Issue 8 - Winter 2004

Xinhuanet 2002-03-11 14:22:36

BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Following is the full text of the "Human Rights Record of the United States in 2001," published by the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Monday:

Human Rights Record of the United States in 2001 (page 1 of 2)
By Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China

On March 4, 2002, the U.S. State Department published "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -- 2001." Once again the United States, assuming the role of "world judge of human rights," has distorted human rights conditions in many countries and regions in the world, including China, and accused them of human rights violations, all the while turning a blind eye to its own human rights-related problems. In fact, it is right in the United States where serious human rights violations exist.

I. Lack of Safeguard for Life, Freedom and Personal Safety

Violence and crimes are a daily occurrence in the U.S. society, where people's life, freedom and personal safety are under serious threat. According to the 2001 fourth issue of Dialogue published by the U.S. Embassy in China, in 1998, the number of criminal cases in the United States reached 12.476 million, including 1.531 million violent crime cases and 17,000 murder cases; and for every 100,000 people, there were 4,616 criminal cases, including 566 involving violent crimes. From 1977 to 1996, more than 400,000 Americans were murdered, almost seven times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. During the years since 1997, another 480,000 people have been murdered in the country.

According to a report carried by the Christian Science Monitor in its January 22, 2002 issue, the murder rate in the United States at present stands at 5.5 persons per 100,000 people. According to data provided by police stations in 18 major U.S. cities, the number of murder cases in many big cities in 2001 increased drastically, with those in Boston and Phoenix City increasing the fastest. In the year to December 18, 2001, the number of murder cases in the two cities increased by more than 60 percent over the same period of the previous year. The number of murder cases increased by 22 percent in St. Louis, 17.5 percent in Houston, 15 percent in St. Antonio, 11.6 percent in Atlanta, 9.2 percent in Los Angeles and 5.2 percent in Chicago. According to the same report of the Christian Science Monitor, on campuses of colleges and universities in the United States in 2001, the number of murder cases increased by almost 100 percent over 2000, that of arson cases by about 9 percent, that of break-ins by 3 percent.

The United States is the country with the biggest number of private guns. On the one hand, worries about the threat of violence have led to rush buying of guns for self-protection; on the other hand, the flooding of guns is an important factor contributing to high violence and crime rates. Statistics of the FBI show that sales of weapons and ammunition in the United States in the three months of September through November of 2001 grew anywhere from 9 percent to 22 percent. October witnessed a record 1,029,691 guns registered. Statistics also show that shooting is the second major cause of non-normal deaths after traffic accidents in the United States, averaging 15,000 deaths annually. Over the history of more than 200 years, three U.S. presidents were shot, with two dead and one wounded seriously. There is much less personal safety for common people in the United States. Since 1972, more than 80 people have been shot dead every day on average in the United States, including about 12 children.

On March 5, 2001, a 15-year-old student killed two and wounded 13 fellow students at Santana High School in California. This is the deadliest school shooting following one in a high school in the state of Colorado in April 1999, in which 13 were killed. Two days later, that is, on March 7, a 14-year-old girl student shot dead a schoolmate of hers in the cafeteria of a Roman Catholic school in Pennsylvania. On the same day, police overpowered a gunman who was about to shoot on the campus of the University of Albertus. On April 14, a 43-year-old man with two rifles and two short guns fired madly at a bar and its car park, killing two and wounding 20. On September 7, a gunman burst into a family on the outskirts of Simi Valley of Los Angeles and shot three people dead and wounded two. Earlier on August 31, a demobilized policeman shot dead another and set fire on himself. FBI called Los Angeles "the freest city for crimes." On December 7, a worker at a woodworking factory shot one fellow worker dead and wounded six others in Indiana.

On January 15, 2002, a teenage student fired at fellow student sat Martin Luther King High School, seriously wounding two. This coincided with the 73rd anniversary of Martin Luther King, leader of the human rights movement in the United States and an advocator of non-violence. More ironically, on March 4, 2002, the very day when the U.S. State Department published its annual report, accusing other countries of "human rights violations," another shooting took place: in New Mexico, a four-year-old boy, while watching TV in his bedroom, shot dead an 18-month-old baby girl with his father's gun.

The U.S. media are inundated with violent contents, contributing to a high crime rate in the United States, especially among young people. Young people in the country get used to violence and crimes from an early age. With the extensive use of cable TV, videotapes and computers, children have more opportunities to see bloody violent scenes. A culture beautifying violence has made young people believe that the gun can "solve" all problems. An investigative report issued on August 1, 2001 by a U.S. non-governmental watchdog group -- Parents Television Council (PTC) -- says that violence in television programs from 8 to 9 p.m. in the recent one-year period was up by 78 percent and abusive language up by 71 percent. Even CBS, regarded as the "cleanest" TV network, had 3.2 scenes of violence and abusive language per hour. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, TV stations and movie houses in the United States exercised some restraint on the broadcasting and screening of programs and films of violence. But it was hardly two months before violence films, which have top box-office value, staged a comeback. International Herald Tribune reported that one American youth could see 40,000 murder cases and 200,000 other violent acts from the media before the age of 18. A survey by California-based Ethical Code Institute shows that over the past year, most American youth had the experience of using violence, including 21 percent of the boys in high schools and 15 percent of the boys in junior middle schools who had the experience of taking arms to school for at least once. The U.S. National Association of Education estimates that about 100,000 students in the United States take arms to school every day.

In recent years, voices for controlling guns and eliminating the culture of violence have been running high. On Mother's Day on May 14, 2000, women from nearly 70 cities in the United States staged a "Million Moms Mother's Day March," demanding that the U.S. Congress enact a strict gun control law. However, voices of the common people can hardly produce any results.

II. Serious Rights Violations by Law Enforcement Departments

Police brutality and unfair adjudication are intrinsic stubborn diseases of the United States. In March 2001, the family of a French victim brought a lawsuit against the police and prison guards of the state of Nevada. Nine prison guards were accused of beating the victim, Phillippe Leman, to death. Forensic examinations identified the cause of death as suffocation due to fracture of the throat bone. Yet, a local court pardoned the nine prison guards and acquitted them of responsibilities for the death of the French man.

Torture and forced confession are common in the United States, with the number of convicts on the death row that are misjudged or wronged remaining high. In December 2001, a man on the death row, Alon Patterson, claimed that Chicago police, who used a plastic typewriter cover to suffocate him, forced his confession due to torture. The case aroused extensive attention. As Chicago is under the jurisdiction of Cook County, Chicago Herald Tribune sent reporters to investigate the archives of several thousand-murder cases in Cook since 1991. They found that verdicts were determined in at least 247 cases without witness or evidence and that judgment was based on confessions of the accused only. The credibility of such "confessions" is subject to doubt.

U.S. federal laws and 38 states allow the death penalty. Since the 1990s, crimes punishable by death and the annual number of executions in the United States have been on the increase. Annual executions increased from 23 in 1990 to 98 in 1999. In the last 20years, the United States has extended the death penalty to more than 60 crimes and speeded up executions by restricting the right of the convicted to appeal. Since 1976 when the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty, about 600 persons have been executed in the United States.

According to a February 11, 2002 Reuters report, from 1973 to 1995, the verdicts of 68 percent of convicts on the death row were overturned owing to misjudgment by the court. In the cases with overturned verdicts, 82 percent of the convicts were sentenced to lesser penalties and 9 percent were set free. Since 1973, a total of 99 convicts on the death row have been proven innocent. These people spent an average of eight years of terror in death confines, sustaining tremendous mental trauma. According to an analysis, main reasons for misjudgment were failure to get legal counsel on the part of the accused, confession forcing by the police and prosecutors, and misdirection of the jury by judges.

The United States has the biggest prison population in the world. Prisons there are overcrowded, and inmates ill-treated. A study by the Judicial Policy Institute under the Juvenile and Criminal Hearing Center shows that during the 1992-2000 period, 673,000 people were sent to state or federal prisons and detention centers, and 476 out of every 100,000 people were detained. With prisons burdened with too many inmates, violent conflicts keep occurring.

In December 2001, about 300 inmates in a California prison staged a riot, which was put down by prison guards, using tear gas and wooden bullets. Seven prisoners were seriously wounded. The prison in question incarcerated more than 4,000 inmates though it was designed to keep no more than 2,200. Overcrowding often leads to violent clashes among prisoners. In 2000 alone, more than 120 prisoners staged riots, in which ten people were wounded. Drug taking is prevalent in U.S. prisons. In the last ten years, at least 188 inmates died of drug abuse.

Punishment for sex offenders in the United States has become more and more severe. Many phased-out cruel punishments have been reinstated. Some criminals would select the extreme penalty of castration in exchange for a penalty reduction. Castration had been removed as a penalty scores of years before. According to the Los Angeles Times, in California in the last three years, two sex offenders received castration in return for release.

In February 2002, the world was shocked to learn of a scandal involving a crematorium in the United States. Tri-State Crematory in the state of Georgia, instead of cremating human bodies after receiving money for the service, threw the corpses in the woods or stacked them in wooden sheds like cordwood, leaving them to rot there. The shocking practice is said to have lasted 15 years. More than 300 bodies have been found on the grounds of the crematorium so far. The crime is shocking enough, but the state of Georgia does not have a law that is applicable for the crime. What verdict to pass on the suspect remains a legal difficulty.

III. Plight of the Poor, Hungry and Homeless

While the best-developed country in the world, the United States confronts a serious problem of polarization between the rich and the poor. Never has a fundamental change been possible in conditions of the poor, who constitute the forgotten "third world" within this superpower.

The gap between high-income and low-income families in terms of the wealth owned by either group has further widened over the past two decades. In 1979, the average income of the families with the highest incomes, who account for 5 percent of the total in the United States, was about ten times as great as that of the families with the lowest incomes, who account for 20 percent of the total. By 1999, the figure had grown to 19 times. According to a New York Times analysis of a U.S. Census Bureau survey in August 2001, the economic boom the United States experienced in the 1990s failed to make the American middle class richer than in the previous decade. The true fact is that the poor became even poorer and the rich, even wealthier. For most of those in between the two opposite groups, life was worse at the end of the 1990s than at the beginning of the decade. Right now, the richest 1 percent of the Americans own 40 percent of the national wealth. In contrast, the share is a mere 16 percent for 80 percent of the American population. The richest 20 percent of the families in Washington D.C. are 24 times as rich as the poorest 20 percent, up from 18 times a decade ago.

Problems facing the poor, hungry and homeless have become increasingly conspicuous. According to a 2002 report of the American Food Research and Action Center on its website, 10 percent of the American families, in other words 19 million adults and 12 million children, suffered from food insecurity in 1999. In a national survey of emergency feeding program (Hunger in America 2001), America's Second Harvest emergency food providers served 23 million people in the year, 9 percent more than in 1997. The figure included nine million children. Nearly two-thirds of the adult emergency food recipients were women, and more than one in five were elderly.

In its annual report published in December 2001, the United States Conference of Mayors reported a sharp increase in the number of the hungry and homeless in major cities. In the 27 cities covered by a USCM survey, the number of people asking for emergency food increased by an average of 23 percent, and the increase averaged 13 percent for those asking for emergency housing relief. Demand for emergency food supplies grew in 93 percent of the cities covered by the survey. Of those who asked for emergency food, many -- 19 percent more than in the previous year -- had children to support. Of the adults who asked for emergency relief, 37 percent were employed. Hunger in these cities was attributed to low incomes, unemployment, high housing rent, economic recession, welfare reforms, high medical bills and mental disorders. According to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor on November 29, 2001, 4.02 million Americans -- the highest number in 19 years -- were living on relief. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has reported that 750,000 Americans are in a permanent state of homelessness, and that up to two million have had experiences of having no shelter for themselves. People without a roof over themselves have to spend the night in places like street corners, abandoned cars, refuges and parks, where their personal safety cannot be guaranteed.

Lives of the rich seem more valued than lives of the poor. According to la Liberation on January 9, 2002, the federal fund set up by the American government would compensate victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks according to their ages, salaries and the number of people in their families, plus a sum in compensation for the mental trauma the family members suffered. This way of fixing the compensations produced shocking results. If a housewife was killed, her husband and two children would be entitled to 500,000 U.S. dollars in compensation from the fund. If the victim happened to be a Wall Street broker, the compensation would be as much as 4.3 million U.S. dollars for his widow and two children. Families of many victims protested against this inequality, compelling the American government to commit itself to revisingthe method.

IV. Worrying Conditions for Women and Children

Gender discrimination is an important aspect of social inequality in the United States. Until this day, there has been no constitutional provision on equality between men and women. On September 18, 2000, with support of some NGOs, a dozen surviving "comfort women" brought a class action with a federal court in Washington D.C., demanding public apology and compensation from the Japanese government. The U.S. government, however, issued a statement of interest in July 2001, calling for dismissal of the lawsuit on the ground that recruiting of "comfort women" by the Japanese army during the Second World War was a "sovereign act." The statement aroused protects from the U.S. National Organization for Women, the Truth Council for World War II in Asia and other NGOs. This incident, in its own way, reflects current conditions in protection of women's human rights in the United States and America's official attitude towards women's rights demand.

Violence against women is a serious social problem in the United States. According to U.S. official statistics, one American woman is beaten in every 15 seconds on average and some 700,000 cases of rape occur every year. According to the 121st edition of the American Census published on January 24, 2002, in 1998 about one million people were suspected of involvement in violence between spouses and between men and women as friends. In March 2001, Amnesty International USA issued a report after two years' investigation, saying that the human rights of female prison inmates in the United States are often fringed upon and that they often fall victim to sexual harassment or rape by prison guards. Seven states even do not have laws or legal provisions banning sexual relations between prison officials and female inmates.

Protection of American children's rights is far from being adequate. The United States is one of the only two countries that have not acceded to Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is one of the only five countries that execute juvenile offenders in violation of relevant international conventions. More juvenile offenders are executed in the United States than in any of the other four. In 25 states, the youngest age eligible for death sentence is set at 17; and 21 states set that age at 16 or do not impose an age limit at all. Besides, the United States is among the few countries where psychiatric and mentally retarded offenders could be executed. According to the Human Rights Watch, in the 1990s, nine juveniles were sentenced to death in the United States, and the number was greater than that reported by any of the other countries. More >>


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