Google has recently declared it will wrap up its operations in China and thus stop censorship of its Chinese search engine sites mainly due to repeated attacks on its websites. Google’s gmail has been attacked several times as the Chinese authorities tried to access gmail accounts of human rights activists around the world. Google has until now followed all of China’s censorships dictates.
Allusions to Tiananmen Square and other atrocities carried out by China or Human Rights violations in China are also strictly censored by the Chinese government so Google has been struggling to put up appropriate content according to ‘Chinese standards.’ Google has now taken a decisive step to stop its operations in China and wants to promote a more unfiltered search engine with more open access to information on China and will thus be no longer controlled by the Chinese government. This is of course good news to many and Google has taken the first leading decisive step which has to be followed by other organizations.
China’s censorship and control or restrictions on every aspect of life from religion to the internet could fill up pages if we begin describing them and the human rights violations in China remain perpetual and strongest, yet the most subtle and least noted.
Analysts talk about human rights violations in Iran, in Burma, in Sudan but when it comes to China, the fact that the citizens remain in complete control of government scrutiny and no part of their lives is free is somehow overlooked and China’s great economic strength has been more of a topic of discussion in recent years with the human rights violations always pushed to the background as a secondary issue.
Possibly this is because China has been projecting itself largely as an economic power in Asia and clamping down on all media reports about injustice and violations.
Some of the recent issues are murder and death penalty of British citizen Akmal Shaikh who was caught for smuggling heroin into Chinese territories. Yes he carried heroin and yes he could have been sentenced to life imprisonment or deported to Britain to get the right judgment. Instead he was put to death.
Whether he was mentally ill or not is a secondary issue. The fact remains that China killed a British citizen when there was a widespread concern and appeal from the British government to release Akmal Shaikh. Akmal Shaikh is probably not an isolated case. There are thousands of other such cases within China where people are being killed by the Chinese government without any substantial proof of crime or are being tortured inside the Chinese prisons for years.
These incidents and cases are going unnoticed as China maintains strict control over the media and advocates censorship in the extreme, even in this age of information. Facebook, Twitter and all social networking pages are either blocked or restricted in China and journalists both inside and outside China have no access to important information that could stir up the Human Rights debate in China consistently.
The government also controls the judiciary and China is one of the few countries where the judiciary is not independent of the government directions and this is the primary and most significant basis of human rights abuse in China. The Chinese government uses administrative rulings to detain thousands of individuals who speak or act against the government or demand more freedom and even if some are released they are placed under strict vigil and are either harassed, tortured or undergo thorough and continued investigation.
The freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religion are some of the basic rights of individuals which are all severely restricted or denied in China. According to the latest reports which were released several years back more than 2000 prisoners have been accused of political crimes against the government.
No one knows exactly how many prisoners of political crimes are now detained and arrested or abused and tortured in China. But the number could be well above 5000. We can talk of Guantanamo because America is an open society, yet there could be hundreds such Gitmos in China that people aren’t even aware of.
Appallingly, the media is also controlled and manipulated by the government and the regional and national news organizations have to follow certain guidelines set by the government.
Foreign media are subject to restrictions and censorship as seen in the Google case and very little or no news of atrocities by the Chinese government are ever flashed in Chinese newspapers. There is no system of healthy critique of governance, no freedom of speech, ideas or expression and the Chinese continue to remain in a society where they are told what they should say or express and how.
One flaw of Communism is that despite its lofty ideals it quickly becomes dictatorial and China is not just dictatorial in its national governance but also tries to manipulate foreign governments by supporting and providing arms to dictatorial regimes. China in fact maintains closer diplomatic relations with Iran, Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan and all dictatorial regimes to which it supplies arms and military support than with democratic nations like India or the US.
China has in fact built monitoring units and naval bases in and around the Bay of Bengal to keep tabs on India’s missiles and nuclear tests. China has also been trying to enter and occupy some of India’s North Eastern territories such as Arunachal Pradesh in recent times, simply because border regions provide direct access to neighboring states such as Burma.
Arunachal Pradesh is one of the North Eastern states of India which is sometimes subtly projected by the Chinese government as part of China which is again a ridiculous claim and similar to China’s claim that Tibet is also a part of China. China even went to the extent of canceling a scheduled meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after she met Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama in 2007.
In a similar manner China also called off the UK-Human Rights meet between the UK foreign office and the Chinese Foreign Affairs ministry after UK ministers expressed displeasure at China’s unwarranted death penalty to British citizen Akmal Shaikh.
In fact China has always deliberately avoided human rights discussions with the governments of European nations or the US or UN especially when they met the Dalai Lama or showed concerns for Tibetan nationals or voiced anger against atrocities within China.
This shows that the Chinese government has little concern or respect for human rights issues and this is one of the most dangerous traits of Chinese politics. Despite being an emerging Asian economic giant, China’s basic approach to Human rights remain medieval as China continues to practice medieval systems of death penalty, censorship and restrictions, severe control of media and control of any freedom of speech and expression.
Control and autocracy in any form is a medieval, non-progressive and restrictive type of governance as was practiced in ancient times. These practices, despite being compatible with communist principles may not be compatible with the modern information age and an open free, equal society.
The world continues to move towards freedom, towards equality and autocracy, impositions, restrictions, censorship are too dated, out of sync, antique and cannot be a part of a progressive modern society that is moving towards economic growth and freedom where individual ideas are encouraged and hierarchical patterns are shunned.
China strives to be a major power and a progressive economic strength yet its politics and social policies are not appropriate for the times or rather for the 21st century. The government lives in a sort of delusion that censorship and restrictions are essential.
The mindset of the Chinese government is narrow and old fashioned. It doesn’t understand the basic issues of human rights or freedom essential in any civilized modern society. This could be one of the major reasons for which China may not be able to realize its full potential and growth in future years despite its manpower, resources and emerging economic strength and geographical advantages.