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Prioritizing economic benefits over human rights

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

By Elena Gastaldo

(Photograph: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images)

We see powerful countries, leaders and TNCs refusing to denounce the Republic of China’s crimes and human rights violations because of the terrible consequences their economies would face.

On the 15th November 2020, Vietnam hosted the virtual ASEAN Summit, during which one of the world’s largest regional free trade agreements was signed. In an effort to counterweight the United States’ influence in the region, Beijing shaped the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or R.C.E.P.

This consolidates China’s global power, which has been filling in the blanks left by the Trump administration; among the many actions performed by the President of the United States to demonstrate his nationalism in front of the entire world, his administration took the decision to withdraw the United States’ signature from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, or T.P.P, in January 2017.

This agreement involved 12 countries, responsible for 40% of world trade,

and a collective population of about 800 million. It aimed to create a new single market, almost double that of the European Union's single market.

Covering 2.2 billion people and 30% of the world’s economic output, the R.C.E.P. was signed by the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Aware of its huge economic power and influence over the world, China carries out numerous human rights violations.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote:

“At home, the Chinese Communist Party, worried that permitting political freedom would jeopardize its grasp on power, has constructed an Orwellian high-tech surveillance state and a sophisticated internet censorship system to monitor and suppress public criticism. Abroad, it uses its growing economic clout to silence critics and to carry out the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights since that system began to emerge in the mid-20th century.”

The Chinese Communist Party is committing atrocities in various fields and therefore violating international treaties and declarations.

Responsible for the detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in internment camps in the Xinjiang region, China continues to perform human rights abuses; these include coercive population control through forced abortion, forced sterilization, and involuntary implantation of birth control.

Furthermore, recent research has showed how Uyghur labor has been used in supply chains relied on by major multinationals brands.

The other main factor worrying the international community happened on the 30th June 2020, when China imposed the new national security law on the former British colony of Hong Kong.

This law criminalized activities deemed as secessionist, subversive or terrorist and gave Beijing the authority to deploy state security agencies in the city.

Cracking down on every kind of dissent, China is not only violating the human right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), but also breaking its own constitutional principle of “One country, two systems”, supposed to be respected until 2047.

Founder of the Hong Kong student activist group “Scholarism”, the 24 year old student activist and politician Joshua Wong served as secretary-general of the pro-democracy party Demosisto until it disbanded following the implementation of the Hong Kong national security law.

Wong was also the leader of the Umbrella Movement, created during the Hong Kong protests in 2014.

He and two fellow activists, Ivan Lam and Agnes Chow, pleaded guilty on the 23rd November 2020 to unauthorised assembly charges, following the arrests of journalists, activists and politicians happened over the past month.

The Republic of China’s efforts to silence every sort of dissent and protests have been causing concern all over the world; yet, countries are still signing agreements led by China and contributing to its rise as major world leader and economic power.

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