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The Pot v. The Kettle

Yesterday, the US State Department's annual report on human rights around the world was released.  In it, the State Department said that rights in China actually worsened in 2008.  In particular, China has increased its repression of dissidents and ethnic minorities (it was last March, of course, that China went hogwild on Buddhist monks).  This is not a big surprise.  Yesterday, Xinhua, China's national newswire service, complained that the State Department "turned blind eye to the efforts and historic achievements China has made in human rights." If someone knows what those are, can you let me know?

Today, it was China's turn.  It has released its own report, focussing on the United States. "The U.S. practice of throwing stones at others while living in a glass house is a testimony to the double standards and hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with human rights issues and has undermined its international image," the Information Office of the State Council of China says, according to The People's Daily.  Amongst the highlights:

1.  Widespread violent crime "pose serious threats to its people's lives, property and personal security."

2. There have been widespread restrictions placed on individuals' civil rights.

3. "American people's economic, social and cultural rights are not properly protected."  

4. Fully 1/5 of young Americans have personality disorders.

5. Racial discrimination is rife in American life. And "[t]here is serious racial hostility" in the US.

And so on.  On the one hand, China has a point: there is a lot of violent crime in some parts of the United States, there were limitations on civil rights, especially during the Bush era, and racism is widespread.  Having said that, China's report makes it sound like every American is likely to get raped and murdered when stepping out the front door, that Americans have no civil rights, that all young Americans are insane, and African Americans have a social status only slightly above slavery.  The State Department, on the other hand, is generally regarded as a credible source on the status of human rights around the globe.  

The Beeb's James Reynolds notes that these annual reports are now part of a ritual between China and the US, they each release their reports, they both criticise each other, and then life carries on.  There is no practical impact, other than a few feathers getting ruffled.  But, really, this a case of the pot and the kettle.  China is in no position to criticise any nation's record on human rights.

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