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22 Jun, 2017

Voice of China: US should look in the mirror before lecturing the world on human rights

By Curtis Stone

Beijing, (People’s Daily Online), June 20, 2017 – Responding to US President Donald Trump’s announcement on June 16 that he is reversing steps to normalize relations with Cuba, the Cuban government said the US is in no position to lecture on human rights.

In a speech described by the Cuban government as “full of hostile rhetoric,” US President Donald Trump slammed Cuba for human rights abuses, targeting the country’s unique political system as the root cause of the problem. “This is the simple truth of the Castro regime,” he said. “My administration will not hide from it, excuse it, or glamorize it. And we will never, ever be blind to it.”

The Cuban government hit back at Trump’s restrictions and harsh rhetoric, saying the US is returning to the “coercive methods from the past.” Calling the US president “ill-advised,” Trump was criticized for favoring the political interests of what the Cuban government termed an “extremist minority” in order to punish Cuba for sticking to its own development path, effectively taking away the country’s right to development, and warned that any strategy aimed at regime change would be doomed to fail.

US policy toward Cuba has always been intended to keep the country poor and isolated with the hope of bringing about regime change, an aggressive foreign policy that has its roots in the Cold War. Reversing hard-won steps to end the outdated policy and normalize bilateral relations suggests that Trump’s Cuba policy is not all about human rights. The reversal also goes against US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s idea that American values should be separate from US foreign policy.

In its statement, the Cuban government detailed a litany of human rights problems in the US, such as worsening racial discrimination and high levels of violence, many of which are highlighted in China’s Human Rights Record of the United States, an annual report that takes a much-needed critical look at the human rights situation in the US. The report details aspects of the human rights situation, including mass shootings, racial discrimination, and police brutality, as well as irresponsible behavior on the world stage, including repeated trampling on other countries’ human rights and refusal to approve key international conventions on human rights.

The policy reversal on Cuba should, therefore, not be surprising. China has long argued that the US is more concerned with using human rights as a political instrument against other countries than it is with promoting human rights, and has repeatedly called on the US to cease applying double standards on human rights and pursuing hegemony under the pretext of human rights and democracy. While China’s human rights record is not perfect, the country is dedicated to improving its situation, with efforts to end extreme poverty being among the greatest human rights achievements of all time.

No doubt, many Americans are quick to dismiss such statements and reports as propaganda or fake news, but the truth of the matter is that the US really is in no position to claim the title of human rights defender. Addressing the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: “Being a member of this council is a privilege and no country who is a human rights violator should be allowed a seat at the table.” Yet, not only do many US laws and practices violate internationally recognized human rights, the world remains deeply worried about grave and systematic abuses by the US government, including the use of torture at the CIA’s network of “black sites,” and one of the most notorious detainee interrogation techniques — “waterboarding,” a form of torture which Trump stated he wanted to bring back.

To make matters worse, the human rights situation in the US has seen a dramatic deterioration under Trump as the administration continues to take actions that undermine human rights at home and abroad, according to the Trump Human Rights Tracker, an online tool created by the Columbia Law School. Alleged abuses by the US president are both numerous and extensive, and include everything from violations of the right to privacy to violations of the right to life. The most recent entry shows Trump’s decision to take the US out of the global fight against climate change, a selfish and reckless decision that carries huge human rights implications for the entire world.

As criticism of human rights abuses in the US shows, both by world governments and US-based nongovernmental organizations, the country is in no position to lecture the world on human rights. The US should look in the mirror before pointing fingers or casting blame on other countries for their problems, because the truth of the matter is that, while the US values human rights and has an important role to play in promoting them, it is just another country and not a shining city on a hill.