Earth & Conservation

What Are China's Human Rights Violations?

China signed six UN human rights conventions, but world powers still criticize the country. So just how bad is China's human rights record?

China's human rights situation is bad -- and it's only getting worse.

That's the message Western nations are sending this year with a series of unprecedented and strongly worded joint statements. Since the beginning of 2016, the U.S. has joined Canada, Japan and several European nations in issuing official public and private communiques about the dilemma.

International concern is high, as Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's Seeker Daily report. Human rights organizations report that abuses in China have escalated radically since president Xi Jinping took office in 2014. International observers say the situation is grim.

In what the Washington Post calls "an unusual display of frustration and unity," Western nations are speaking out together and sending official diplomatic dispatches directly to the Chinese government.

"Western nations are more united," one diplomat told the Post. "We are worried China is taking a wrong turn."

RELATED: How Does China's Government Work?

China's human rights problems are rooted in the country's one-party political system. Laws are written so that any criticism of the government -- by journalists, artists or activists -- can be interpreted as a criminal attempt to undermine the government.

As such, the state is known to harass, imprison and even torture opposition leaders. According to international observers, the Chinese government arbitrarily detained more than 200 intellectuals, lawyers and human rights activists in 2015 alone. By the end of the year, at least 25 were still in custody or ominously termed "missing."

Also in 2015, China drafted a series of laws ostensibly enacted to combat terrorism. Instead, the laws have been used to justify further attacks on dissidents and separatists, critics say. The new laws give the government the right to monitor private communications of its own citizens, plus any foreign human rights organizations working in the country.

In a recent open letter to President Xi Jinping, Western countries asserted that the human rights abuses are not only immoral, but are severely damaging to China's own economy. Foreign investors are increasingly skittish about getting involved with the country, and many worry about their intellectual property when dealing with China's alarming surveillance policies.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

Washington Post: Is China heading in the wrong direction? For once, the West calls Beijing out.

Reuters: Exclusive: Major powers team up to tell China of concerns over new laws

Amnesty International: CHINA 2015/2016

Human Rights Watch: World Report 2015: China