Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s committee hearing, titled: “Investigating the Chinese Threat, Part Two: Human Rights Abuses, Torture, and Disappearances.” The statement follows:
“Thank you, Madam Chairman for calling today’s hearing and for focusing the Committee’s attention on the human rights situation in China.
We are all aware that the Chinese government’s record on human rights and the rule of law remains deplorable. Chinese authorities remain hyper-vigilant about tamping down anything that smacks of political or social dissent, including criticism of the government and exposure of official wrong-doing. In addition, China’s government continues to promote policies that threaten the culture, language, and traditions of Tibetans, Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
China is the world’s second largest economy, and has experienced remarkable economic growth in recent decades. Yet it remains one of the worst countries for political rights and civil liberties, as measured by Freedom House. In fact, China continues to spend more on internal security than on its military, a clear indication that the government fears and distrusts its own people.
As the government seeks to maintain stability with an iron fist, there are growing signs of stress in Chinese society. Reports of rural instability are rising. Protests about corruption by government officials, environmental degradation, and economic exploitation are on the increase. Tibet has seen nearly 50 self-immolations to protest Chinese rule. And there are reports of unrest in the Uyghur areas.
The Chinese leadership – which is focused primarily on maintaining power – clearly doesn’t understand that it’s in China’s self-interest to develop a society based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. But they ignore the lessons of history at their peril. At some point, I’m confident that the Chinese people will say “enough!”, and chart a new course for the Middle Kingdom.
I thank the witnesses for appearing before us today and I look forward to their testimony.”