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Growing Tension in China

posted Jun 9, 2012, 11:25 PM by Golden Knight   [ updated Jun 10, 2012, 9:34 PM ]
Posted in World 

By David Yoo 


The recent story of Guancheng, the blind Chinese human rights activist and lawyer, has called into question the stance of the United States willingness to protect human rights. Guancheg brought this to attention initially by evading house arrest in his home village and escaping to the U.S Embassy in Beijing as a safe haven. His reasons for doing this were that he did not want to risk his life and the safety of his family by getting caught by state officials. However, after taking refuge in the embassy for six days, he left for a hospital due to his poor health. On Wednesday, May 2nd, 
Guancheng publicly announced that he regretted the move and now wants U.S. officials to help get him and his family to the United States. Guangcheng also stated from his hospital room in Beijing that, "I want [the United States] to protect human rights through concrete actions,” and that "[he and his family] are in danger.” He also expressed his hopes of being able to leave China with the help of the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. In an almost conclusive tone, Guangcheng cogently remarked "If we stay here or get sent back to Shandong, our lives would be at stake. Under such circumstances, I hope the U.S. government will protect us and help us leave China based on its values of protecting human rights."

Guangcheng's story has raised uncertainty and disputes regarding the United States' role in China's domestic affairs. On one hand, the United States has a major role in the preservation and protection of human rights world wide, as does any other country who signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the other hand, many question the political legitimacy to meddle in foreign countries' domestic affairs while using the pretext of “protecting human rights”. Such speculation is undoubtedly necessary, as the use of false pretexts to interfere with a foreign government's sovereignty has been employed throughout history. There is, however, a certain nuance with Guangcheng's story that makes it distinct from all the other affairs. This nuance deals with the right to political asylum, or “the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” and the moral obligations nations have to harbor those who are suffering in other countries from political oppression or persecution by torture or inhumane treatment. Guangcheng illuminated the basic principles of human rights and his fundamental right to seek political asylum in the United States. The reason this issue is of interest to not only the United States but the international community is that the watch-dog underpinnings of the United Nations are once again facing the “right to sovereignty” of the nation violating human rights. In other words, the United Nations' duty to uphold fundamental rights is resounding to a greater extent than before. Considering the conflicts occurring in places such as Syria and China, the U.N. is butting heads yet again with the fact that those nations would be reluctant to heed to the their demands, that violations ought not continue. 

As is evident throughout the course of American history, the demand for a stricter dedication to preserving, providing, or protecting rights has been powerful so long as the demand is supported by many (i.e. the Civil Rights Movement). Therefore, a change in China's politics and treatment of its citizens requires more than just Guangcheng and the Chinese people. A change in this now internationally connected community requires that nations including the United States and those in Europe demand China to strictly adhere to the moral laws outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights. This is not confined to China alone; nations like Syria who are currently killing hundreds of their own citizens will only change if the international community gets involved. This is achievable by raising a sincere interest in the international community and by rallying support for heroes like Guangcheng, who, as Mohatma Gandhi stated, “want to be the change they want to see in the world”.