Human rights report merely 'a political tool'
Updated: 2012-01-27 07:27
Opinion | Pang Xizhe
NGO's publication catered to facilitate US interests; falls short on 'scientific' analysis
On Jan 22, Lunar New Year's Eve, Human Rights Watch, a New York-based non-governmental organization (NGO), issued its Global Annual Report 2012 on human rights conditions worldwide. The report criticized the human rights conditions of more than 90 countries and regions, including China.
At first glance, Human Rights Watch appears to be keen on the protection of international human rights. But it actually carries out its work with double standards and bias. Its observations lack political neutrality and its research methods are questionable. The organization's employment of unqualified workers has also hurt the credibility of its report. Human Rights Watch should reflect inward before passing on judgment to others.
The media and international observers have long criticized Human Rights Watch for passing judgment of human rights conditions of a country or region through tinted lens. It turns a blind eye to human rights issues in some countries while criticizing others vehemently. The Sunday Times quoted a human rights insider in the United States as saying that the organization caters its reports to the US government, which greatly affects its objectivity.
The US government has been increasing its use of so-called values diplomacy, playing the human rights card frequently in Sino-US relations. In this regard, Human Rights Watch's interests fall in line with the US government's diplomatic strategy, despite its status as an NGO.
This year's report said that China's human rights conditions are worsening. It also repeated cliches on Hong Kong's declining degree of autonomy.
After the election of the Third Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) - the most democratic one in Hong Kong's history - kicked off in September 2004, Human Rights Watch issued a notorious report on human rights conditions in Hong Kong, criticizing the central government's resolution in implementing the "one country, two systems" policy. Human Rights Watch's most recent report distorted facts again, provoking dissent between Hong Kong residents and the central government as well as the government of the Hong Kong SAR.
Human Rights Watch's hiring of disqualified people also taints its reputation.
Marc Garlasco, an expert famous for his investigation of war crimes in the Middle East, worked for the US Pentagon for seven years as a senior analyst of Iraqi intelligence. He admitted in interviews that he had been involved in at least 50 air attacks, all of which missed its targets and killed hundreds of civilians instead. An air strike targeting Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali for his use of chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds, on April 5, 2003 in Basra missed its target and killed 17 civilians.
Garlasco, who joined Human Rights Watch in 2004, also avidly collected items with Nazi symbols. He is active on an Internet forum, nicknamed Flakk 88, and a photo was posted on the Net of him wearing a shirt with a Nazi Iron Cross.
While working as a magazine editor in 1970s, Joe Stork, senior official of the Middle East Division of Human Rights Watch, wrote an editorial praising the Munich Olympic Massacre in 1972, which claimed the lives of 11 Israeli sportsmen and coaches.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, defended Stork, saying that Stork was only one of the magazine's seven editors at the time. Roth added that the editorial was written more than 30 years ago and Stork became a strong opponent against Saddam Hussein later. Such a poor explanation did not convince anyone. Moreover, it is also beyond comprehension that the organization recruited another person who worked for an anti-Semitic publication.
Human Rights Watch's annual report is always greeted with criticism by the international community also because its research methodologies, especially the reliability of its information sources, are not credible.
For example, an Israeli agency analyzing and evaluating NGOs on Jan 9 strongly questioned the credibility of Human Rights Watch's report. The agency reported that Human Rights Watch lacks a rigorous research methodology and often bases its report on unverified and unreliable sources. The NGO consistently quotes from anonymous "witness", making it impossible to verify its information. The majority of so-called witnesses are not interviewed face-to-face by people with professional training. Human Rights Watch even quotes information of dubious quality from the Internet.
In the China portion of its report, Human Rights Watch used expressions such as "estimate", "possibly", and "probably". It criticized China's judiciary system, religious institutions, regional autonomy by ethnic groups, family planning policy as well as foreign and economic policies.
Human Rights Watch's report falls short of objective, scientific analysis of China's national conditions, laws and policies.
The unscientific and politicized nature of the report makes it nothing but a political tool born out of a Cold War mentality. After the report was released, Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division, said on Jan 23 that China needs the Western market, which means that China is unlikely to act against the West economically, especially if Western countries stand united. Europe should not be afraid of China, and the international community, especially Europe, should increase pressure on China to improve its human rights conditions, he said.
The intent of Human Rights Watch is clear. In my opinion, Human Rights Watch should first re-evaluate its approach to promoting human rights and seek to improve its credibility.
The author is an associate researcher with the Institute of International Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(China Daily 01/27/2012 page4)