After years of being critiqued for its own crackdowns against dissidents, China has begun to use the ongoing clashes between police and protesters and police in Ferguson, MO as a way to lambaste the United States for hypocrisy, joining other repressive regimes in expressing no small amount of schadenfreude at the current situation.
The Chinese government either directly owns or oversees all media within the country, including the Xinhua news service. As such, the op-ed published on Monday from commentator Li Li can be read as being an unofficial statement from Beijing. In the article, Li takes the United States to task for not yet realizing Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, noting that “despite the progress, racial divide still remains a deeply-rooted chronic disease that keeps tearing U.S. society apart, just as manifested by the latest racial riot in Missouri.”
Li’s article goes on to argue that though “racial differences and conflicts are unavoidable” in multicultural countries like the United States — unlike China, where more than 90 percent of its citizens are ethnic Han — the U.S.’ history exacerbates the situation. “However, it is undeniable that racial discrimination against African Americans or other ethnic minorities, though not as obvious as in the past, still persists in every aspect of U.S. social lives, including employment, housing, education, and particularly, justice,” the op-ed reads. “In a highly-mixed society like the United States, such racial inequalities could only jeopardize social peace and security. It is highly advisable for the country to make extra efforts to effectively uproot racism in all fields so as to prevent tragedies from recurring.”
“Uncle Sam has witnessed numerous shooting sprees on its own land and launched incessant drone attacks on foreign soil, resulting in heavy civilian casualties,” Li concludes. “Each country has its own national conditions that might lead to different social problems. Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others.”
The tweak at the United States “pointing fingers at others” is a reference to the United States’ annual human rights report that it issues on countries around the world. And every year, the report on China continues to be grim. “Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest issues, ethnic minorities, and law firms that took on sensitive cases, were routine,” the most recent report reads. “Increasingly officials employed harassment, intimidation, and prosecution of family members and associates to retaliate against rights advocates and defenders. –
In response, China every year for the last fifteen years has issued a human rights report of its own, specifically examining the United States’ record. “Acting as the world’s judge of human rights, the U.S. made arbitrary attacks and irresponsible remarks on the human rights situation in almost 200 countries and regions,” the editorial from Xinhua accompanying the report read. In the full report, the Chinese government takes the U.S. to task for the use of armed drones against civilians in Pakistan and Yemen, refers to the National Security Agency’s surveillence programs as a blatant violation of international law” that “seriously infringes on human rights,” and notes that “80,000 U.S. prisoners are in solitary confinement in the country.”
Given the delight that the Chinese government has previously taken criticizing the U.S. for incidents such as Hurricane Katrina and cracking down on Occupy Wall Street, it’s actually odd that Li’s article is the first piece discussing Ferguson in this context. One theory, according to the Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime blog is that the Chinese government doesn’t want to draw comparisons between Ferguson and the unrest the country is currently trying to suppress in the Xinjiang region, where the Han are in the minority. “The concern is that, if they report it too much, it might set off a response domestically,” Qiao Mu, director of the Center for International Communications Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said to the Journal. “The situation is similar to Xinjiang. They don’t want to attract any fire.”
But China isn’t alone in using its state-run media to highlight what it views as hypocrisy over human rights from the United States. Russia Today, which is controlled through the Kremlin, has maintained a liveblog of the situation and has deployed at least one reporter to the scene. On the other hand, they’ve also used the protests to mock reports that the Kremlin deployed a man who was until recently acting as commander of rebel forces to Ukraine.
Likewise, Iran’s state-run Press TV has run several stories on Ferguson, including at least one that appears to have been pilfered from American outlet The Hill. On his Twitter account, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei went further, tweeting out: “Based on global statistics,US govt is the biggest violator of #HumanRights. Besides int’l crimes,it commits crimes against its ppl” and “Today like previous years, African-Americans are still under pressure, oppressed and subjected to discrimination. #Ferguson.”
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Ministry official Konstantin Dolgov said, “The tragic events in Ferguson that followed shortly after a police gunned down an unarmed 18-year-year-old Afro-American Michael Brown are clear evidence of the high degree of tensions in US society, which remains split along racial lines.” He added that the United States should “should take care of large-scale internal problems and take effective measures to resolve them.” Also, the Egyptian foreign ministry opted to scold the United States over Ferguson as well.