HRW calls on global community to combat China's threat to human rights

Riot police detain protesters during an anti-government rally on New Year's day in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Vivek Prakash/EPA-EFE
Riot police detain protesters during an anti-government rally on New Year's day in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Vivek Prakash/EPA-EFE

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The Chinese government poses a threat to the rights of people worldwide, non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch said, calling on the international community to band together to counter Beijing's attacks.

In HRW's annual 2020 report analyzing the world's human rights situation, its executive director, Kenneth Roth, warned that since China sees human rights as an existential threat, how it combats that threat jeopardizes the rights and freedoms of the rest of the world.


"At home, the Chinese Communist Party, worried that permitting political freedom would jeopardize its grasp on power, has constructed an Orwellian high-tech surveillance state and a sophisticated Internet censorship system to monitor and suppress public criticism," wrote Roth. "Abroad, it uses its growing economic clout to silence critics and carry out the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights since the system began to emerge in the mid-20th century."

Roth -- who was recently denied entry to Hong Kong by China -- wrote other countries also pose threats to human rights but the Asian nation stands out for undermining worldwide institutions that protect rights and freedoms as it attempts to avoid international criticism for its suppression within its borders.

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China is building a network of "cheerleader states" that depend upon it for aid and business while punishing those that cross it, he said, urging the international community to repel its attempts to undermine the human rights system.

"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," he said.

Roth also chastised the United Nations, specifically its secretary general, Antonio Guterres, for being unwilling to demand China end its mass detention of some 1 million ethnic Muslims under the pretense of counterterrorism while praising it for its economic progress.

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"Unless we want to return to an era in which people are pawns to be manipulated or discarded according to the whims of their overlords, the Chinese government's attack on the international human rights system must be resisted," Roth wrote. "Now is the time to take a stand."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed some of these fears, albeit tempered, on Tuesday during a speech on Silicon Valley and national security, stating that they must make sure American technology isn't used by China's "Orwellian surveillance state."


"We need to make sure American principles aren't sacrificed for prosperity," he said.

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China responded to Pompeo's comments, stating it urged the United States to let go of its "consistent prejudice" and work to foster better relations between the two nations.

"Certain people in American keep attacking and smearing China by force of habit," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday in a regular press briefing. "This has not only tarnished America's international credibility but has been questioned and rejected by more and more countries."

Roth's condemnation comes after China sanctioned several NGOs, including HRW, following the United States' passing of a bill to put pressure on the Communist Party for its treatment of Hong Kong demonstrators during seven months of pro-democracy protests that have rocked the semi-autonomous region. China said it blamed the NGOs for supporting "anti-China forces to create chaos in Hong Kong" and encouraging "extreme violent criminal acts."

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