Ahead of his first state visit to the U.S., Chinese President Xi Jinping is celebrating his country’s human rights record.
In a letter to the annual Beijing Forum on Human Rights, Xi wrote “China has been promoting economic and social development, improving people’s well-being, and toughening legal protection of human rights, among other efforts.”
However, China’s definition of human rights strays from the traditional Western doctrine which focuses on individual rights such as freedom of speech and religion. Instead, it looks at the bigger picture and emphasizes prosperity and peace.
In this sense, China has a glowing human rights record after having lifted more than half a billion people from poverty in the last 30 years. The country also has not fought a war in more than 30 years and it does not station troops abroad.
Xi will attempt to showcase his country’s advancements in protecting human rights when he attends the U.N. General Assembly from September 26 to 28, where he will chair a meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
On the other side of the world, however, human rights activists believe he can’t make a strong case.
Smantha Powers, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., recenly launched a campaign called Free the 20. It calls for the release of 20 female prisoners including three in China.
“If you want to empower women, don’t imprison them on the basis of their views or on the basis of the rights that they are fighting for,” Power said.
Activists plan to protest Xi’s visit to the U.S.
They point to a crackdown on rights lawyers in China. More than 250 were detained this summer. They also claim Xi has suppressed freedom of religion, the press and the Internet.
In an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, a group of NGOs wrote “We believe that President Xi cannot leave Washington without having received a clear, public message from you that his government must end its persecution of civil society.”.