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How China Exports its Human Rights Policies

November 4, 2009

It was reported last week that China now has more billionaires than any other country after the United States. China’s budding capital and ability to bounce back from recession is giving it added influence, especially with the new countries they are beginning to do business with.

China has flexed its censorship muscle with American companies like Yahoo and Google, which agreed to filter web pages that appear in a search per China’s demands. A search for Tiananmen Square in China, for example, will return information on the largest urban plaza in the world, with no hint to the bloody riots that occurred there 20 years ago.

And during last week’s Frankfurt Book Fair–the largest industry gathering of the year where China was the guest of honor–Chinese officials staged a walkout to protest the attendance of dissident authors Dai Qing and Bei Ling. The book fair’s organizers quickly caved to the Chinese and revoked the exiled authors’ invitations.

Powerful companies and countries have a history of bowing to China’s demands, but as China looks to countries with similarly dismal history of human rights such as Sri Lanka, the monetary protection China provides has only encouraged their bad actions. China provided almost $1 billion in aid to Sri Lanka last year, while U.S. aid amounted to just $7.4 million. This backing by China has not only provided weapons to help end the ceasefire, it has also allowed Sri Lanka to ignore outside pressure from other countries to clean up their human rights acts. China has their back and that is all they need.

As China becomes a leader in the global market and is better able to assert its monetary influence in other countries, it is a heavy reminder that their poor human rights policies–which directly affects journalists attempting to report the news–don’t just stop at their borders. They are being monetarily encouraged in every country China does business with.

Even here in the U.S. we have been guilty of overlooking certain actions and putting hard talks on the back burner. On her last visit to China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she intends to press the country’s leaders of human rights policies, but that that will have to come second. Clinton was quoted in The Daily Telegraph as saying, “Our pressing on those issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis.”

Photo Credit: Flickr, World Economic Forum

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.