China needs drastic action to avoid losing face

China needs to take drastic steps to improve its image in the eyes of the world.  That does not mean improving its public relations, it means sorting out the root of the problems. 

It would be disastrous if athletes in the Olympics could not breathe clean air so the authorities in Beijing are prepared to take drastic action to curb pollution, stopping construction projects, keeping many cars off the roads and closing factories. It will be inconvenient and hold back production but it will have to be done. A report on BBC news on 8 July shows that the air in Beijing sometimes has too much pollution from particles and it is especially a concern for endurance events such as the marathon.

On human rights there is a different policy, just trying to paper over the problems and pretend that there are not serious abuses, in Tibet for instance. Hu Jintao says that the situation in Tibet is nothing to do with human rights,  Just replace one word and it becomes true – it is everything to do with human rights. 

Isabel Hilton (who is the author of the book The Search for the Panchen Lama) has written a number of articles about China and its human rights.  Here is a recent one with some free advice for the Chinese leaders, Ditch the tatty flag of nationalism.

Update, 8 July 2008:  Amnesty's Secretary General, Irene Khan, has written to Hu Jintao with some more free advice.  She urges the Chinese government to make five changes to show respect for human rights in the run-up to the Olympics.  I have never had a reply to any of the polite letters I have written to Chinese officials about human rights and I wonder whether she will receive any reply but more important whether the suggested actions will be followed.  My guess that the Chinese government will file the letter in the circular filing cabinet.

In reply to "Anti-Amnesty" I am most certainly not kidding – I am making very serious points. I do not of course claim to represent the world but my views are similar to those of many other people.  I am using my right of freedom of expression for which I would probably be imprisoned if I lived in China.  (Actually if I lived in China I would think more than twice about expressing any dissent.) The "West" may have 10% of the world's population (and China may have a very large population) but I do not see any relevance to my arguments. 

Your name "Anti-Amnesty" tells us even before we read your comments that you have a bias against Amnesty International – does this extend to disagreeing with every action and campaign by Amnesty relating to human rights around the world? 

Human rights in China is not just an internal matter but a legitimate concern for people around the world. 

What do other people think?  You do not have to be a member of Amnesty to comment – just think up a user-name and a password.  

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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