American Human Rights Violations

Last may, The People’s Republic of China released its report on the human rights violations committed by the US government. I suppose that this was some sort of response to the US State Department‘s annual report on the human rights violations committed by the Chinese government. The Chinese report makes for interesting reading. According to them, America is a country that routinely suppresses the rights and aspirations of its citizen, practices institutionalised discrimination against minorities, and locks up thousands of people for no reason. The press and Internet are subject to censorship and the police routinely abuse suspects in custody. Millions of Americans are desperately poor and the gap between rich and poor is widening. In other words, America is the sort of country China is.

I don’t know whether the authors of this report really believe what is written in it or if they are skilled propagandists. I suppose it really doesn’t matter much. This reminds me of the old argument the Soviets used during the Cold War. Sure, they would say, the Soviet Union doesn’t allow it’s people freedom of speech or religion, but we guarantee rights, such as the right to housing, education, medical care, that the Americans don’t, so each country is free, but in different ways.

I notice that the writers do not seem to be native English speakers. They write, and presumably speak, English fluently, and there are few obvious grammatical errors, but there seems to be odd word choices here and there, subtile hints that English is not their first language. I shouldn’t say anything though. Their English is much better than my Chinese which is nil.

But to get to my point, what would you think might be on the top of the list of American civil rights abuses? I would never have guessed the right to bear arms, but according to the Chinese, the fact that the US government allows private citizens to possess firearms is an example of how little the government cares for the lives of its citizens.

The United States prioritizes the right to keep and bear arms over the protection of citizens’ lives and personal security and exercises lax firearm possession control, causing rampant gun ownership. The U.S. people hold between 35 percent and 50 percent of the world’ s civilian-owned guns, with every 100 people having 90 guns (Online edition of the Foreign Policy, January 9, 2011). According to a Gallup poll in October 2011, 47 percent of American adults reported that they had a gun. That was an increase of six percentage points from a year ago and the highest Gallup had recorded since 1993. Fifty-two percent of middle-aged adults, aged between 35 and 54, reported to own guns, and the adults’ gun ownership in the south region was 54 percent (The China Press, October 28, 2011). The New York Times reported on November 14, 2011, that since 1995, more than 3,300 felons and people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors had regained their gun rights in the state of Washington and of that number, more than 400 had subsequently committed new crimes, including shooting and other felonies (The New York Times, November 14, 2011).

The United States is the leader among the world’s developed countries in gun violence and gun deaths. According to a report of the Foreign Policy on January 9, 2011, over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence and another 200,000 Americans are estimated to be injured each year due to guns (Online edition of the Foreign Policy, January 9, 2011). According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Justice, among the 480,760 robbery cases and 188,380 rape and sexual assault cases in 2010, the rates of victimization involving firearms were 29 percent and 7 percent, respectively (www.bjs.gov). On June 2, 2011, a shooting rampage in Arizona left six people dead and one injured (The China Press, June 3, 2011). In Chicago, more than 10 overnight shooting incidents took place just between the evening of June 3 and the morning of June 4 (Chicago Tribune, June 4, 2011). Another five overnight shootings occurred between August 12 evening and August 13 morning in Chicago. These incidents have caused a number of deaths and injuries (Chicago Tribune, August 13, 2011). Shooting spree cases involving one gunman shooting dead over five people also happened in the states of Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Nevada and Southern California (The New York Times, October 13, 2011; CNN, July 8, 2011; CBS, July 23, 2011;USA Today, August 9, 2011). High incidence of gun-related crimes has long ignited complaints of the U.S. people and they stage multiple protests every year, demanding the government strictly control the private possession of arms. The U.S. government, however, fails to pay due attention to this issue.

I would say that right now the government is paying too much attention to this issue. Notice how they have nothing to say about the fact that large numbers of Americans support the right to bear arms and much of the reason that the US government is unable to enact significant gun control is precisely because it is so unpopular. I don’t imagine that public opinion means very much to the people running China.

I wonder what the crime rate in China is and how it compares to America’s. I am not at all sure they keep accurate statistics. I also wonder if certain events in China’s recent history might have turned out differently if the Chinese had the right to bear arms.

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