WASHINGTON, D.C.: From China’s crackdown on activists to flawed elections in Cambodia and widespread violence against Muslims in Myanmar, Asia’s human rights record in 2013 remained poor, United States officials said on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Releasing its annual Human Rights report, the State Department documented a litany of abuses across the continent, with especially strong criticism of North Korea, where it said conditions “remained deplorable.”
An estimated 80,000 to 200,000 people are in prison camps and detention systems in the isolated communist state, facing “harsh and life-threatening” circumstances, as well as “systematic and severe human rights abuses.”
And despite minor successes in China, such as the abolition of labor camps and a change to the one-child policy, the economically resurgent country of more than one billion people remained “an authoritarian state.”
“Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy . . . were routine,” the report said.
“The government systematically used its laws to silence dissent and punish individuals, as well as their relatives and associates, for attempting to exercise their right to free expression,” the report said.
It also noted Beijing’s continued repression of ethnic Uighurs and Tibetans.
Many governments, meanwhile, were tightening controls on the Internet despite a thirst among their populations for greater openness.
“In Vietnam, the government strengthened monitoring and surveillance of the Internet, further limited privacy rights, and continued to restrict political rights, imprisoning and prosecuting activists under vague national security law,” the report noted.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy Uzra Zeya said Washington continues “to call on the government of Vietnam at the highest levels to make progress to comply with its international human rights obligations and commitments.”
Washington had also raised the fate of Hanoi’s political prisoners including the November conviction of 13 Roman Catholic bloggers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted concerns about the lack of accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka “where attacks on civil society activists, journalists and religious minorities sadly still continue.”
And he insisted that countries that embrace human rights can become more stable and “stronger partners for peace and prosperity.”
He pointed to Myanmar, referring to it as Burma, as an example of a government now seeking to take a different path and in return seeing international embargoes lifted.
“In Burma, we continue to see a country that was isolated for so many years slowly moving away not just from dictatorship, but toward a more productive partnering with the United States and the international community,” Kerry told reporters.