A professor of Communications at the University of China has defended the Chinese government’s tight control of free speech and multiple childbirths – considered internationally as human rights – and questioned the benefits of the ‘freedoms’ African and the Western countries plead to sustain.
Professor Zhang Yanqui, presented these staunchly pro-China views during her presentation on China’s Political Communication, at a seminar organized for African communications officers and journalists on Tuesday.
Emphasizing the good intentions of the Chinese Government in controlling certain activities, Zhang added that the Chinese people “do not feel offended by the Government’s interventions.”
The case for limiting free speech
While the ban on social media including Google, the giant internet link, may be considered a human rights violation, she argued that the decision prevents the instability and political upheaval fueled by social media in many other parts of the world.
The uncontrollable use of Facebook and twitter, based on their status as human rights, she said, is yielding negative effects in countries adopting the practice, including derogatory statements made on these websites, which have the propensity to stir conflict.
“Freedom of speech is not absolutely free, but has limitations,” Zhang explained, citing as an example the renowned British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio, where “there has been no day the station will criticize the Queen.”
“Nor it is not possible for a good husband or wife to criticize the family, despite differences they may have over issues. We do not encourage destructive criticisms against the state and government; [but] the limitation of some rights and freedom is meant [to foster] prosperous economic growth and to maintain peace, economic growth and social development.”
One participant, too, injected in agreement with Zhang that Chinese Government’s Facebook ban was a “wise decision”, arguing that the social sites disadvantages far outweigh its benefits.
According to the Ugandan female participant, the social site impedes on-the-job performance, as some workers spend more time on Facebook than doing their work. She also noted that the social media culture encourages poor English grammar and spelling.
Government interference in the household
Touching the far more controversial and longstanding one-child policy, which has met heavy international criticism since its introduction in 1978, and the equally opposed acceptance of abortion, Zhang defended the success of these policies in controlling China’s population of 1.3 billion, and building a strong economy. She cited food security and availability of transportation as key factors necessitating population control.
She then noted that the one-child policy will soon be revised to a second-child policy.
The professor also highlighted China’s zero-tolerance for sex marriage and “other social interactions [that run] contrary to appropriate human attitude.”
Holding the world and the media accountable
Having addressing the key criticisms held against the Communist state, Professor Zhang turned the tables on Africa and the West, citing their negative perspective on China and their concurrent failure to turn the lens on their own respective human rights blunders.
Zhang suggested a different perspective: “for China, we are accused of human rights abuse, but despite our huge population, we secure food for our people and feed African countries. Although some children in our society do not have shoes to go to school, our government provides electricity, safe drinking water, education, amongst others for the citizens unlike many African countries and others Western countries that cannot feed their citizens or provide some of the basic essential services for them in the advocacy for human rights.”
Turning her focus on the international media coverage of most development settings, she decried the practice of Western and African outlets to direct more attention to negative stories than positive ones. Here, she referenced the Ebola crisis in West Africa and terrorist activities in Nigeria, Mali and Somalia – events that the western media have concentrated on more than positive stories.
Professor Zhang also stressed the need for thorough reporting, arguing that if media institutions can report negative stories, they must also be able to report the causes, the effects on the people involved, and steps being taken to resolve the challenges at hand.
“This is what Chinese media outlets including the China Radio International (CRI), CCTV and others do, under the guidance of the government,” she said.
In reference to constructive Journalism, Professor Zhang said it does not criticize because it just wants to; but also gives the reasons for criticism, provides solutions to the problem, and dwells on positive stories for development, social harmony and economic growth.”
Human rights remains at the forefront of the international development debate, as the world’s least developed countries and emerging economies grapple with the conflict between maintaining social cohesion, providing infrastructure and basic services, and meeting conditionalities set by the West. Citing budgetary constraints, many struggling countries resist pressure from more developed economies to toe the human rights line, arguing that providing basic needs such as water and electricity is more important than curbing carbon emissions.
Another compelling argument of developing countries is that current world powers observed few or no human rights during their industrialization processes, and are, therefore, hypocritical to place such high demands on poor countries.