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Human Rights Violations in ChinaSince Xi Jinping began his presidency in March 2013, widespread human rights violations in China have been documented as government constraints have deepened. Such issues also became more apparent after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died in police custody in 2017. Some violations include increased internet censorship, lack of women’s and workers’ rights, repression of minority groups and imprisonment of human rights defenders. Here are 10 facts about human rights violations in China as well as what is being done to combat these issues today.

10 Facts About Human Rights Violations in China

  1. Authorities control citizens’ internet use by blocking social media sites and restricting news publications. Any news reporting that “slanders the country’s political system” is typically shut down. The government also adopted Blue Shield filtering software to document websites visited by users. A Cybersecurity Law was implemented in June 2017, requiring all internet companies working in China to regulate content for Chinese citizens.
  2. The government only allows five officially recognized religions in approved religious sites. In February 2018, a revised Regulations on Religious Affairs was established. The revision invests all control over religious activities to the government, including finances, personnel appointments and publications. The law also states a goal of restraining “infiltration and extremism” which could enforce a limitation on religious freedom for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims.
  3. Although labor laws allow trade union organization and elections of trade union committees, the government still controls these rights. Workers cannot vote for trade unions while the right to strike usually goes unacknowledged. According to various human rights groups, China violates workers’ freedom of association. This is due to China’s prohibition of independent union organizing and Trade Union Law. This law requires the All-China Federation of Trade Unions to maintain communist leadership.
  4. In 2017, China ranked 100 among 144 countries for gender parity for the ninth year in a row. According to The Party Congress, there is a substantial absence of women in chief political positions. Females in China are more likely to experience domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment and workplace discrimination which can increase their chances of becoming impoverished. However, it is difficult for women to overcome such barriers since the government does not favor women’s rights activism.
  5. Uighurs, Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas endure higher poverty rates, displacement, discrimination and crucial human rights issues. According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur, the situations of Tibetans and Uighurs is deeply problematic. Similar to most Chinese citizens, ethnic minorities do not have the right to freedom of religion, expression and peaceful assembly. Over 150 Tibetans have and continue to protest repressive laws by self-immolation.
  6. Authorities continue to conduct politically motivated prosecutions. After a national crackdown in July 2015, over 250 human rights protesters were detained, nine of which were convicted of “subverting state power.” Some detainees admit to being tortured or forced to confess. Though many have since been released, they continue to be isolated and monitored. Lawyers of protestors are often harassed and intimidated by authorities.
  7. About 500,000 individuals are currently detained without trial, charge or access to legal aid. The government uses Re-education through Labour (RTL) to arrest individuals without a trial. Usual targets of RTL include petitioners, protestors and those practicing an unrecognized religion. “Black jails” and mental health institutions are types of illegal detention that are utilized by authorities.
  8. China is currently the leading executioner in the world. For decades, China imposed the death penalty for nonviolent crimes and unfair trials. In March 2017, the President of the Supreme People’s Court said that capital punishment was only applied “to an extremely small number of criminals for extremely severe offenses.” However, China’s statistics on death penalties remains classified and authorities fail to release numerical data.
  9. China is accepting help from the U.N. in addressing human rights issues. In 2016, the government formed the policy paper, New Progress in the Judicial Protection of Human Rights in China. The policy paper addresses the country’s human rights issues and suggests potential developments. After inviting the U.N. to support the initiative, the U.N. agreed and made visits to China.
  10. Human Rights in China (HRIC) works to promote human rights and hold the government accountable. HRIC is an NGO that uses advocacy and policy engagement to give citizens voices and improve human rights protection. Its advocacy program aids individual casework and long-term reforms. By advocating both domestically and globally, HRIC promotes international NGOs, the business community, multi-stakeholder groups and results-oriented government engagements.

China’s goal is to remove 60 million people from poverty by decreasing air pollution and improving health standards and its judicial system by 2020. The U.N. and organizations like the HRIC provide hope for more human rights protection in the future. Though China is working to form and implement related policies, it is important that the government allows activists and lawyers to support minority groups and give all citizens a voice in order to end human rights violations in China.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr

oil_in_haiti

Earlier this week a two-day strike in Haiti shut down the capital, Port-au-Prince and several other major cities and towns. On Feb. 9 and 10, protesters blocked off all roads leading into the capital. This is one of numerous strikes and protests that have been recurring regularly for over a month. Some of the protests have demanded fresh elections and the resignation of the current president and prime minister, while others, including this one, have focused on the high cost of fuel.

Despite a global fall in oil prices, the cost of fuel in Haiti has remained high. While gas prices in the United States have fallen to roughly $2.44 a gallon, in Haiti they have averaged $4.62 a gallon. Following recent strikes and protests, the government agreed to lower the price to $4.25 a gallon, but this lags well behind the level at which prices have fallen worldwide and protesters remain unsatisfied.

Protesters organized by government opposition leaders and public transit unions are demanding a 50 percent cut in oil prices to $2.13 a gallon. Many complain that the high cost of fuel is driving up the cost of living and is exacerbating poverty in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. Bus drivers complain that the high costs are preventing them from earning a living while commuters complain about the high cost of public transport. Additionally, the high cost of transporting goods has led to a rise in the prices of food and other important commodities.

The government has repeatedly claimed that it is unable to meet the protesters’ demands and cannot afford to lower the price of fuel by the amount demanded. Haiti relies heavily on Venezuela for fuel imports and currently owes the country $1.5 billion in debt as part of a preferential treatment deal. The government has been relying on oil sales to raise money to pay off this debt, and for this reason the government has said it cannot lower the price. The Prime Minister has said that “it’s not that we do not want to, it’s because we are not able to.”

But protesters, many of whom are already fed up with the current government which they view as corrupt and oppressive, remain unsatisfied with this explanation. It remains to be seen whether the two sides can reach an agreement.

– Matt Lesso

Sources: Reuters, International Business Times, Haiti Libre, BBC News, Global Research
Photo: Flickr

el chapo
The bloody drug war in Mexico has been raging for over eight years now, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of cartel soldiers as well as innocent civilians. Recently, Joaquin Guzman, otherwise known as El Chapo, was caught by Mexican authorities; many protesters have displayed anger over his imprisonment.

Hundreds of these angry citizens marched in streets of Culiacan, located in the Sinaloa region of Mexico; the hub of the Sinaloa cartel. The protesters are angered by Guzman’s capture mainly because cartel activity provided jobs for many of the poor in the mountainous Sinaloa region. Signs among the crowd illustrated their anger. One said “We Want Chapo Free.”

Currently, El Chapo is awaiting possible extradition to the United States for trafficking activity linked to several major American cities.

The fallout from the loss of leadership within the Sinaloa cartel could threaten economic activity in the Sinaloa region as a whole; a sad reality in a region where 74% of its residents suffer from poverty. Despite the presence of mass poverty in the region, freshly painted houses dot the countryside, mainly from the work of the cartel foot soldiers.

The residents fear the possibility of hardship if they lose the support the drug trade provides to the agricultural sector of the region. The economic support by the drug trade felt in the region is typified by the mythical status El Chapo reached among the locals. He is viewed as a hero rather than a vicious murderer.

Some draw parallels to him and a 20th century Mexican folk hero by the name of Jesus Malverde, a bandit who shared his wealth with the poor of the region.

El Chapo’s future remains uncertain as he awaits possible extradition to the U.S. Leads provided by the cell phone of his assistant, Carlos Manuel Hoo Ramirez, after his capture, eventually led authorities to the Mazatlan region of Mexico, where Guzman was evading arrest.

Some experts fear severe fallout from the drug lord’s capture. There is a possibility of an increase in violence rather than a decrease. A bloody turf war is not out of the question for many. The end result could be something similar to the previous administration’s “Kingpin Strategy,” where the focus on killing cartel drug lords led to the splintering of cartels into smaller groups that relied on more sinister and violent strategies to maintain control of their respective regions.

The drug war just beyond the United States’ southern border is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes. The majority of drugs manufactured and shipped by the cartels cross over into U.S. territory to satisfy an insatiable appetite for drugs.

The U.S. must create new policy initiatives to address this problem. Such policy changes would curb demand of illicit drugs, which seems to be the only way to reduce the manufacture of drugs and the subsequent violence associated with the illicit drug industry.

– Zachary Lindberg

Sources: Los Angeles Times
Photo: Time

Brazil World Cup
Income inequality is at the heart of the protests currently raging across several Brazilian cities. Originally, the protests were about the twenty-cent price hike for bus fare. Eventually, however, they turned into protests about everything that’s wrong in Brazil.

Next year’s World Cup has added to the public dissent. Brazil’s rampant political corruption has resulted in huge expenditures. The government has spent twice the amount as Germany and South Africa spent on the World Cup.

It is predicted that FIFA will make over one billion dollars from the tournament, but Brazil will benefit very little. Originally, it was presumed that the Cup would be paid for by private investors and corporations, and that the public funds would go toward bettering the existing infrastructure. But then the Brazilian government lent money to build brand-new stadiums. Essentially, the government is spending billions of dollars on a private event that is so expensive that only the rich can attend.

It has become a bit of a paradox — a country that is a symbol of soccer to many has turned against the sport’s largest event. The huge public expenditure has left the people wondering: why can the country invest millions on a soccer tournament but can’t seem to find funds to fix the broken healthcare and education systems?

The independent protestors have balked at any specific political party that has tried to claim leadership in the demonstrations, preferring instead to remain a party-free dissident entity. Even the large Workers Party was shooed away.

The impact of the country-wide protests have already been felt. President Dilma Roussef went on TV and invited protestors into the head of the government to talk about what’s going on. She met with the Movimento Passe Livre, the university free fare group that started the protests, and ultimately ceded the twenty cent transport fare increase.

While the positive impacts have been felt, it is doubtful that any more progress will be made on the issue. With so little political cohesiveness within the demonstrators themselves, it appears that the dissidence will continue into the foreseeable future.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: Fair Observer, The Guardian