It is not uncommon to see America and other Western countries criticize China for its human rights issues. Chinese media and netizens have become so used to the back-and-forth between China and the West regarding this topic that such debate seldom takes up an important space on these platforms.
This time, however, a deliberation about China’s human rights status held by the United Nation Human Rights Council has arouse Chinese media’s and social media users’ interests, thanks to some “good old friends” of China.
The deliberation, held on October 22 in Geneva, was the second time after four year for China to be investigated for human rights issues. What intrigued the Chinese public is not the accusation or denial of China’s having a bad human rights record but the fact that Vietnam, North Korea and Russia—countries that are considered as lacking proper protection for human rights as China does—had made suggestions that “China should ensure media and human rights advocates freedom of express on- and off-line”. The news were widely circulated by users on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, who showed great enthusiasm in mocking all the parties involved.
User @快车道Adolph mocked, “Now North Korea can teach China a lesson” while user @老荡易撞 asked North Korea to “help Tianchao (a nickname employed by Chinese netizens to refer to China sarcastically, might be literally translated as Heavenly Empire)”. User @Audrey175 thought further, remarking that “they should at least bring Syria in to make a ‘high-end’ team.”
Cliché as the human rights topic is, there are some that displayed a greater concern for the status quo in China than the news itself. As a matter of fact, the recent series of crackdown on journalists, dissidents and even ordinary people by the Chines government might be another reason why the issue of human rights has become the focus of the public once again.
From the most recent detention of Chen Yongzhou by Changsha police, a Guangzhou-based reporter who questioned and covered the financial status of a large company based in Hunan, to the questionable dismissal of Xia Yeliang by Peking University, an economy professor who signed the famous Charter 08 that demanded comprehensive political reforms in 2008 and wrote a letter to the then-chief of Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Bureau Liu Yunshan that criticized Liu’s suppression of freedom of express in 2009, as well as the unproven charge against Wang Gongquan, a concerned entrepreneur that chose to voice his opinions on the development of China’s civil society and politics instead of staying silent, China’s leadership has demonstrated its determination on handling those who speak and act against the Party.
Perhaps that is why some Weibo users would mock the Chinese government instead of Vietnam, North Korea or Russia. Verified corporate account @南方都市报 , a prestigious newspaper based in Guangdong, quoted China’s delegation on the aforementioned deliberation, “China is a country under the rule of law. Nobody would be published for defending their rights if they abide by the law. There is no such thing as arbitrary detention or forced disappearance in China”, while providing screenshots of newspapers home and abroad demanding the release of the Guangzhou-based journalist and sarcastically mentioning @联合国 in the tweet.
Others would “defend” China’s contribution to human rights protection. @醉高指示V mocked,
“There is nothing wrong with China’s human rights issue! First, Chinese people took state power into their own hands and became masters of the country, and the Party and governments serve the people by heart and soul—you can refer to the constitution for this. Second, Chinese people enjoy high degree of democratic rights; they can voice their opinions, participate in anti-corruption and make daily complaints online—you can all do these on microblogs. Third, China hasn’t killed any corrupted officials—an indication that China respects life. Fourth, there is strong solidarity among people, and society remains harmonious and stable—you can watch the CCTV NEWS [to confirm it]. Five, [the development of] social security system exceeds that of Britain or America—just check the state statistics.”
At this point, the Chinese government might actually be happy that its good old friend North Korea brought up such issue, which happens to direct some netizens’ attention away. After all, however bad record China’s human rights is, it still have North Korea to take up the bottom place.