Human Rights Watch has said in its annual report that China is in the midst of its darkest period of human rights since the Tiananmen Square massacre.
But 2020 was also the year when world governments found “security in numbers” to push back China’s repression policy with less fear of retaliation, it said.
Exacerbation of ethnic minority persecution in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet, targeted at whistleblowers, violence against Hong Kong and attempts to hide the coronavirus outbreak were all part of the worsening situation under President Xi Jinping, the organization said.
“This has been the darkest period of human rights in China since the 1
“The Chinese government’s authoritarianism was in full swing in 2020 as it battled the deadly coronavirus outbreak first reported in Wuhan Province,” said the report, which describes the initial coverage of the outbreak by the authorities and the punishment of whistleblower doctors including Li Wenliang and journalists like Zhang Zhan, who reported on the Wuhan lockdown and on the surveillance and harassment of families of virus victims.
At the same time, “Beijing’s repression – insisting on political loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party” deepened across the country.
“In Xinjiang, Turkish Muslims are arbitrarily detained on the basis of their identity, while others are subjected to forced labor, mass surveillance and political indoctrination. In Inner Mongolia, protests erupted in September when education authorities decided to replace Mongols with Mandarin Chinese in a number of classes in the region’s schools. ”
And in Tibet, the authorities continued “to restrict religious freedom, speech, movement and assembly to a great extent and fail to address popular concerns about mining and land grabbing by local officials, often involving intimidation and illegal use of force by security forces.”
The demand for political loyalty was also intensified in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. After more than six months of protests in 2019, Beijing implemented the internationally criticized national security law over the city and even banned benign opposition acts such as criminal acts, secession, foreign cooperation and terrorism. About 90 people have been arrested under the law since June.
Internet censorship, mass surveillance and efforts to “make” religion deepened in China as well, the report says. Prominent critics, human rights defenders and journalists were imprisoned, disappeared or forced into exile, many accused of “inciting undermining” or “sudden quarrels and provocation” – a common charge against dissidents and activists.
“Since Xi Jinping came to power, oppression has generally gotten worse and worse, in all aspects of Chinese society you can see the party becoming more intolerant of any kind of independent activity,” said HRW researcher Yaqiu Wang.
The 386-page report focused largely on China due to the international response to aggravated repression there. HRW said the rest of the world became more confident in criticizing Beijing as they had previously feared retaliation.
Retaliation still arose: China and the United States went into a trade war, traded sanctions and new rules for visas, diplomats and journalists, and closed embassies. Australia was subjected to harmful trade tariffs and bans after it called for a “robust” investigation into the origin of coronavirus.
HRW was critical of the EU’s response to China and in particular the conclusion of a trade agreement with Beijing at the end of last year.
“If the EU had been serious about ending forced labor in China’s Xinjiang province, they could have insisted on it before agreeing on the investment agreement,” said HRW leader Kenneth Roth.
But by 2020, many world governments found “security in numbers, reflecting Beijing’s inability to reciprocate worldwide,” HRW said. Fewer members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – which in the past have tended to support China – supported Xinjiang policies, and more statements of condemnation were presented at the UN.
The United States passed several laws targeting China’s abuses, while Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States all tore extradition treaties out of the country because of its violence against Hong Kong.
“This growing international willingness to condemn the Chinese government forced it to respond,” the report said, and Beijing confirmed for the first time the number of Uighurs and other Turkish Muslims detained in Xinjiang, revealing that 1.3 million people had gone through it. it is called “vocational training centers”.
Each UN declaration was thwarted by declarations in support of Beijing, which HRW said were “typically signed by many of the world’s worst human rights abusers” and appeared to involve economic leverage.
The HRW report said the pushback was particularly notable for the U.S. “peripheral” role, as the Trump administration was often not involved or lacked credibility as it was.
“The lesson of recent years for other governments is that they can make a big difference, even without Washington. Even under a more rights-friendly US administration, this broader collective defense of rights should be maintained ”.