“The Chinese government is trying to undermine the very idea of universal human rights by claiming to have its own, culturally specific model,” the International Campaign for Tibet, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, revealed to the Washington Examiner. “On top of that, China is spreading its subversion of human rights around the globe, both by hacking and harassing Tibetan activists abroad and by trying to push its human rights vision on other countries.”
That warning, echoed by the leader of an international Uyghur Muslim organization, throws the ideological stakes of the U.S.-China competition into relief. Chinese officials have attempted to defang Western condemnation of the atrocities underway in Xinjiang by arguing that American views of human rights are not normative at the U.N. and in governments around the world. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s team rejected that argument at the unveiling of the annual U.S. report on human rights.
“Our approach on human rights and our approach to the Human Rights Reports is grounded in the United Nations documents,” acting Assistant Secretary Lisa Peterson, the State Department’s lead official in the democracy and human rights bureau stated. "That has been our guiding set of documents from the inception of the reports. So, whatever China may say about our approach, it is based on those founding U.N. principles and guiding U.N. documents.”
The 2020 State Department report on human rights was unsparing in its observations about the “authoritarian state” commanded by the Chinese Communist Party. “Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” the report said. “Government officials and the security services often committed human rights abuses with impunity.”
Chinese officials have alleged that such criticisms amount to an improper intervention into China’s domestic politics. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi carried that argument to several Gulf Arab states in recent days, where he proposed that governments averse to U.S. human rights rhetoric could organize to resist such rebukes.
“China and the six nations will continue giving mutual support to each other regarding their core interests.” the foreign minister said Wednesday, per the South China Morning Post. “We oppose imposing ideology on others, and using human rights to interfere in other nations’ affairs and smear them.”
“In China, it's a big difference: There is no law to protect your rights. China's constitution ... just protect[s] the Chinese Communist Party,” World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa, who is based in Munich, told the Washington Examiner.
Isa argued that Chinese officials define human rights in terms of physical security and material prosperity, without respect to individual liberties. “Freedom of speech and assembly, right [of] the minority, rule of law — this is not the concept of Chinese human rights” promoted by the regime, he said.