entering Hong Kong on Monday where he was due to publish the 652-page World Report 2020.
In the report’s introductory essay, Roth outlines how China poses a threat to human rights not just within its own country, but across the globe, claiming that “no other government flexes its political muscles with such vigor and determination to undermine the international human rights standards and institutions that could hold it to account.”
As Roth was wrapping up an hour-long press conference at the UN Correspondents Association on Tuesday evening, a request to speak came from one unexpected guest: a Chinese government official.
Xing Jisheng, a diplomat who works with China’s mission to the UN, began speaking loudly from the back of the room before he was ushered to the front and handed a microphone.
“I have found that the report is full of prejudices and fabrications, and ignores the factual information provided by my government,” Xing said. “We totally reject the content of this report.”
Xing then added that in the past 40 years, the Chinese government has made significant progress in the area of human rights, such as lifting “700 million people out of poverty.” Xing called the achievement one of the great human rights successes and adding that his government has made “every effort to advance human rights in China.”
Responding to Xing’s criticism that the HRW report didn’t include China’s advancements in the human rights field, Roth questioned exactly what “progress” he was referring to:
“The progress like detaining a million Uighurs and Turkish Muslims in Xinjiang? The progress like building the most intrusive surveillance state the world has ever seen? The progress like utterly shutting down every critic and civil society organization in the country? The progress like undermining the one country, two systems agreement for Hong Kong? Yeah, that’s the progress I didn’t acknowledge, we rather reported what happened, we just didn’t call it progress.”
In response to Xing’s claim that the government had lifted 700 million people out of poverty, Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW, hit back: “People across China lifted themselves out of poverty after the government got its boot off their collective neck.”
HRW was not the only organization that launched a report critical of the Chinese government in the last 24 hours.
On Wednesday morning, Freedom House, a nonprofit advocacy group funded by the U.S. government, published a report entitled Beijing’s Global Megaphone, which outlines how the Chinese government has aggressively expanded its efforts to shape news content around the world.
In the last three years, China has achieved this through propaganda to promote its own views, censorship to silence critics at home and abroad, and control over the platforms through which people consume their news.
For example, over a 13-month year period beginning in January 2018, the Chinese embassy in Stockholm attempted to exert its influence over the media by issuing more than 50 statements threatening and insulting journalists and news outlets.
More recently, the report’s authors found that Beijing has begun using tactics like Russian-style disinformation campaigns, harassment of local mainstream media, and politicized content manipulation on Chinese-owned platforms.
“Chinese state media content reaches hundreds of millions of television viewers, radio listeners, and social media users abroad, in many cases without transparency as to its origins,” Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst at Freedom House and the report’s author, said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, journalists, news consumers, and advertisers in countries ranging from Sweden to Russia, South Africa, the United States, and Australia are encountering intimidation or censorship of political content that the [Chinese government] considers undesirable.”
Cover: In this Nov. 29, 2018 photo, Shahnaz, 16, right, and Shakeela, 12, daughters of Mir Aman, speak to The Associated Press, in Islamabad, Pakistan. Scores of Pakistani men like Aman, whose Muslim Uighur wives have disappeared into internment camps in China, feel helpless, fighting a wall of silence as they struggle to reunite their families. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)