A Mirror to the West: China's Scathing Report on Human Rights Abuses in the US Reveals Stark Ironies

China's State Council's report on human rights violations in the US in 2023 highlights polarisation, gun violence, erosion of civil and political rights, and persistent racial discrimination.

A Mirror to the West: China's Scathing Report on Human Rights Abuses in the US Reveals Stark Ironies
Chinese Flag Flying above City, by Charlie Jun, via Pexels, 2016 Nov 10


Marina Sáenz

Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence


China’s State Council has unveiled a comprehensive report titled “The Report on Human Rights Violations in the US in 2023,” highlighting severe human rights deficiencies within the United States. The comprehensive report paints a grim picture of the country, revealing deep-seated polarisation, the marginalisation of ordinary citizens, and the systematic erosion of civil and political rights. This irony is palpable: as the self-proclaimed beacon of democracy and freedom, the United States now finds itself under scrutiny for the very issues it condemns in other countries. As China ascends on the global stage, this report may signify an assertion of its own responsibilities as an emerging global power, urging the United States to reconcile its rhetorical commitments to democracy and freedom with the stark realities of its domestic human rights landscape. This analysis not only underscores the profound discrepancies between American ideals and practices but also challenges the international community to reconsider the dynamics of global human rights advocacy.

The release of this report by China’s State Council must be understood against the backdrop of a complex political and historical landscape. Historically, the United States has promoted itself as a bastion of democracy and a global watchdog for human rights, frequently criticising China for its record on issues such as freedom of speech, political dissent, and the treatment of ethnic minorities. This self-assigned role has often been a source of friction between the two nations, contributing to an atmosphere of mutual distrust and rivalry. In recent years, this relationship has been further strained by economic competition, military posturing in the Asia-Pacific region, and ideological clashes. By publishing this report, China not only aims to expose the discrepancies in the US’s human rights record but also to challenge the prevailing international order dominated by Western ideals. This strategic move highlights China’s growing ambition to reshape global narratives and assert itself as a peer competitor to the United States, using the very rhetoric of human rights to critique its opponent. The report serves as a powerful tool in China's broader geopolitical strategy to counter US influence and project its own model of governance on the world stage.

The report, asserting that “in the United States, human rights is essentially a privilege enjoyed only by a few,” highlights numerous pressing issues. The report documents a staggering 654 mass shootings in 2023, resulting in over 43,000 deaths, underscoring the government's failure to implement effective gun control measures. It also points to the suppression of free speech, particularly on college campuses, and the pervasive government surveillance infringing on privacy rights. Police brutality remains a critical concern, with record-high deaths attributed to police violence and a lack of accountability within law enforcement. The report underscores the enduring legacy of racism, noting that African Americans face disproportionate targeting by the criminal justice system. Additionally, it highlights the dire conditions faced by undocumented immigrants and the escalating economic inequality trapping many in structural poverty. Furthermore, the report shines a light on the ongoing violation of women's rights, including alarming rates of pregnancy-related deaths, restricted access to reproductive healthcare, and pervasive pregnancy discrimination.

The report by China’s State Council serves as a stark reminder of the significant human rights challenges within the United States. As a ratifying party to international treaties such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the United States is legally obligated to uphold and protect the human rights of its citizens. However, the report highlights profound discrepancies between these commitments and the realities on the ground, revealing systemic issues such as racial discrimination, police brutality, and economic inequality. Notably, the United States has not ratified several crucial international treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW), and the 1951 Refugee Convention. This lack of commitment to these fundamental treaties further exacerbates the human rights issues highlighted in the report. Moving forward, it is imperative for the United States to address these shortcomings and align its domestic policies with its international human rights obligations to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights for all its citizens.



Sources and further reading:

HuaXia. (30 May 2024). The Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2023. XinHua. https://english.news.cn/20240529/9bd5fa29443e497fa45c7b9e9f1e812e/c.html