With its increasing popularity as the world leading economy, China has been under constant speculation from the world media, regarding its international and domestic affairs. The issue of Human rights has always been a heated topic of discussion surrounding China’s draconian regulation. Despite minor efforts for improvements Post-Mao era, Communist regime of China still relies heavily on restrictions of human rights as a mean to protect its legitimacy and social stability.
National leaders and human rights organizations around the world consistently pressure the Chinese government to establish fundamental human rights for its citizens, now that it is one of the world’s superpowers. The 2008 Olympics scandals and the recent Nobel Prize controversy put China in the spot light for media criticism. The fight for human rights in China is no longer an internal matter, it is supported internationally.
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The following case study takes a comparative approach at an in depth look of the current state of human rights in China from the perspective of the 2008 Olympics, the Nobel Peace Prize controversy, China internet censorship, and the recent imprisonment of contemporary artist/human rights activist Ai Wee Wet. An on campus survey at Bentley shows the majority of students have a favorable opinion on China’s economic development. Coming from a business school, Bentley students view China as full of potential and opportunities, a young vivacious blossoming market.
However, most students also disagree with the way China handles its human rights issues. The general consensus is that not only human rights restrictions a deprivation on the intellectual development, but also an impairment on China’s economic potential. The story of China’s human rights issue portrayed by Western media is Just the icing on he cake. The real issue is much morbid and abysmal. On August, 2008, at the 8th hour, 8th minute, and 8th second, the world turned to China as it hosted the 2008 Olympics. After decades of chaos and poverty, this is a chance that China gets to show the world its power, prosperity and modernization.
Beijing sure spared no expense for this historical moment; with the budget of over forty billion US dollars, these were the most expensive Olympic games yet. Twenty billion dollars alone were spent on improving the infrastructure of the Beijing city; thousands of performers ere employed Just for the opening and the closing ceremonies. Beijing had shown 100% dedication and commitment to the Olympic game. Years of preparation all came down to sixteen days of the Olympics (Burns). And when the games ended, audiences were left with mixed feelings, largely due to a string of human rights related scandals throughout the games.
The first from this string of scandals sparked 2008 Olympic torch, as a gesture of condemnation of “China’s crackdown in Tibet and its wider human rights record” (Burns). Pro Tibetan organizations around the world planned protests at each stop on the torch’s 21-nation tour. Beijing showed no sign of backing down on its policy toward the Tibetan, implementing coercion to suppress the protests. In addition to Beijing long history of draconian privacy restrictions, government officials ordered 2000 surveillance cameras to be installed throughout the cities, as a security measure for the Olympic Games.
Seventy thousands of Beijing taxi drivers were required to have cameras, microphones, and GAPS tracking units installed inside their vehicles. These security measures are to be remained post Olympic Games. One hundred and ten thousand police, army reserve troops and oleanders were deployed to ensure security and suppress “protesters or human- rights activists who might try to embarrass the government” (Ester). These are Just a few evidences of China’s human rights infringement. Though the games were lavished with success and nationalism, Beijing needs to take a long hard look at its Machiavellian policy toward human rights (Ester) (Burns).
On October 8, 2010, “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Prize for 2010 to Ill Kabob for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China” (Ramey). The news of the newly awarded Nobel Peace Prize winner came hard own on Beijing. Infuriated, Chinese government had Ill Kabob arrested as a mean of retaliation toward the Nobel Committee. Despite the government infuriation, the news was widely celebrated by the Internet community. One Chinese Twitter users satirically stated “l don’t know who this Mr…
Ill is, but as a Chinese, I’m very happy for a fellow citizen to win the Nobel Prize. He must be one of our great party members, a great official… And a great leader who does great deeds for his people” (Ramey). Of course, Ill Kabob is neither “a great official” nor a communist member; who he is, is literary critic who is responsible for Charter 08, a manifesto of human rights initially signed by 350 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists. Charter 08 was published on December 10, 2008 as a campaign to promote fundamental human rights and political reform in China.
The actual Charter was intervened by the government shortly after it was published; however, there still exists an online version which is signed so far by 10,000 people in and out of China. Along with Lieu’s imprisonment, many of the original 350 signatories were either under house arrest or fleeing the country. For most part of his life, Ill has been living under the surveillance of the Chinese government. He participated in the 1989 Attainment Square protest, and has remained one of the most prominent supporters of human rights in China.
For many Chinese citizens, Ill is a modern day hero, a symbol of hope for human rights in a Communist ruling country. But in the eyes of Beijing, Ill is a criminal, and a threat to national security (Ramey). China’s human rights restrictions are not limited to the physical world; they extend greatly to the virtual realm of the Internet. In mid 2008, months prior the Olympics, the Chinese overspent took drastic measures to monitor and tighten the flow of information on the Internet, in an attempt to portrait a “harmonious society’ to the Western media.
The censorship apparatus employed is extremely elaborate and intricate, comprised of multiple layers of monitoring and intervention mechanisms. The system York Times”). By law, all websites registered within China have to employ information “auditors”, and advisors who delete derogatory content and make sure the websites comply with the government “Internet safety guidelines”. Such “safety guidelines” is a instantly updated list of terms and topics deemed inappropriate by the government; it ranges from “freedom”, “democracy’, “porn”, “Charter 08” to names of human rights activists.
Coupling with this intrusive policy, the government hires thousands of commentators “who pose as ordinary Web users to counter criticism of the government. Known derisively as “50 Cent Party’ members, these shapers of public opinion are often paid 50 Chinese cents a posting” (“New York Times”). The censorship machine also directly targets foreign social networking websites, because they “promote” democracy. Mid 2008 marked the year the Chinese government manned Twitter, Youths, and Backbone from its Internet infrastructure.
The news came as a shock to both Chinese citizens and the Western world, considering the enormous popularity of these social networking websites. The ban signifies China’s seriousness in its censorship policy, and signals a step up in an already stringent censorship system. The change was supposed to be temporary; however, since then the government has not lifted the ban. A silver lining out of this unfortunate circumstance is that new domestic “government friendly’ websites are now thriving as alternatives to their more popular foreign competitors (“New York Times”).
In the beginning of 2009, the Chinese government planned to install “Green Dam-youth Escort” into all domestically manufactured computers. The program is ultimately a “big brother” style monitoring software which would give the government complete control over the hosted computers. Fortunately, the government backed down from such devious proposition, after much disapproval, and resistance from its citizens and the international media (“New York Times”).
Few companies have ever stood up against China’s strict policies, most fear they would lose the right to operate in one of the world largest market. Nevertheless, in the beginning of 2010, Google, the world’s most highly regarded search engine and a multinational corporation, decided it will no longer tolerate the Chinese government’s censorship on its search results, and withdrew its operations in China. In an attempt to tip toe around China’s Internet policy, Google directed all of its Chinese users to Google’s Hong Kong website. The move angered Chinese officials.
Aside from the censorship, Google also alleged the Chinese government attacked the company’s Gamma services multiple times to monitor human rights advocates’ emails. In its defense, “China responded that companies doing business in the country must follow the law’ (“New York Times”). Since its enactment, the censorship system has actively taken down more than one thousand nine hundred Websites and two hundred blobs. Despite strict regulations and censorship, China’s Internet community still remains one of the most diverse in the world. The number of floggers in China has recently gone up to over seventy million.
And China now has over three hundred million internet users, the largest national virtual community in the world (“New York Times”). The Chinese government has a Eng history of openly/secretly detaining and executing human rights activists and political reform advocates. As recently as April 3 2011, Ai Wee Wet, China’s most prominent contemporary artist, and human rights advocate was added to this long International Airport, he was arrested by the security agents. Within the same day, his art studio was raided by the police (Richer).
The arrest comes as a warning to other advocates, and an elimination of Sais’s attempt to launch a “Jasmine revolution”, one that would have been similar to the famous Tunisian political revolution that started a chain reaction in the Middle East. The infamous topic of discussion “Jasmine rallies” has gotten twenty six people detained, thirty more under house arrest, while two hundred others are listed under “soft detention”. Is not a crackdown in the class cycle of tightening and loosening,” said Nicholas Becquerel, Hong-Kong based China researcher for Human Rights Watch. This is an effort by the government to redraw the lines of permissible expression in China, to restrict the most outspoken advocates of global values” (Richer). Ai Wee Wee is very well known on the contemporary art scene, especially because of his involvement as the artistic director of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium”. His artistic vision is unique in that his works transcend beyond the mere aesthetics, they often manifest condemnation of the political system, and express a struggle to be free of restrictions. Ai uses his fan base in many of his art exhibits.
For instance, in his 1=1001 project, Ai invited one thousand and one Chinese to travel to Easel to participate in a documentary. The objective of the project is to inspire the participants to embrace their individuality, and protect that individuality from the overwhelming oppression of the state. The project was a huge success; memories of he trip remain a unique part in the life of each participant (Richer). Because of Sais’s popularity and his outspoken demeanor as a critic of the regime, he is often subjected to imprisonment by the government.
In his previous run in with the authority, Ai was injured so brutally that he had to be hospitalized to get the blood drained from his brain. The Chinese government is constantly in Sais’s way to prevent him from realizing his artistic vision. Ai was banned from having his own exhibition in Beijing. His newly built studio was then demolished. Ai later decided to open a studio in Berlin so that he can freely express his art. Following Ai Weiss arrest, his supporters around the world protested in front of Chicane’s embassies, demanding Ai to be released.
So far, the Chinese government has kept it silence on the whereabouts of AAA, and on the charges that were brought against the visionary artist (Richer). The most important explanatory factors in understanding the issue of human rights in China is its political regime, more specifically communism. Even though it might seem that a combination of Communist ruling and human rights restrictions had done an exceptional Job in developing China’s economy, in the near true there has got to be changes within the Chinese’ political system regarding its human rights restriction in order to balance out its economic growth.