US: China Has "Poor" Human Rights, But Ten Countries Are Worse

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From the headlines alone, it's difficult to know what to believe. 

It would seem that "US Report: China Abusing Human Rights" and "US Drops China from List of Top Human Rights Abusers," would be in reference to two different reports. Perhaps one of the reporters got it wrong, but in fact, these two headlines are both correct, and probably say more about the way the diverse audiences the headlines want to solicit than the substance of the pieces. 

According to the State Department's 2007 Human Rights Report for China, "the year 2007 saw increased efforts to control and censor the Internet, and the government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the domestic press."  It also criticized the imprisonment of journalists, forced abortions of the one-child policy, and the dislocation of urban residents to make way for the Olympics.

As in past years, I have no doubt that when the Chinese leadership reads these familiar headlines there will be strong remarks to the contrary.  There will be an official rebuttal condemning their condemnation.  We will read eloquent remarks about how China guarantees human rights, how there is great prosperity, and how these slanderous remarks are simply another attempt to undermine a successful Olympics. 

By the end of the week, this report, will probably remain as distant a memory as the reports from 2006, 2005, 2004, and so on.  On the other hand, it might be used by fervent activists (Darfur, Tibet, Taiwan, Falungong . . . ) as ammunition to fuel the media's growing China interest as a platform for their particular cause.   

As we inch closer and closer to the August 8 Opening Ceremonies, these cries from human rights advocates will grow progressively louder.  The framing of particular China headlines will likewise take on a new, central role.  How will we perceive different information concerning China? 

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