China, Russia and Iran Chide U.S. Over Racism While Persecuting Minorities in Their Own Countries

China, Russia, and Iran are using the Black Lives Matter protests to criticize the U.S. for the racism in its society. But as they chide America over its problems, the three states are overseeing the persecution of minorities and dissenters in their own countries.

"The U.S. government deserves global criticism for doing so little to end police brutality and the racism that pervades the criminal justice system," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told Newsweek.

"But it's hard not to see a hint of diversionary convenience when those who join the call include the Chinese government despite its detention of one million Uighur and other Turkic Muslims to force them to renounce Islam, or the Iranian and Russian governments despite their persecution of such minorities as the Baha'is and the Crimean Tatars."

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a television interview on Sunday that the "problem of racism in Western society" is now "full-blown" in the U.S.

"The scope of this evil cannot be concealed," Zakharova said, per Russia's state-owned TASS news agency, and suggested America was hypocritical in its criticism of other countries.

She had previously described George Floyd's death as "an American tragedy," The New York Times reported, and said "authorities should not violate the rights of Americans to peaceful protest" in response to the controversial policing of U.S. protests.

Yet, in Russia, protests against Putin's regime are swiftly and often brutally put down by local police. Dissent against the Russian government is regularly punished. High-profile critics, such as activists and journalists, are sometimes assassinated or die under suspicious circumstances.

During the coronavirus pandemic, several doctors and health officials who criticized the government fell to their deaths from windows.

Moreover, Russia has an uneasy relationship with some of its minority communities. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, are facing a crackdown, with dozens of believers jailed and churches shuttered under the guise of anti-extremism.

Under Russian occupation since 2014, the Crimean Tartars in Ukraine, who suffered terribly during the Soviet Union, are facing renewed persecution, again under the guise of anti-extremism.

In a recent blog post on the Atlantic Council think tank's website, two activists from the human rights group PEN said Putin's Russia is "ruthlessly repressing the rights of Crimean Tatars and attempting to quash their identity."

"Despite claiming to be confronting militant Islam and other forms of extremism, Russia has launched attacks on a wide variety of Crimean Tatars who have spoken out against the occupation including journalists, photographers, and activists," they wrote.

China has also used the unrest in the U.S. to raise the issue of racism. The state-run Global Times newspaper, which reflects the views of the ruling elite, carried an editorial last week urging the U.S. "to reflect on its social and economic discrimination."

"Racial discrimination is a chronic problem in US society, but the country's politicians have long turned a blind eye to it," the editorial said. "Little effort has been made to improve the decades-old issue, which has finally erupted in a violent manner...

"Violence is wrong and should by no means be encouraged, but there is no denying that it is time for American society to think about how to improve its problems to create a truly equal society and economy."

In China, a one-party state, criticism of the communist regime is not tolerated. Censorship of the media and the internet is routinely practiced to remove any dissent or content the authorities do not like.

One of the issues subject to a blackout is the persecution of Uighur Muslims in China, more than a million of whom were forcibly rounded up into "re-education" camps, again ostensibly for reasons of anti-extremism and anti-terrorism. Mosques and other Islamic shrines, including some that are ancient, are being demolished.

Authorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) out in China's far west adopted in 2017 "Regulations on De-extremification," which targeted the cultural practices of the area's eight million Muslims, and placed them under close surveillance.

"Open or even private displays of religious and cultural affiliation, including growing an 'abnormal' beard, wearing a veil or headscarf, regular prayer, fasting or avoidance of alcohol, or possessing books or articles about Islam or Uighur culture can be considered 'extremist' under the regulation," says a report by the human rights group Amnesty International.

"Travel abroad for work or education, particularly to majority Muslim countries, or contact with people outside China are also major reasons for suspicion. Male, female; young, old; urban, rural, all are at risk of being detained.

"The ubiquitous security checks that are now a routine part of daily life for all in the XUAR provide ample opportunity to search mobile phones for suspicious content or check people's identities using facial recognition software."

The Trump administration has taken an aggressive stance against Iran and the threat of war between the two countries loomed over the world following the killing by U.S. forces of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January.

Both powers exchange heated words regularly, and Iran has exploited the Black Lives Matter protests to needle the U.S. over its race relations. At the end of May, a statement from Iran's foreign ministry condemned "the tragic murder of black people and deadly racial discrimination in the United States," Reuters reported. "The voices of the protesters must be heard."

Iran, which is governed by hardline Islamic clerics, stifles opposition by detaining critics and cracks down hard on anti-government protests. Homosexuality also carries the death sentence in Iran.

In its 2020 report on the country, Human Rights Watch highlighted the plight of its Baha'i people, a minority faith group in Iran who have suffered worsening persecution since the 1979 Islamic revolution. "Iranian law denies freedom of religion to Baha'is and discriminates against them," the report said.

"Authorities continue to arrest and prosecute members of the Baha'i faith on vague national security charges, and close down or suspend licenses for businesses owned by them. Iranian authorities also systematically refuse to allow Baha'is to register at public universities because of their faith.

"The government also discriminates against other religious minorities, including Sunni Muslims, and restricts cultural and political activities among the country's Azeri, Kurdish, Arab, and Baluch ethnic minorities."

The Black Lives Matter protests that broke out across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd have spread all over the world, including demonstrations in the U.K., France, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and many other countries.

China Russia Iran protests US racism persecution
An African American protester wearing a mask around his neck and a hat that has Black Power in New York City's Times Square holds up a large sign that reads, "Black Lives Matter" with thousands of people behind him. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

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