China’s Civil Society Crackdown Risks Mass Unrest, Says UN


The UN’s top expert on extreme poverty and human rights has complained of having his access restricted in China as he criticized Beijing for overseeing a “drastically shrinking space” for personal liberty, The Financial Times reports:

Chinese president Xi Jinping has presided over a crackdown on civil society described by advocates as unprecedented in scope and co-ordination, including denouncing and jailing human rights lawyers, broadcasting scripted confessions at show trials, and introducing a set of laws that tighten party control over international charities and non-governmental organisations.

Speaking at an end-of-mission press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, Philip Alston described such efforts as a “pincer movement” that had led to severe restrictions on people’s ability to hold officials accountable and contest violations of their rights. …Alston believes “top down accountability” is insufficient. “You cannot rely, for vindication of rights, just on government action from the top when it seems politically appropriate,” he said.

“The Chinese government and me did not reach a common understanding of the role of a UN rapporteur,” said Alston, who added that all meetings with private individuals had to be approved by the government and that academics the UN contacted were “advised that they should be on vacation”. RTWT

He suggested that the Communist Party’s tight grip on civil society was undermining basic rights and risking mass unrest, The Times adds:

Alston, said that the party’s dominance of the legal system had left Chinese citizens with few avenues to complain about issues like pollution and inequality. He dismissed the process for filing grievances as “window dressing,” and said party officials had suppressed meaningful policy debates.

“The government is coming at this from many different directions,” said Mr. Alston, a special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights for the United Nations. “That is a recipe for serious problems.”

Alston said he was taken on an “abysmal tour” of a model ethnic village near the southwestern city of Kunming, where officials presented minorities in terms of colorful dances but not in terms of education or meaningful protection of language and traditions, Reuters adds.

“The problem with policies on ethnic minorities is that in a country like China they are highly assimilationist,” he said, though he praised China for its progress on poverty alleviation.

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