Human Rights Watch: China at most repressive since Tian’anmen massacre

The research and advocacy organization published its 2019 World Report Jan. 17

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A Xinjiang woman facing a riot squad in 2017

A Xinjiang woman facing a riot squad in 2017 (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — On Jan. 17, international research and advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its World Report 2019; a comprehensive review of the current human rights conditions in every nation.

The organization posted an announcement for the report’s release on its website, which gave particular mention to China in a section discussing the persistence of autocratic politics throughout the world.

HRW asserted the Chinese government’s arbitrary detention of over a million Uighur minority citizens in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region exemplified the “enormous” human cost of maintaining autocratic rule, mentioning the crisis alongside other current human rights catastrophes including the extrajudicial killing of suspected drug dealers in the Philippines. The organization stated that “China has increased its repression over the past year to the worst level since the 1989 massacre of protesters from the Tian’anmen Square democracy movement.”

In the report itself, HRW details the extralegal measures the government has used to target key individuals accused of state subversion. This includes the three-year detention-without-trial of human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, the incarceration and torture of other lawyers and activists such as Qin Yongmin, who was sentenced to 13 years for leading a pro-democracy movement, and the forced repatriation of dissident Jiang Yefei in cooperation with the Thai government.

The report also notes how China has “tightened its ideological grip” over institutions and society, both offline and online. This includes the suppression and censorship of anti-establishment and “vulgar” content, and cracking down on women’s rights movements and LGBT individuals—a practice which even spread to Hong Kong last year.

Although Taiwan is not given its own evaluation in the HRW report, it is mentioned as the subject of China’s belligerence. The report notes how Beijing has wielded the power of its economy to curtail freedom of expression around the world, encouraging former allies of Taiwan to sever diplomatic ties and international airlines to change how they refer to the country.

The evaluation contains dedicated sections to Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, underscoring the particular kinds of oppression citizens of each region have uniquely dealt with at the hands of the Communist government.

Local authorities have intensified “political education” and the rate of land grabs in Tibet, and continue to step-up arbitrary persecution and detention in Xinjiang, HRW states. The organization adds that authoritarian politics and democratic suppression are increasingly pervading political and social life in Hong Kong.

Despite alarming conditions in many countries, HRW observes that there is a rising trend in pushback against autocracy, with groups resisting the rule of right-wing populist politicians, and bringing justice to the perpetrators of human rights catastrophes.

It is worth noting politicians are gaining the fortitude to confront Chinese authorities directly, including Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, about their human rights abuses.