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George Washington University Law School

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

State Department human rights report on China

It's been quite a while since I last blogged, so I'm a bit behind on current events.

Last February, the US State Department issued its annual report on human rights in China - something it does by congressional mandate for every country. The report for China is here; there's also one for Taiwan here.

Predictably, the Chinese government responded - not with a statement that addressed any actual inaccuracies in the report, but with a report on human rights problems in the United States (Chinese | English). I have never understood why the Chinese government feels that this is an appropriate or convincing response to criticism. Does Chen Guangcheng feel better in his prison cell in China - and should the rest of us feel better about this travesty of justice - knowing that there were 17,000 murders in the United States in 2007? Moreover, it does not take a great legal mind to recognize that in issuing such a report, China completely undercuts its own position that such reports are an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

Since the State Department's report is not footnoted, it would be relatively easy for the government to accuse the State Department of simply making the stuff up. That won't wash, however, with the meticulously sourced human rights report produced annually by the Congressional-Executive China Commission; the latest one is here, tipping the scales at an astounding (by my count) 1,743 footnotes. Of course, footnoting a claim doesn't make it true, but it makes a discussion about the truth or falsity of the claim much more feasible.

I am told that the US government last year posted the Chinese government's critical report on the web site of the US Embassy in Beijing; I can't find that report or this year's on the web site now, but hope the US government has not abandoned this excellent practice.

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