Political turmoil and citizen activism in China are currently comprised of well-intended fights resulting in harmful consequences. The United Nations and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International recognize – and have chosen to confront – China’s recent mistreatment of whom it considers violators of the law, according the New York Times this week.
Vocal human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was not only detained this past year, but reportedly tortured during past detentions as well, for his defense of certain religious practitioners disapproved of by the Chinese government, says Edward Wong (New York Times – Beijing). Gao claims to have been abused with harmful items from cigarettes to electric batons to handguns, and it is apparent that his experiences have changed his life and that of his family forever.
Gao is currently missing. His wife and sons fled to the United States in 2009 (NYT).
A human rights agency within the United Nations – the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – has called such punishment unlawful and having failed to meet “standards of due process.” This was expressed in a statement sent directly to the Chinese government in mid-2010, but no outcome of such a reprimand has been evident. The multiple cases of abuse during detainment are what brought Mr. Gao’s case to the particular attention of the UN, but human rights are becoming a larger issue surrounding the Chinese government – again, especially because of the current political havoc there around the Jasmine Revolution.
The New York Times article on this issue elaborates in claiming that an “extraordinary number” of human rights advocates and representatives have been detained by Chinese officials: a report earlier in March called the period one of a “crackdown.” Such initiatives as well as other “preventative” actions on China’s part – including possibly excessive detainment and punishment measures – are something which have caught the attention of international rights entities other than the UN alone.
A Reuters London report in the Times Monday also recognized that China is the leader in death sentences and executions – the far-leading frontrunner, as pointed out by Amnesty International. Applicable to 55 offenses, some of which constitute non-violent crimes, the capital punishment has ended thousands – and more than the rest of the entire world’s sentenced-to-death population – this year.
That one of the five influential, veto-capable and meant-to-be-representative “permanent seats” of the United Nations is such an deplorable example to our global standards of societal maintenance and law enforcement is almost ironic. Thankfully, we have human rights activists willing to confront such tradition-bound leaders. Whether China will change its ways in the near and most likely still-tumultuous future remains unknown. However, promising decreases in executions alongside prevalent rights advocacy and fights on the people’s part encourage a exemplary global leadership style in the public service and enforcement of tomorrow.