Monday, 8 June 2015

China's Entertaining White Paper

China likes to think its human rights record is improving every year
Every year China comes out with its white paper on the human rights situation in the country. And of course it's painted in a positive light.

This time, the paper contains some 21,000 Chinese characters and explains how economic and social development has helped improve China's human rights, particularly in entertainment.

In the report's first section, titled, "Right to Development", it says the people's cultural rights were better protected thanks to the country's burgeoning television, cartoon and film production.

Dissident Liu Xiaobo continues to languish in prison
Uh huh.

It says in 2014, China produced 429 television series, which equals to 15,983 episodes, while cartoon programming amounted to 138,496 minutes. [The accuracy of the minutes is impressive].

The report adds growth on the big screen, with China making 618 feature films, 36 of which earned more than 100 million yuan each, racking up a total of 26.9 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) last year. This, the white paper says, is a 36 percent increase from 2013.

But how is the production of TV shows, movies and cartoons related to human rights, let alone the improvement of human rights in China?

Maya Wong, Hong Kong-based China researcher for Human Rights Watch wasn't impressed by this year's report.

Ai Weiwei was detained for a period before being released
"The white paper has departed so much from reality that it claims that the government has made 'great achievements' on human rights are absurd," she said, noting that in 2013, the State Council's white paper cited car ownership in defense of its human rights record. "The government could have counted the number of pandas as a sign of rights progress," she said.

Ouch.

So what are we to make of this year's white paper on China's human rights?

Sounds like a lot of creative writing, and whoever wrote it should be commended for trying to paint a warm fuzzy picture of the country's human rights situation when in fact anyone who speaks out against the state is put through a sham trial and then locked up, like Liu Xiaobo, journalist Gao Yu, lawyers Xu Zhiyong and Gao Zhisheng, academic Ilham Tohti, and for a period of time Ai Weiwei.

Journalist Gao Yu was recently jailed for seven years
The recent sinking of the cruise ship in the Yangtze has led to state media being instructed to use Xinhua-approved stories, and barring everyone else from the site. The families are demanding an open investigation with the number of deaths climbing past 430, but so far their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Citing increased entertainment as a form of improved human rights seems such a bizarre connection, but then any way to frame China in a better light was the aim of the white paper.

What will they think of next?

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