Sunday, April 24, 2011

China, US: invite victims to human rights session

This week the US and China are to hold their annual meeting on human rights.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the session could be “more tense than usual.”

In a statement announcing the Beijing meeting, the American side said the talks will focus on “the recent negative trend of forced disappearances, extra legal-defections and the arrests and convictions.”

The rest of the article describes recent, deplorable human rights abuses in China. Abuses in this country are ignored in the story, as if they don't exist.

The Chinese might roll out a few American issues: “illegal” foreclosures, lack of enforcement of laws governing the financial industry, the largest prison population in the world, grotesque income inequities, a plutocratic political system, grossly deficient schools, an absurd, profit-driven health care system, and a defense budget that wastes public resources.

The list goes on.

Before the meeting takes place, the two sides should invite the victims of these abuses to join the government delegations at the table. The victims, from those without health insurance to the unemployed, to political prisoners, to the uneducated, would add reality-based tension to the so-called "tense" discussions.

The talking points shouldn't be hard to find. They were established by Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the United Nations in 1948.

Article 1 (of 30 articles in the Declaration) sets the tone:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Consider Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

And Article 23: “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment....Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

And Article 25: "Everyone has the right to a standard living adequate for the healthy and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social service, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Both China and the US signed the document more than 60 years ago. Citizens denied their human rights should insist next week that the two countries stop pointing fingers at each other and simply live up to the declaration.

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