Chinese officials lashed out at the U.S. on Wednesday over recent legislation passed by Congress criticizing Beijing for its policies in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang region in western China, as well as ongoing trade disputes.
They marked the latest salvos in an ongoing campaign of vilification over what Beijing considers hostile acts aimed at restraining its development as a world power.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu did not mention the U.S. by name, but it was clear what nation he was referring to Wednesday when he said a “certain individual country vigorously starts trade wars and constantly introduces so-called human rights and democracy bills to openly interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”
Chinese diplomats have derided the legislation as “stupid” and “malicious” and sought to rally friendly foreign governments, politicians and academics to condemn it.
Ma also accused the U.S. of spreading conflicts and humanitarian crises elsewhere “under the banner of human rights,” reflecting complaints that American interventions and the promotion of democracy have destabilized countries from Syria to Venezuela.
China has accused the U.S. of fomenting mass anti-Beijing demonstrations in Hong Kong that are in their seventh month, refusing to recognize protesters’ demands for expanded democracy through direct elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s leader and members of its legislature.
The U.S. legislation condemns the mass detentions of an estimated more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others. It also raises possible sanctions against Chinese government officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China claims that the vast system of detention camps is merely part of a program to provide job skills and fight poverty and religious radicalization.
Ma also attacked U.S. trade policy, saying — again without mentioning Washington by name — that the country referred to “wielded sanctions batons,” and engaged in economic blockades, the decoupling of science and technology and financial sanctions against target nations, the main one presumably being China.
“These acts not only hinder the development of the world economy, but also violate the human rights of the people of the affected countries. They must be firmly opposed and resisted,” Ma told participants at a forum on human rights in Beijing.
Also addressing the forum, Chinese minister of propaganda Huang Kunming reiterated China’s rejection of the notion of a universal human rights standard. China insists it is up to each nation to choose its own path when it comes to human rights, and dismisses Western concepts of free speech, liberal democracy and civil rights in favor of tough authoritarian control aimed at growing the economy and raising living standards.
“There is no universal human rights path and model in the world,” Huang said. “The development of the cause of human rights must and can only be promoted in accordance with the national conditions of each country and the needs of the people.”
According to Chinese state media, officials and scholars from more than 70 Asian, African and Latin American developing countries, as well as the United Nations, attended the two-day 2019 South-South Human Rights Forum, hosted by the Cabinet’s information office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.q