- Editor's note: China's Information Office of the State Council, or cabinet, published a report titled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010" on Sunday. Following is the full text:
The State Department of the United States released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010 on April 8, 2011. As in previous years, the reports are full of distortions and accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China. However, the United States turned a blind eye to its own terrible human rights situation and seldom mentioned it. The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010 is prepared to urge the United States to face up to its own human rights issues.
I. On Life, Property and Personal Security
The United States reports the world's highest incidence of violent crimes, and its people's lives, properties and personal security are not duly protected.
Every year, one out of every five people is a victim of a crime in the United States. No other nation on earth has a rate that is higher (10 Facts About Crime in the United States that Will Blow Your Mind, Beforitsnews.com). In 2009, an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes, 15.6 million property crimes and 133,000 personal thefts were committed against US residents aged 12 or older, and the violent crime rate was 17.1 victimizations per 1,000 persons, according to a report published by the US Department of Justice on Oct 13, 2010 (Criminal Victimization 2009, US Department of Justice, www.ojp.usdoj.gov). The crime rate surged in many cities in the US. St. Louis in Missouri reported more than 2,070 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, making it the nation's most dangerous city (The Associated Press, Nov 22, 2010). Detroit residents experienced more than 15,000 violent crimes each year, which means the city has 1,600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. The United States' four big cities - Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York - reported increases in murders in 2010 from the previous year (USA Today, December 5, 2010). Twenty-five murder cases occurred in Los Angeles County in a week from March 29 to April 4, 2010; and in the first half of 2010, 373 people were killed in murders in Los Angeles County (www.lapdonline.org). As of Nov 11, New York City saw 464 homicide cases, up 16 percent from the 400 reported at the same time last year (The Washington Post, Nov 12, 2010).
The US exercised lax control on the already rampant gun ownership. Reuters reported on Nov 10, 2010 that the United States ranks first in the world in terms of the number of privately-owned guns. Some 90 million people own an estimated 200 million guns in the United States, which has a population of about 300 million. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on June 28, 2010 that the second amendment of the US Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms that can not be violated by state and local governments, thus extending the Americans' rights to own a gun for self-defense purposes to the entire country (The Washington Post, June 29, 2010). Four US states - Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia and Virginia - allow loaded guns in bars. And 18 other states allow weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol (The New York Times, Oct 3, 2010). Tennessee has nearly 300,000 handgun permit holders. The Washington Times reported on June 7, 2010 that in November 2008, a total of 450,000 more people in the United States purchased firearms than had bought them in November 2007. This was a more than 10-fold increase, compared with the change in sales from November 2007 over November 2006. From November 2008 to October 2009, almost 2.5 million more people bought guns than had done so in the preceding 12 months (The Washington Times, June 7, 2010). The frequent campus shootings in colleges in the United States came to the spotlight in recent years. The United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph reported on Feb 21, 2011 that a new law that looks certain to pass through the legislature in Texas, the United States, would allow half a million students and teachers in its 38 public colleges to carry guns on campus. It would become only the second state, after Utah, to enforce such a rule.
The United States had high incidence of gun-related blood-shed crimes. Statistics showed there were 12,000 gun murders a year in the United States (The New York Times, Sept 26, 2010). Figures released by the US Department of Justice on Oct 13, 2010 showed weapons were used in 22 percent of all violent crimes in the United States in 2009, and about 47 percent of robberies were committed with arms (www.ojp.usdoj.gov, Oct 13, 2010). On March 30, 2010, five men killed four people and seriously injured five others in a deadly drive-by shooting (The Washington Post, April 27, 2010). In April, six separate shootings occurred overnight, leaving 16 total people shot, two fatally (www.myfoxchicago.com). On April 3, a deadly shooting at a restaurant in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, left four people dead and two others wounded (www.nbclosangeles.com, April 4, 2010). One person was killed and 21 others wounded in separate shootings around Chicago roughly between May 29 and 30 (www.chicagobreakingnews.com, May 30, 2010). In June, 52 people were shot at a weekend in Chicago (www.huffingtonpost.com, June 21, 2010). Three police officers were shot dead by assailants in the three months from May to July (Chicago Tribune, July 19, 2010).
A total of 303 people were shot and 33 of them were killed in Chicago in the 31 days of July in 2010. Between Nov 5 and 8, four people were killed and at least five others injured in separate shootings in Oakland (World Journal, Nov 11, 2010). On Nov 30, a 15-year-old boy in Marinette County, Wisconsin, took his teacher and 24 classmates hostage at gunpoint (abcNews, Nov 30, 2010). On Jan 8, 2011, a deadly rampage critically wounded US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed and 12 others injured in the attack (Los Angeles Times, Jan 9, 2011).
II. On Civil and Political Rights
In the United States, the violation of citizens' civil and political rights by the government is severe.
Citizen' s privacy has been undermined. According to figures released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in September 2010, more than 6,600 travelers had been subject to electronic device searches between Oct 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, nearly half of them American citizens. A report on The Wall Street Journal on Sept 7, 2010, said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was sued over its policies that allegedly authorize the search and seizure of laptops, cellphones and other electronic devices without a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. The policies were claimed to leave no limit on how long the DHS can keep a traveler' s devices or on the scope of private information that can be searched, copied or detained. There is no provision for judicial approval or supervision. When Colombian journalist Hollman Morris sought a US student visa so he could take a fellowship for journalists at Harvard University, his application was denied on July 17, 2010, as he was ineligible under the "terrorist activities" section of the USA Patriot Act. An Arab American named Yasir Afifi, living in California, found the FBI attached an electronic GPS tracking device near the right rear wheel of his car. In August, ACLU, joined by the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly, had filed a lawsuit to expedite the release of FBI records on the investigation and surveillance of Muslim communities in the Bay Area. The San Francisco FBI office has declined to comment on the matter "because it' s still an ongoing investigation." (The Washington Post, Oct 13, 2010). In October 2010, the Transportation Security Administration raised the security level at US airports requiring passengers to go through a full-body scanner machine or pat-downs. It also claimed that passengers can not refuse the security check based on their religious beliefs. Civil rights groups contended the more intensive screening violates civil liberties including freedom of religion, the right to privacy and the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches (AP, Nov 16, 2010). The ACLU and the U.S. Travel Association have been getting thousands of complaints about airport security measures (The Christian Science Monitor, Nov 20, 2010).
Abuse of violence and torturing suspects to get confession is serious in the US law enforcement. According to a report of Associated Press on Oct 14, 2010, the New York Police Department (NYPD) paid about $964 million to resolve claims against its officers over the past decade. Among them was a case that an unarmed man was killed in a 50-bullet police shooting on his wedding day. The three police officers were acquitted of manslaughter and the NYDP simply settled the case with money (China Press, Oct 15, 2010). In a country that boasts "judicial justice," what justice did the above-mentioned victims get? In June 2010, a federal jury found former Chicago police lieutenant Jon Burge guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. Burge and officers under his command shocked, suffocated and burned suspects into giving confessions in the 1970s and 1980s (The Boston Globe, Nov 5, 2010). According to a report on Chicago Tribune on May 12, 2010, Chicago Police was charged with arresting people without warrants, shackling them to the wall or metal benches, feeding them infrequently and holding them without bathroom breaks and giving them no bedding, which were deemed consistent with tactics of "soft torture" used to extract involuntary confessions. On March 22, a distraught homeless man was shot dead in Potland, Oregon, by four shots from a police officer (China Press, April 1, 2010). An off-duty Westminster police officer was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and raping a woman on April 3 while a corrections officer was accused of being an accessory (Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2010). On April 17 in Seattle, Washington, a gang detective and patrol officer kicked a suspect and verbally assaulted him (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 10, 2010). On March 24, Chad Holley, 15, was brutally beaten by eight police officers in Houston. The teen claimed he was face down on the ground while officers punched him in the face and kneed him in the back. After a two-month-long investigation, four officers were indicted and fired (Houston Chronicle, May 4, June 23, 2010).
On Aug 11, three people were injured by police shooting when police officers chased a stolen van in Prince George' s County. Family members of the three injured argued why the police fired into the van when nobody on the van fired at them (The Washington Post, Aug 14, 2010). On September 5, 2010, a Los Angeles police officer killed a Guatemalan immigrant by two shots and triggered a large scale protest. Police clashed with protesters and arrested 22 of them (The New York Times, Sept 8, 2010). On Nov 5, 2010, a large demonstration took place in Oakland against a Los Angeles court verdict which put Johannes Mehserle, a police officer, to two years in prison as he shot and killed unarmed African American Oscar Grant two years ago. Police arrested more than 150 people in the protest (San Francisco Chronicle, Nov 9, 2010).
The United States has always called itself "land of freedom," but the number of inmates in the country is the world' s largest. According to a report released by the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project in 2008, one in every 100 adults in the US are in jail and the figure was one in every 400 in 1970. By 2011, America will have more than 1.7 million men and women in prison, an increase of 13 percent over that of 2006. The sharp increase will lead to overcrowding prisons. California prisons now hold 164,000 inmates, double their intended capacity (The Wall Street Journal, Dec 1, 2010). In a New Beginnings facility for the worst juvenile offenders in Washington DC, only 60 beds are for 550 youths who in 2009 were charged with the most violent crimes. Many of them would violate the laws again without proper care or be subject to violent crimes (The Washington Post, Aug 28, 2010). Due to poor management and conditions, unrest frequently occurred in prisons. According to a report on Chicago Tribune on July 18, 2010, more than 20 former Cook County inmates filed suit saying they were handcuffed or shackled during labor while in the custody, leaving serious physical and psychological damage. On Oct 19, 2010, at least 129 inmates took part in a riot at Calipatria State Prison, leaving two dead and a dozen injured (China Press, Oct 20, 2010). In November, AP released a video showing an inmate, being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managed to plead for help through a prison guard station window but officers looked on and no one intervened until he was knocked unconscious. The prison was dubbed "gladiator school" (China Press, Nov 2, 2010).
Wrongful conviction occurred quite often in the United States. In the past two decades, a total of 266 people were exonerated through DNA tests, among them 17 were on death row (Chicago Tribune, July 11, 2010). A report from The Washington Post on April 23, 2010, said Washington DC Police admitted 41 charges they raised against a 14-year-old boy, including four first-degree murders, were false and the teen never confessed to any charge. Police of Will County, Illinois, had tortured Kevin Fox to confess the killing of his three-year-old daughter and he had served eight months in prison before a DNA test exonerated him. Similar case happened in Zion, Illinois, that Jerry Hobbs were forced by the police to confess the killing of his eight-year-old daughter and had been in prison for five years before DNA tests proved his innocence. Barry Gibbs had served 19 years in prison when his conviction of killing a prostitute in 1986 was overturned in 2005 and received $9.9 million from New York City government in June 2010 (The New York Times, June 4, 2010).
The US regards itself as "the beacon of democracy." However, its democracy is largely based on money. According to a report from The Washington Post on Oct 26, 2010, US House and Senate candidates shattered fundraising records for a midterm election, taking in more than $1.5 billion as of Oct 24. The midterm election, held in November 2010, finally cost $3.98 billion, the most expensive in the US history. Interest groups have actively spent on the election. As of Oct 6, 2010, the $80 million spent by groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties dwarfed the $16 million for the 2006 midterms. One of the biggest spenders nationwide was the American Future Fund from Iowa, which spent $7 million on behalf of Republicans in more than two dozen House and Senate races. One major player the 60 Plus Association spent $7 million on election related ads. The American Federation of States, County and Municipal Employees spent $103.9 million on the campaigns from Oct 22 to 27 (The New York Times, Nov 1, 2010). US citizens have expressed discontent at the huge cost in the elections. A New York Times/CBS poll showed nearly 8 in 10 US citizens said it was important to limit the campaign expense (The New York Times, Oct 22, 2010).
While advocating Internet freedom, the US in fact imposes fairly strict restriction on cyberspace. On June 24, 2010, the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, which will give the federal government "absolute power" to shut down the Internet under a declared national emergency. Handing government the power to control the Internet will only be the first step towards a greatly restricted Internet system, whereby individual IDs and government permission would be required to operate a website (Prison Planet.com, June 25, 2010). The United States applies double standards on Internet freedom by requesting unrestricted "Internet freedom" in other countries, which becomes an important diplomatic tool for the United States to impose pressure and seek hegemony, and imposing strict restriction within its territory. An article on BBC on Feb 16, 2011 noted the US government wants to boost Internet freedom to give voices to citizens living in societies regarded as "closed" and questions those governments' control over information flow, although within its borders the US government tries to create a legal frame to fight the challenge posed by Wikileaks. The US government might be sensitive to the impact of the free flow of electronic information on its territory for which it advocates, but it wants to practice diplomacy by other means, including the Internet, particularly the social networks.
An article on the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Magazine admitted that the US government's approach to the Internet remains "full of problems and contradictions" (Foreign Policy Magazine website, Feb 17, 2011)