In developed countries, citizens expect the right to express themselves as they wish without fear of repression or unwarranted surveillance from their government. Especially in non-Western countries where human rights legislation is still developing, citizens deserve the freedom to choose to live as they wish and share their political opinions without fear of repression. This reality, however, remains limited in the People's Republic of China. The international community needs to develop meaningful directives that encourage the PRC to embrace initiatives as set in the UN Declaration of Human Rights so that political dissidents will not become marginalized. As these policies currently remain unimplemented in a meaningful way, Chinese citizens with anti-governmental opinions do not fully enjoy their human rights.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights carries a background dating back to the end of World War II. Developed by Canadian lawyer John Humphrey, Lebanese philosopher and diplomat Charles Habib Malik, Chinese playwright and philosopher Chang Peng-chun, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and French jurist René Cassin, the document was recognized as "humanity's Magna Carta and the most fundamental expression of human rights law" (Andreopoulos 1). Although many non-Western countries such as Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, South Africa, and Poland abstained from full ratification of the document, the UN General Assembly ratified it on 10 December 1948 with full recognition as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations" (Andreopoulos 1). In hindsight, in spite of Western enthusiasm for the inlaid provisions allowing people to express their political views without fear of rebuttal and repression, it comes as no surprise that other countries continue to take actions that run contrary to the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
As mandated by Congress, the State Department publishes an annual report on human rights situations around the world based on direct accounts from embassy posts abroad. Secretary of State John Kerry contends that five areas of human rights restriction recur around the world. These include "a continued crackdown by governments on civil society and the freedoms of association and assembly, growing restrictions on free expression and press freedom, accountability deficits for security force abuses, lack of effective labor rights protections, [and the] marginalization of vulnerable groups" (United Press International 1). In China, Kerry reports "a lack of judicial independence fueled a state-directed crackdown on activists and a suppression of political dissent" (United Press International 1). This unwarranted suppression of human expression runs contrary to global values and legislation set in place by the United Nations.
Among many voices demanding political freedoms in the PRC, perhaps WangYang Li stands out among others. His suspect death on 6 June 2012 where he was found hanging from a hospital window with a strip of cloth around his neck came after decades of incarceration in Chinese penitentiary; there, he reported being beaten on the head to the point where he was rendered both blind and deaf due to nerve damage (Liu 1). Li unabashed called for political freedom: "Each ordinary man has a responsibility for democracy, for the well-being of the nation. For China to enter a democratic society sooner, for China to realize a multi-party system sooner, I will not look back even if I have to risk my head" (Liu 1). Even after his death, Li will remain remembered for his unwavering call to freedom for the Chinese people.
Contemporary news reports also recount grievances against modern dissidents. Authors of Charter 08 call for individual rights and a broadening balance of power featuring competition between various political parties find definitive state condemnation for their contrarian positions. Principal Charter 08 writer Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 after he was convicted in 2009 to eleven years in prison for efforts to topple the PRC government (Lewin 1). While in prison, his wife remains under constant supervision by the PRC. His colleague Xia Yeliang teaches at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. after being removed from Peking University for supposedly poor teaching skills. His views on political influence within academia are unmistakably anti-establishment: "Perhaps Western universities do not realize that Chinese universities do not have the basic value of academic freedom and try to use Western universities to cover their bad side" (Lewin 1). Professor Xia and Liu Xiaobo make it clear that much remains in pursuit of the freedom of political and academic expression in the PRC.
Zhang Jialong broadly describes the limitations to Chinese freedoms culminating in a lack of access to the internet. Described as China's Great Firewall, Zhang describes a setting that provides great embarrassment to the human race in an era where global citizens must challenge threats to public justice and consciousness (1). For Zhang, this fundamental right of open Internet access remains at the heart of efforts to expand public knowledge and instigate political change.
Today, the PRC limits the rights of activists in an effort to set an example to the public. Political dissidence will not be tolerated and will face heavy rebuttal. These limitations occur in the interests of a single-political party system wishing to maintain its grip on power. In spite of such fundamental violations of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, voices from within the PRC continue to speak out against political repression. The grassroots movements capture the attention of the world, and, with time, must engender an open political reality in the PRC.
Andreopoulos, George J.. "Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)." Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., 27 June 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://global.britannica.com/ EBchecked/topic/618067/Universal-Declaration-of-Human-Rights-UDHR>.
Jialong, Zhang. "Tear Down Great Firewall of Censorship in China." The News Tribune. N.p., 22 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/02/22/3061378/ tear-down-great-firewall-of-censorship.html>.
Lewin, Tamar. "Chinese Dissident Lands at Cato Institute With a Caution to Colleges." The New York Times. N.p., 9 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/ 10/us/chinese-dissident-lands-at-cato-institute-with-a-caution-to-colleges.html?_r=1>.
Liu, Juliana. "Li Wangyang: Hong Kong asks who killed Tiananmen activist." BBC News. N.p., 17 June 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-18478631>.
United Press International. "Report: Countries cracking down, restricting universal human rights." UPI. N.p., 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <http://www.upiasia.com/Top-News/2014/02/28/Report-Countries-cracking-down-restricting-universal-human-rights/UPI-69501393593980/>.