Human rights come first

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Human rights come first

The author is a Beijing correspondentof the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Chinese state-run CCTV building located in central Beijing is a unique structure of two intertwined trapezoids. 16 news, international, cinema and sports channels operate there. I met a producer of international channel CCTV 4 inside the building. A few hours before broadcasting, he sends a cue sheet of the news to the Publicity Department. It means that the news is censored by the government, and I was surprised that he openly talked about it.

If governments added or removed news stories from KBS or BBC because they are state-run, it would cause major trouble. The top news was about intensifying protests in the Middle East, but he said he was ordered to move it to last because it could stir the public. Media control in China is nothing new, but it felt more real when I saw it firsthand.

What I was reminded of was a report by BBC last July. On BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Liu Xiaoming, then Chinese Ambassador to the UK, made an appearance. Marr, former chief editor of the Independent, showed a video to Liu during the interview. It was footage taken from the air showing hundreds of handcuffed and blindfolded Uighurs being taken away.

After Marr asked what was going on, Liu mumbled and said he didn’t know where the video came from but that the scene could be happening in any country. I could feel Liu was baffled. People around the world praised the interview for attempting to investigate the truth.

The issue that China collides with the Western world the most on is the human rights conditions in Xinjiang. U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab addressed the issue at the UN Human Rights Commission on February 24. After the BBC exposed sexual abuse in the Xinjiang concentration camp, CNN, the Guardian and other media joined the cause. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained documents from Xinjiang and released a mass internment status.

The Chinese government argues that it is being framed and claims that the Uighurs were getting vocational rehabilitation training at education facilities. The truth is still hidden. But there’s one thing suggested in the controversy. At a summit with the European Union in September 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping responded to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s question on the Xinjiang issue. He said that the progress of human rights cannot be the same in every country, and guaranteeing human rights was not a priority but a question of improvement. If human rights are a secondary issue, how can we trust China’s explanation on Xinjiang?
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