China Media Defends Human Rights Record, Accuses U.S. Of 'Ugliness'

Chinese media has hit out at U.S. lawmakers and President Donald Trump's administration after a week of tit-for-tat sanctions over Beijing's continued human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and elsewhere.

China's foreign ministry said Thursday it would restrict travel to Hong Kong by some U.S. officials and others in response to similar measures imposed on Chinese officials by Washington, D.C. Spokesperson Hua Chunying accused the U.S. of "using the Hong Kong issue to seriously interfere in China's internal affairs and undermine China's core interests."

The U.S. and China have been at odds over the status of Hong Kong over the last 18 months, following eventual American backing for mass pro-democracy protests that erupted in the semi-autonomous territory in the summer of 2019.

China has since introduced a draconian national security law effectively criminalizing any anti-government dissent, and moved to purge Hong Kong's legislative of pro-democracy voices and imprison the most prominent activists to quell organized opposition. The U.S. and its democratic allies have spoken out against the oppression, prompting retaliation from Beijing.

Chinese officials and state media have consistently framed the criticism as foreign meddling in its domestic affairs. It has also accused critics of hypocrisy, citing human rights abuses committed by the U.S. and its allies elsewhere.

An op-ed in the nationalistic state-run Global Times newspaper published Thursday defended China's records on human rights while decrying American abuses elsewhere, plus the Trump administration's failure to control the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic that has to date killed more than 293,000 people in the U.S.

Global Times placed the U.S. on the "list of countries with severely deteriorating human rights situations this year," despite Beijing's own Hong Kong crackdown and continued oppression of Muslim minority groups in its western Xinjiang province, which human rights groups have described as a genocide.

"Partisan politics has caused the institutional abandonment of the virus fight in the U.S., leading the country to a huge humanitarian tragedy where human lives are treated like grass," Global Times wrote. "The current U.S. administration is actually committing crimes against humanity and it will eventually face a moral trial by history."

The newspaper said the pandemic represents "the Waterloo for U.S. 'leadership' on human rights," and said that previously "the glory of the U.S. masked its ugliness."

Chinese state media has been at the forefront of the Chinese disinformation campaign, airing conspiracy theories and helping the CCP dodge any blame for the spread of the virus. Trump's administration, with its tough stance on China and belligerent approach, is a natural target for state media to attack.

State media has taken advantage of the political turmoil inside the U.S., and—per long standing policy and like other authoritarian nations like Russia and Iran—cited the recent chaotic presidential election and aftermath as an example of democracy's failings.

Global Times' Thursday op-ed described the U.S. situation as an "unruly frenzy" and accused the country of having "fallen flat."

"China is aware that there is room for improvement regarding its human rights," the newspaper wrote. "But it will walk its own path in developing the cause of human rights and develop it in a steady and fast manner."

HOng KOng, China, human rights, democracy, COVID
Supporters react as a Correctional Services Department vehicle leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts after pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were sentenced on December 2, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images/Getty