Campus discusses China’s future

By Cheyene Miller

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UK professors tackled a hot button issue Thursday afternoon as they discussed human rights in China and how they affect the rest of the world.

The event, titled “Human Rights in China: A Panel Discussion,” was hosted by the UK International Center and hit on different aspects of human rights including the freedom of speech and reduction in government oppression.

“In terms of the freedom of speech, I believe there is a certain level of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in China,” said Jianjun He, assistant professor of Chinese Studies. He said even though the government-dominated media remains restricted, citizens have better opportunities to express themselves on the internet, and that those with phones and computers “will get easy access to all these websites where they can express their opinions.”

According to a 2014 report from Human Rights Watch, China has made societal progress by improving their economy, but still struggles in reducing basic human rights violations.

“Rapid socio-economic change in China has been accompanied by relaxation of some restrictions on basic rights, but the government remains an authoritarian one-party state,” the report reads. “It places arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly, and religion; prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations; and maintains party control over all judicial institutions.”

Sociology professor Thomas Janoski gave a brief presentation on different trends in citizen rights in China compared to western countries.

“In terms of the death sentence, China and the United States have a lot in common,” said Janoski, who said that while there is a large movement in the U.S. to abolish the death penalty, such a movement doesn’t exist in China.

“It’s like starting an opposition party. You start an opposition party, and pretty soon you’re under surveillance and you’re in jail,” Janoski said.

A report from Amnesty International ranked the U.S. in the top five countries with the most executions, along with China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

This led to the panel discussing how relations between China and Western nations like the U.S. should carry on into the future.

“What we’re seeing now … is that even though it’s the way that western nations have been accustomed to interacting with non-western countries and using human rights as a principle of negotiation, what we’re finding is that that’s just one of many ways that countries negotiate with each other,” said Douglas Janoff, a diplomat in residence in the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

Janoff said leverage in dealing with China is changing, and the U.S. can’t always take the moral high ground as a means of negotiation.

“The train is more complex than that,” Janoff said.