Human rights in China
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Oxfam activists wearing “big head” caricatures of G7 leaders pretend to fight over a Covid-19 vaccine during a beach-side protest on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit, in Cornwall, Britain, on June 11. Photo: Reuters

LettersChina human rights concerns: what exactly do the G7 mean?

  • The group of wealthy nations must understand that what is most important to developed countries may not be so to developing societies
The G7 said China has human rights problems. Which human rights are the G7 concerned about in Hong Kong? Please be specific. Likewise, which human rights are the G7 concerned about in Xinjiang?

The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights has five categories of human rights: civil rights such as freedom of speech, political rights such as voting, economic rights such as income to buy food, shelter and medical care, social rights such as safety, and cultural rights such as indigenous people’s traditional culture.

Which human right is the most important? The right to life. Without life, there is no use for the other rights. What comes next? Economic rights. Without the income to buy basic necessities to support life, what good are freedom of speech or voting. What is third? The social right to safety.

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The G7 must understand that what is important to developed countries may not be as important to developing nations like China where nearly 17 million rural people lived in poverty in 2018.


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G7 countries must remind themselves that false accusations of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction in 2003 resulted in the violation of the Iraqi people’s rights to life, and economic and social safety. After the war, it was claimed the US had not shared some intelligence with the British cabinet. Former prime minister Tony Blair apologised. But an apology would not bring the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis back to life.

Therefore, the G7 must present evidence before making an accusation. Be democratic. Do not tell people in other places, such as Hong Kong, what makes them happy.

Moreover, is the US genuinely concerned about human rights in other countries? In early May, the US had hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines in warehouses, after snapping up 2.6 billion doses or a quarter of the world total, while China distributed its vaccines to support the rights to life and to health in 80 countries.

Therefore, when G7 accuses China of having human rights problems, it should first sort out the priorities for all human rights, and then specify which ones are being referred to.

P.Y. Chan, Ontario