Last week, China's cabinet issued their report on 'Progress in China's Human Rights, 2009.'
The eight-page report has already been dubbed an economic report which includes statistics on 'increased car ownership.'
As I delved into this report, I also was reviewing an advance copy of the Laogai Research Foundation's report on China's One Child Policy, and Human Rights Watch's July report on conditions in Tibet since the March 2008 uprisings, 'I Saw It With My Own Eyes.'
The testimony in these latter two reports, along with most information publicly available outside of censored Internet regions, illustrates just how tight-lipped China is as it pushes its 'perfect PRC' message in its propaganda.
As I read through, so many claims seemed to be 'indirect' responses to injustices, and outright denial.
The Clash's song, Know Your Rights echoed through my head so loudly as I was reading, I found myself finding striking similarities to their lyrics.
This is a public service announcement/ With guitar/ Know your rights all three of them
Number 1/ You have the right not to be killed/ Murder is a CRIME!/ Unless it was done by a/ Policeman or aristocrat
While the report touts: The mortality rate of women in childbirth was reduced to 31.9 per 100,000, with infant mortality rate dropping to 1.38 percent, I think of lives lost to the PRC's draconian One Child Policy, in effect since 1978, including forced sterilization and infanticide. This recount was provided by the Laogai Research Foundation in its pending OCP report:
In October 2002 in Xinchang County, Zhejiang Province, Dong Tiefeng and his family experienced this extreme form of OCP enforcement. On October 19, Dong's wife, over nine months pregnant, arrived at the local Family Planning Health Services clinic to deliver her baby. Realizing that Dong had no birth permit for the baby, a nurse at the clinic immediately reported the case to the family planning office. Forty minutes later, a group of approximately twenty individuals arrived at the clinic. Several of them dragged Dong's mother and mother-in-law out of the delivery room, while three others restrained Dong. Dong and his mother broke free after ten minutes of struggling and ran to the delivery room. As they entered, they saw the nurse pulling a pair of scissors out of the baby's head. The cut was deep; the scissors were bloodied up to the handle and Dong could see brain matter on the newborn's head. Seeing this, Dong's mother collapsed. Two county policemen arrived at the clinic and warned Dong "not to act foolishly." Later, when asked by Dong who the group of people were, a doctor at the clinic said they were cadres from the Xinchang Family Planning Commission. The doctor told Dong that the cadres had ordered his staff to kill the newborn. "There is nothing we can do," Dong quoted the doctor as saying. "We are subordinate to the Family Planning Commission." According to Dong, the doctor went on to say, "Such things are very common. You are not an exception."
And Number 2/ You have the right to food money/ Providing of course you/ Don't mind a little/ Investigation, humiliation/ And if you cross your fingers/ Rehabilitation
China seems to be proud of its increased grain production in its report, in fact it cites
"The grain output hit a historical high of 531 million tons, an increase for the sixth consecutive year... The appropriation from the central budget in this regard totaled 725.3 billion yuan, an increase of 21.8 percent over the previous year. The farmers' living conditions have effectively improved. In 2009 China renovated 800,000 dilapidated houses in the countryside, and helped build permanent housing for 92,000 nomadic families."
When Reuters wrote about permanent housing for nomads in 2008, "Xinhua did not detail how authorities would choose the locations of the villages or convince herders to move into them. Some ethnic Tibetans claim China has been trying to destroy their way of life as a people." They too picked up on the irony of this -- how would you convince nomads to become residents in permanent dwellings? It defeats a way of life that has existed for centuries -- tending to animals that roam the plains. Tibetan dissent of forced relocation was also captured in jailed Tibetan filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen's movie, Leaving Fear Behind. The prevailing sentiment for the PRC's 'nomadic resettlement' isn't in their glossy report, it's their desire for continued mining. And those who protest mining, are definitely headed for 'rehabilitation' as witnessed on August 18th of this year, when four Tibetans were shot dead for protesting mining in Palyul County.
Number 3/ You have the right to free/ Speech as long as you're not/ Dumb enough to actually try it.
China touts the ABILITY to communicate is expanding: "The combined number of fixed and mobile phone users reached 1,061.07 million, an increase of 79.47 million over that at the end of the previous year. There are now 79.9 telephones for every 100 people." And "With their right to freedom of speech on the Internet protected by the law, Chinese citizens can voice their opinions in a wide variety of ways on the Internet. The Internet is given full scope in China, and has become an important channel for people to obtain various types of information and voice their opinions. By the end of 2009 the number of Chinese netizens had reached 384 million, meaning 28.9 percent of the total population had access to the Internet, higher than the world's average level".
I think back to the 'Great Firewall' imposed on journalists at the 2008 Olympics, and more importantly, the 'trap' of ownership -- the report fails to mention the monitoring of all of these phones, and the common practice of cutting off all services in a punishing power play to contain communication in areas of unrest.
From HRW's report:
Heavily armed troops sealed off all monasteries in the area, and cut communications, including mobile phone and internet access. Two weeks later, they launched massive sweeps and arrested several hundred monks. The security forces confiscated mobile phones and computers in an apparent effort to suppress evidence of the March 16 violence.
Know your rights/ These are your rights/ All three of 'em/ It has been suggested/ In some quarters that this is not enough!/ Well -- Get off the streets
The world has already witnessed what happens when 100,000 take to the streets to cry for democracy, and freedom of speech -- the Tianamen Square Massacre illustrated to the world the PRC's real value of the lives of its citizens.
It is time to change the soundtrack, and tell the true stories of TRUE progress.