Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, was shot down by a police officer in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. The teen's death triggered protests and even violent riots in Ferguson in the following days, with the heavy-handed police response revealing a hypocritical tendency: Despite championing human rights around the world, the United States has clearly violated some of its own principles at home.
The U.S. Government publishes a report annually on the human rights record of other countries, condemning rival nations while boasting about its own record. But Brown's death shows that human rights are not as omnipresent in the United States as some claim.
Freedom is an essential aspect of human rights. But has the United States upheld freedom for all? Local police adopted a tough method of cracking down on protests against injustice and racism in Ferguson, arresting protesters and even detaining some news reporters. It appears that police deprived them of both the freedom to peaceably assemble and the freedom of speech—clearly abuses of constitutional rights.
Equality is another key component of human rights. But this, too, has been absent in the United States. Racial discrimination persists like a cancer in U.S. society, and the situation has not improved even after Barack Obama's election as the first black president. Would the white police officer have shot Brown to death if he were not black? It is impossible to know for sure.
Besides the Ferguson incident, a long record of violations have occurred in the United States. For example, former chief justice Michael Conahan in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, took huge bribes from Robert Mericle, a contractor at a juvenile prison. In return, Conahan and his colleagues put nearly 3,000 innocent children into the facility to meet the contractor's business demands in 2003-08. Though Conahan and Mericle were brought to justice, it cannot remedy the pain that so many innocent youth suffered.
In another example, TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel asked children how to deal with the problem of the United States borrowing so much money from China in a program that aired on October 16, 2013. A young boy answered that the solution was to "kill all Chinese people." It is hard to imagine that a toddler could get such a terrible idea of violating human rights in a country that boasts it is the best example for the rest of the world. Where does such a thought come from? It may have come from American society, the child's upbringing or a combination of the two.
These cases have demonstrated the hypocrisy of the United States over human rights. Even so, the U.S. Government ignores its own internal problems while repeatedly criticizing other countries.
To respect human rights for all, we should first respect and safeguard freedom and equality. Each country has its own understanding of human rights due to differences in history, cultural traditions, education and customs. Western countries stress the universality of human rights and aggressively promote their values to the rest of the world using their clout in the world economy, politics and with their militaries. But most developing countries emphasize safeguarding human rights based on national circumstances, including economic conditions and long-held traditions.
Whether in the West or otherwise, respecting life should be the basis of human rights. The human rights issue must be preceded by a respect for life in general—that is, America's police and military forces should first and foremost avoid killing innocent people. What's more, no person or country has the right to kill an innocent person.
The Chinese Government stands for international cooperation on human rights on a basis of mutual understanding and seeking out common points of agreement while reserving differences. Over the past decades, China has made great strides in protecting human rights. U.S. politicians should first learn a lesson from Brown's death before carrying out attacks on the human rights records of other countries. All nations should make efforts to improve the human rights condition—the United States is no exception.
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