Chinese media tends to be very astute at picking up and exacerbating hot-button American political issues, doing everything it can to highlight controversies even when China’s authoritarian brutality makes the criticism absurd.
A fresh example appeared in the state-run Global Times on Wednesday as the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 was invoked to justify gun control legislation as part of a sarcastic broadside against American criticism of Chinese human rights violations.
The article, prompted by the bizarre spectacle of Communist China supposedly holding hearings in Beijing to discuss “gun violence in the US and hear first-hand testimonies from witnesses, including U.S. anti-gun activists,” offers a near-parodic example of China trying to deflect attention from its appalling human rights record by claiming the U.S. has human rights problems too:
Since Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, the debate over gun control has never ceased among Americans. Yet seven score and 14 years later, people in the country can still purchase guns easily in supermarkets or local gun stores. Mass shootings in the US have remained constant. The number of victims is growing rapidly. “The US is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but experienced 31 percent of public mass shootings worldwide between 1966 and 2012,” Time Magazine reported in 2015.
The Washington-based think tank Pew Research Center claimed in August 2019 that “39,773 people died from gun-related injuries in the US” in 2017, which is “the most recent year for which complete data is available.” From 1968 to 2011, about 1.4 million people have died from firearms in the US. This is approximately equal to the number of casualties in the Vietnam War.
Gun violence has become one of the most severe human rights crises in the US. What’s more important: human rights or human life?
Some Chinese human rights associations and legal experts have been very concerned about the issue in the US. They hope to pass a bill – the US Human Rights and Democracy Act – to combat the crisis in the US. They have proposed submitting an annual report to the two sessions – China’s top legislative and political consultative meetings – to urge the US government to attach greater importance to human rights issues.
Adding to the unintentional comedy was that the hearings were ostensibly held by the National People’s Congress of China, whose common abbreviation “NPC” has unfortunate connotations in modern American political culture.
The Global Times article went on to claim Chinese officials are deeply concerned that America’s epidemic of gun violence leads them to question “whether the US is safe enough for Chinese companies, scholars and students to continue their development or studies there,” a petulant inversion of fears that the now-withdrawn Hong Kong extradition bill could have jeopardized foreign businessmen by subjecting them to kidnapping by China’s politicized judicial system.
The childish point of the Beijing confab and Global Times account thereof was made in the concluding paragraphs: the “U.S. Human Rights and Democracy Act” described in the article was merely a satirical invention created to mock legislation moving through the U.S. Congress that would condemn and penalize China for abusing human rights in Hong Kong.
The Global Times editorial claimed China knows better than to butt into the sovereign affairs of the United States and advised the U.S. to likewise stay out of China’s affairs. Note the gerontocratic Communist paper’s derisive fascination with the relative youth of some American legislators:
The hypothetical scenario in Beijing, however, is happening in Washington in reality. Some members of the US Congress, despite being very young, are used to the US hegemonic mind-set, pretending to be the “savior” of the world. At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, some US politicians invited young leaders of violent riots in Hong Kong, including Joshua Wong Chi-fung, to discuss the human rights issues in the city and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which interferes in China’s domestic affairs.
If Beijing does the same things to Washington, which China is fully capable of but has exercised restraint, how would the US respond?
The US has been constantly interfering in other countries’ internal issues in the past decades, including selling weapons to Taiwan, arranging meetings with separatist forces such as the Dalai Lama, invading Grenada in 1983 to overthrow the country’s then-Marxist regime, and sending troops to Iraq in 2003 to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein. Not to mention a 2016 study by Dov Levin, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, which found that the US intervened in 81 foreign elections from 1946 to 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2016.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spent a good deal of its press conference on Thursday complaining about criticism of Beijing’s human rights offenses from American politicians, explicitly making the demands for non-interference the Global Times couched as satire.
“I will reiterate that Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s domestic affairs and no foreign interference shall be allowed,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
“We strongly urge the U.S. to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations, earnestly respect China’s sovereignty, stop interfering in whatever form in Hong Kong affairs, stop pushing the relevant act on Hong Kong, stop endorsing violent and radical forces in Hong Kong and separatist forces for ‘Hong Kong independence,’ and stop instigating words and deeds undermining the stability and prosperity of the Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region],” Geng demanded.
Geng took a similarly aggressive posture against U.S. criticism of China’s conduct in Tibet and the Muslim-minority Xinjiang province, insisting everything China does in these areas is “not about ethnicity, religion or human rights, but about fighting separatism and violent terrorism.”
Geng then came around to the exact same point made by the Global Times:
If the U.S. really cares for human rights, it should spend much more time fixing its own problems of gun violence, income disparity, gender discrimination and social security, attach high importance to the concerns raised in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, address violence, long-term detention and hindrance of humanitarian aids targeting immigrants and refugees, stop separating migrant children from parents and stop wantonly violating the human rights of the people of other countries by unilateral sanctions.
Observing the Foreign Ministry press conference, Hofstra Law dean Julian Ku observed that China’s incessant invocation of “separatism” as an excuse for its human rights violations “makes it sound like China is in danger of blowing apart.” Unfortunately for China’s oppressed minorities, they were long ago disarmed with strict gun control, so they have very little ability to resist tyranny or cultural genocide.