Recently I've been very disheartened by the negative response I've seen when approaching the issue of human rights in China. Indymedia has traditionally been a place of free-thinking and well-informed individuals, most of whom had their hearts in the right place. In the past few months i've seemed to encounter too much ignorance, arrogance and general apathy. It seems to me, that many of the people who have taken the time to read my posts have been misinformed about human rights in China. Over and over again the same two arguments are made. One claiming human rights in our own country are in such shambles that we can not possibly begin to address the wrong doings of another world superpower without A)expending so much time and energy on it that we have none left with which to repair the failing system in the U.S. -OR- B)look like huge stinking hypocrites. Let me first say that yes, human rights in the United States are poor. We've lost a lot of our civil liberties just in the past 8 years under the Bush administration. The PATRIOT act alone has taken a terrifying toll on our rights. I also firmly believe we have never been closer to a police state. Not to mention the assortment of issues with gay/reproductive/labor rights. So yes, I most definitely acknowledge that things need a LOT of work in this country. And I am of the opinion that in order to help anyone else we must help ourselves first. However, the connection between the human rights situation in China and human rights in our own country is a strong one. The failure to see it is incredibly short sighted and narrow minded. Continuing to do business with China (Olympics included) sends the message that their actions are acceptable it's a reflection of what stance the U.S. takes on human rights both at home and abroad. It suggests we tolerate these atrocities (troubling for the citizens of our own country no?) And perhaps the people that have responded so negatively are unaware of just how terrible things are in China: think torture and murder of political dissidents, routine forced abortions and massive displacement of Chinese citizens to make way for development (including Olympic construction) and the list goes on. These human rights abuses are not contained within China. It spills across China's borders into Tibet, Burma and places like Darfur. China is now actively (and has been for decades) committing genocide in Tibet. They are aiding the genocide in Darfur by selling weapons to the Janjawid and harvesting natural resources from Sudan, funding it's corrupt government and their war against the people. China even poses a threat to the U.S. at this point. Unsafe goods are constantly being imported to the United States from China. Toys and candy with lead levels so high they are poisoning our children. Tainted toothpaste and aspirin and rice (and what is the FDA doing to protect us against it?) The U.S. is fully investing in these things. Our economy is so integrated with China's that nearly every dollar we spend goes to a brutal government responsible for the oppression and suffering of billions.
The second most popular argument made is that it is a waste of time to focus on just one country. That statement in itself is ignorant. China is coming into its own as a world superpower. And its' human rights violations are numerous and far-reaching (much like us). As I stated before, these abuses are not confined to China. They are affecting Tibet, Burma, Darfur and yes, even the United States. And many others. My position might have been quite different if China wasn't such an enormous country with a global and economic influence that is increasing at an almost exponential rate. If China was, say, the size of Cuba I might not be apt to argue so vehemently. The Olympics in Beijing is wrong. It's undeserved honor, a pat on the back from the world community, a global endorsement of all of the above.
The point of all this being a little knowledge goes a long way. Before you dismiss what i've said here, take just a minute to really understand what's going on. Read up about the cases of forced abortion, of torture used against the peaceful falun-gong followers, about China's "golden shield" project and the U.S. involvement (tell me THIS doesn't threaten human rights in our country) learn about China's contribution to the situations in Darfur and Burma. Watch the videos of the Olympics protests going on in other parts of the world. If you inform yourself and you still feel that the cause if futile, fair enough. But don't go making statements that are clearly uninformed and loaded with apathy. I KNOW the people of Portland have a strong conscience and I find it hard to believe that anyone who really knew what was going on in China would refuse to take action. This our opportunity to stand against Our goverment as well as the government of China. To make public the acknowledgement that financial and political support of the 2008 Olympics is unethical. Please do not let this chance slip through our fingers. As Americans we still have a voice, and with it, a responsiblity to speak on behalf of those who do not.
[There will be a demonstration Sunday, August 3rd 1-3pm in Beaverton. Check the calendar for more info.]