U.S. Sees China Political Insecurity Driving Rights Abuses

By Brendan Scott for Bloomberg

The U.S. blames Chinese political insecurity for what it says was a marked increase in repression and coercion in the country last year, including mass round-ups of rights lawyers and the detention of five Hong Kong booksellers.

The assessment was offered Thursday by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Tom Malinowski while announcing the annual U.S. report on human rights conditions in countries around the world. Malinowski, who oversees democracy, human rights and labor, said actions by China’s ruling Communist Party showed unease over growing expectations among a wealthier, better-connected population of 1.4 billion.

"It’s a universal truth that the driver of repression is insecurity," Malinowski told a news briefing in Washington, adding that Chinese citizens "want the same things as people anywhere else." "The government senses that, and it feels insecure, and it cracks down."

The U.S. and other countries have stepped up criticism of human rights practices under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has led broad clampdowns on corruption and political dissent marked by televised confessions, extra-judicial detentions and secret trials. Germany, Japan and the U.K. were among 11 nations that joined the U.S. in expressing concern about the country’s "deteriorating human rights record" in a statement last month to the United Nations High Commission of Human Rights in Geneva. 

China denounced the criticism as "groundless" and an attempt by Western countries to influence its internal affairs. As it has for more than a decade, China responded to the Secretary of State’s annual report by releasing its own summary of perceived U.S. human rights failings, including gun violence, racial discrimination, government surveillance and overseas drone strikes.

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