COLUMN/OPINION

Human rights record of U.S. is appalling, By Li Yunlong

For many years, the U.S. has disguised itself as a representative for human rights and an incarnation of justice, and obviously regarded itself as the judge of human rights of all countries in the world. However, while the U.S. constantly accuses other countries of violating human rights, it never looks into the human rights issues back home.

The truth is the country has an ignoble record of human rights and serious violations of human rights. Such a country is in no way qualified to make carping comments on the human rights situations in other countries.

The U.S. government’s incompetent response to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to human rights tragedies.

Faced with an epidemic rarely seen in human history, the U.S. government had repeatedly ignored warnings of the pandemic given by the World Health Organization (WHO) and public health agencies in the U.S.

Certain U.S. politician deliberately downplayed the epidemic situation, claiming that the pneumonia caused by novel coronavirus was not a serious disease, the infection rate and mortality from the disease were very low, and that the disease was no worse than the seasonal flu and the virus would miraculously disappear.

Because the U.S. government failed to take effective measures, the country lost crucial weeks for pandemic prevention and control.

As the epidemic situation continued to get worse, the U.S. government, however, paid little regard for scientific public health principles and was not willing to control the virus through thorough testing, tracing and isolation. Instead, it fantasized about bringing the crisis to an end with magic new medicines.

Although the virus was spreading in a vast area in the U.S., then American leader and some state officials had been extremely reluctant to issue any decree to make wearing masks mandatory.

Even when the COVID-19 situation was out of control in the U.S. and the country’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and death toll from the disease rose to the highest in the world, the U.S. government was hasty to restart the economy due to political concerns. Several states rushed to reopen and caused the virus to shift to the South, West and eventually the rest of the United States.

The American people have paid a heavy price for the U.S. government’s misconduct during the outbreak.

By March 31, 2021, the U.S. had registered more than 31 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with related deaths exceeding 560,000.

As of the end of February 2021, the U.S., with a population of less than 5 percent of the world’s total, accounted for more than 25 percent of all the confirmed cases and nearly 20 percent of the deaths from the COVID-19.

During the pandemic, American people’s right to life was in a terrible situation rarely seen in the world.

The rights of Native Americans have been seriously infringed. The U.S. government has carried out systematic ethnic cleansing and massacres of Indians in history, and truly conducted acts of genocide.

For nearly a century after the U.S. was founded, the government wantonly expelled and killed American Indians through the Westward Movement.

Before the arrival of Western settlers, there were tens of millions of natives living on the North America continent. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, the population of American Indians in the U.S. had plummeted from five million in 1492 to 250,000.

The modern history of Native Americans is a history of colonization and genocide.

Today, Native Americans still live a life like second-class citizens and their rights have been trampled over.

Among Native Americans, 21.9 percent live below the poverty line, as compared to 9.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

The average life expectancy of American Indians is 5.5 years lower than that of all races in the U.S.. The incidences of diabetes, chronic liver disease, and alcohol dependence of the racial group are 3.2 times, 4.6 times, and 6.6 times the U.S. average, respectively.

Many communities of Native Americans are very poor, and the unemployment rate in some Indian tribes is as high as 85 percent.

The report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living said that some of the most devastating effects of COVID-19 had been felt by racial and ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. The hospitalization rate of Native Americans was five times that of non-Hispanic white Americans; and the death rate of Native Americans also far exceeded that of white Americans.

The human rights of African Americans in the U.S. have been crushed.

Slavery and forced labor marked a disgraceful chapter in the American history. In the 19th century, the number of black slaves grew significantly in plantations in the South of the U.S. with the rise of cotton plantation. The figure reached four million in the U.S. in 1860.

Slaves were not treated as human beings, and lived a miserable life. They were not acknowledged as individuals by law, but were merely private property at the disposal of their masters and could be bought and sold at will.

In the Southern plantations, black slaves were used as livestock and forced to work 12 hours a day to grow and pick cotton.

Although slavery has been abolished for over a century, African Americans are still denied equal access to rights.

African Americans face severe racial discrimination, which can be easily seen in the workplace and daily life. As it suffers from systematic employment discrimination, the racial group sees higher unemployment rate, fewer job opportunities, and lower wages.

In the past 40 years, the unemployment rate of African American workers has maintained twice that of whites.

Racial discrimination in law enforcement is also commonly seen in the U.S.. Media report showed that African Americans made up 13 percent of the U.S. population, and yet one-third of all imprisoned people, which means that there were more than 1,000 African American prisoners for every 100,000 African Americans.

Unchecked police violence has led to frequent deaths of African Americans. Data revealed that African Americans accounted for more than 28 percent of the fatal shootings by the police, and were three times as likely as whites to be killed by the police.

In May 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died after being brutally kneeled on his neck by a white police officer for eight minutes. The brutality of American police toward African Americans captured on video sparked a national outcry, and the movement “Black Lives Matter” has then spread across the country.

The increase in gun holders has seriously violated the right to life of the American people.

The U.S. is the country with the most civilian-held firearms in the world. The number of guns held by civilians in the U.S. has far exceeded the total population of the country, and is showing an upward trend.

As quite a large number of guns are scattered among ordinary people, the U.S. has seen frequent shooting cases and numerous shooting casualties.

Shootings in the U.S. are often found in the headlines of newspapers, and frequent gun-related violence, large or small, has become an iconic feature of the country. Such cases happening in crowded places such as shopping malls and campuses are particularly followed by serious consequences, with a large number of casualties, seriously threatening the lives of American people.

Against the background of an out-of-control epidemic and social instability, Americans bought a total of 23 million guns in 2020. The surge of the sales of guns resulted in a large number of shooting deaths.

Last year, a record high of more than 41,500 people died by gun violence in the U.S..

The country is faced with serious gun crimes. With regard to gun homicides, the U.S. has historically reported a rate about 25 times higher than other wealthy nations, according to media reports.

There were 592 mass shootings across the U.S. in 2020, an average of more than 1.6 a day. Within only 11 days from March 16 to 26, 2021, eight shooting incidents were reported in the U.S., including the Atlanta spa shootings in Georgia and the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, which caused at least 23 deaths.

While advertising itself as a defender of human rights and making irresponsible remarks about other countries on the topic, the U.S. government seems unable to tackle the major human rights issue that tens of thousands of American citizens are killed in gunshots every year.

How is such a government that can’t guarantee the safety of the people in its own country qualified to judge the human rights situations in other countries?

(The author is a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance)

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