Human Rights Watch released its annual World Report on Tuesday, in which, Executive Director Kenneth Roth warned about China’s existential threat to human rights worldwide.
“While other governments commit serious human rights violations, no other government flexes its political muscles with such vigor and determination to undermine the international human rights standards and institutions that could hold it to account.”
The report pinpoints the origin and motivation of the attack on rights as China’s fragile rule by repression instead of popular consent. The lack of public input and debate make it more difficult for the government to claim legitimacy, which is reliant solely on its growing economy. This rule by repression “has mounted a determined assault on the political freedoms that might show the public to be anything but acquiescent to its rule.”
The unconstrained surveillance state is an assault on political freedom, and the report further warns that this idea is exportable. The surveillance state can be attractive to governments with weak privacy protections. Additionally, many autocrats need not look further than China to show that there can be economic growth and prosperity without free debate or contested elections.
According to the report, not only does China crush human rights at home, but to avoid backlash they also attempt to undermine the international institutions meant to protect human rights. They build, “a network of cheerleader states that depend on its aid or business.”
Roth cautions that decades of human rights progress are at stake, so China’s attacks on human rights must be resisted.