China blasts human rights report, praises current situation

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FILE – In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, a man walks past a display of photos from Xinjiang during a forum on human rights in Beijing. China has blasted a report from Human Rights Watch that accused it of constructing a surveillance state at home while seeking to silence critics abroad. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

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BEIJING (AP) — China has blasted a report from Human Rights Watch that accused it of constructing a surveillance state at home while seeking to silence critics abroad.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Wednesday said he had not read the report but that such documents routinely “turned a blind eye on facts and confused right and wrong with no objectivity at all.”

Geng said the Chinese people had the final say on the state of human rights in the country, which he described as “in the best period of history.”

Under strongman leader Xi Jinping, China’s ruling Communist Party has stepped up campaigns to crush political critics and extend its control over academia, religion and civil society. In recent years, Beijing has also been accused of seeking complete control over students and other Chinese living abroad, as well as influencing media and politicians in countries such as Australia and the U.S.

On Tuesday, the head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, accused China of carrying out “the most intense attack on the global system for enforcing human rights since that system began to emerge in the mid-20th century.”

Roth held a news conference at the United Nations Correspondents Association in New York after being denied entry to Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous Chinese city where he had been scheduled to release the rights group’s annual report. China has designated Human Rights Watch as one of the organizations it accuses of fomenting months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

To avoid a global backlash against surveillance, internet censorship and oppression at home, Beijing is trying to undermine international institutions designed to protect human rights, Roth said.

While other governments commit serious human rights violations, “no other government flexes its political muscles with such vigor and determination to undermine the international human rights standards and institutions that could hold it to account,” he said.

China is accused of locking up more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in its northwestern Xinjiang region in camps where they are subjected to political indoctrination and pressured to give up their religion. China denies any abuses and calls the camps centers for job training and de-radicalization.

Roth also referred to what he called severe challenges to Hong Kong’s limited freedoms in the “one country, two systems” framework under which it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators that began in June have been fueled largely by concerns that Beijing is eroding civil liberties guaranteed to the former British colony under the terms of its handover.

A Hong Kong government spokesman said in response that “one country, two systems” has been “fully and successfully implemented,” and that the local government is committed to safeguarding human rights and freedoms. The spokesman, who was not identified by name, said the government remains committed to allowing universal suffrage in elections for the territory’s chief executive and legislature. Beijing has retained the right to vet candidates in the elections.

Violence was solely the result of police “carrying out enforcement actions in strict accordance with the law,” the spokesman said.

He said foreign organisations “should not interfere in any form” in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

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