Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Human rights in China: Are they for real?

There is no doubt that China is gradually emerging as a country fully integrated to the global community: Its economy is booming, the political system is encouraging the development of a strong private sector, and freedom of speech is getting stronger. However, from time to time, there are some news coming from such country that make me think that something is still missing to reach the level of prosperity they're targeting.
Perhaps that "something" is located in the field of human rights. China is not only the country that records the highest amount of capital executions in the world year by year, but also it is noticeable that the violation of the most essential rights of people is a real concern that some non governmental organizations and nations have expressed.
A good example of these violations claimed by many occured a few days ago in the city of Shenzhen, located in the southern province of Guangdong, where the local authorities decided to apply an exemplary punishment to sex workers and some pimps who operated in the city (where, by the way, the activity is illegal): They were paraded in public areas, all wearing yellow smocks, handcuffed and gagged. Then, their names were revealed when standing in front of a jeering crowd, and after that, they were taken to prison without having a previous trial.
What the authorities in the city saw as a tactic to overcome a social concern that has been increasing in Shenzhen in recent years, was seen in other parts of China and the world as a clear violation of human rights, that makes remember the punishments applied during the Middle Ages, or even those applied during the Chinese Cultural Revolution a few decades ago. Some people have raised their voices to support the prostitutes' cause and to protest against the violations of human rights, and even, there are allegedly some lawyers that have committed themselves to the task of defending those women's rights.
However, not everybody feels the same way. Some people have cheered the measure, arguing that prostitution in Shenzhen has become a prosperous industry.
Are these methods acceptable or not? I wouldn't take them as acceptable. To sentence somebody to a punishment without even the opportunity of defending themselves before a jury does not fit the socially accepted models for the 21st century. The Chinese authorities should be more careful with these details if they really want to clean their image in the upcoming years.

Photo by AP


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