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Is US a beacon of human rights for the world?

By Zhang Yunfei

Human rights for all is the common pursuit of humankind. While the global human rights cause has witnessed rapid progress, the human rights situation in the United States has been deteriorating, inviting criticisms from the international community.

Racial discrimination in the US has intensified. The "virus" of racism is deeply entrenched and widely spread in the US, which takes pride in being a "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" country. As a result, other ethnic groups such as African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans face serious discriminations and human rights violations.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian Americans and people of Asian descent in the US have become the target of xenophobia, stigmatization, hate speech, bigotry, and hate crimes. According to New York Police Department statistics, anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City in 2021 rose by 361 percent from that in 2020.

Discrimination and attacks against Muslim Americans are also on the rise, while in the past Indigenous people have suffered bloody massacres, brutal expulsions and cultural genocide.

Gun violence has escalated. There were 693 mass shootings in 2021, up 10.1 percent from 2020, with more than 44,000 people being killed in gun violence. According to the Gun Violence Archives, a nonprofit organization, 19,841 people had been killed in gun violence in the US by June 15 this year. And according to CNN, the number of mass shootings this year is likely to exceed that of last year, probably becoming the "worst year" on record.

People's lives have been ignored. Despite having the world's most advanced medical equipment, technology, and medical facilities, the US has the world's highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, with more than 88 million confirmed cases and over 1 million fatalities. In fact, COVID-19 deaths have reduced average life expectancy by 1.13 years, the steepest drop since World War II. Yet the worst hit are African Americans and Hispanics, as their life expectancy is estimated to decline by 2.10 years and 3.05 years-compared with 0.68 years for whites.

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Also, the pandemic prevention and control measures have been highly politicized in the US, with politicians focusing on their political gains rather than people's lives and health. The US' unscientific, unequal and irresponsible anti-pandemic measures and rules have seriously undermined American people's rights to life and health, which has resulted in the deterioration of people's mental health and a staggering increase in the number of homeless.

Social injustice has been exacerbated. Economic inequality between the white population and ethnic minority groups in the US has been a long-term systemic malaise, which manifested in various ways and areas such as employment and entrepreneurship, wages and financial loans. Not to mention the polarization between the rich and the poor, which is astonishing.

The Policy Research Institute, a US think tank, says the overall wealth of US billionaires increased by 19 times from 1990 to 2021, while the median wealth increase was only 5.37 percent. According to the data released by the US Census Bureau last year, the poverty rate among African Americans is 19.5 percent, making them the poorest and most vulnerable ethnic group in the US.

Poor understanding of human rights. Human rights have rich and broad contexts, including not only civil and political rights but also economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development. However, the US only recognizes individual rights such as civil and political rights, despises economic, social and cultural rights, and does not recognize the right to development.

The US is the only country in the world that has not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and refuses to ratify other core human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

For a long time, the US has prided itself as the biggest "defender of human rights". But unashamedly, in using human rights as a political tool, the US resorts to double standard. On the one hand, it holds the baton of human rights, pointing fingers at others, putting pressure on developing countries, launching wars and imposing unilateral sanctions on other countries. On the other hand, it turns a blind eye to its own human rights problems. The US has always claimed to be a beacon of human rights for the world, but has always been found struggling in the dark at home.

The author is a board member of the United Nations Association of China. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily. https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/

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