Students: China’s Human Rights Record Misleading

To the Editor:

Song Yongyi recently gave a lecture concerning human rights along the lines of the media promoting a subjective and biased image of China. Having been arrested in China for “researching” information on the Cultural Revolution, Song believes that the Chinese government has violated his human rights. Song has the right to freedom of speech, but his views do not reflect those of the majority of Chinese people. He is expanding the gap of misunderstanding between China and America. He is giving a biased view of Chinese human rights based solely on his experience as opposed to research on human rights.
Song warns his audience to be careful of walking outside between 1 and 3 a.m. because that is when government officials arrest people randomly. His theme of oppression by the government causes fear and animosity among the general audience, while visitors to China can attest to Song’s words as misleading.
Indeed, China might not have a commendable human rights record, but such opinionated phrases as “the constitution is made for pigs,” “China is in the dark” and “there has been no improvements since the ’80s,” are contemptful words which feed on the general masses’ assumption that China should “catch up” to the U.S. Oberlin should be a place where different perspectives should be welcomed, and judgments cannot be made after only evaluating one side of the coin. There is already enough friction between the U.S. and China. With a better understanding of how a society has developed, one can see that certain policies have a cultural definition that is unique to certain countries.
Song is right that the Chinese definition of human rights as a right to live is different from the American notion of freedom of speech and action. On the other hand, he cannot use these Western paradigms as a model for Asian societies. Throughout China’s 5000 years of history, the masses lived as farmers in a society dominated by an agrarian society. People have not taken into account that under the current Chinese government the living standards have risen as a whole. In comparison, there is a major gap in American social classes.
In fact, there have been noteworthy improvements regarding freedom of speech. For example, the Chinese people feel much more free to openly critique their leaders. They can even joke about their current politics. During the Cultural Revolution, people who spoke against the people in power were tortured. Song actually makes it seem that Chinese society today is still similar to days of the Cultural Revolution.
Mr. Song’s talk muddled the differentiation between Chinese government and people. He made it seem as if the Chinese government and people were a single evil entity. Song was fueling what human rights advocates wanted to hear. Plainly and simply, he presented a biased opinion towards China. He left no positive note for one to reflect on. We encourage people to first have a better understanding of Chinese society by looking at all sides of the issue and form an impartial opinion based on facts, not on militant attitude.

–Jeffrey Chan
College junior

–Erika Cline
College sophomore


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