Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced the Helman/Hammet awards for 2012 on Thursday. I wasn’t aware that this prize existed, but learned about it from the Chinese press.
Some context: a People’s Daily editorial (on a different issue, the International Communications Union conference in Dubai) was published on a number of popular Chinese websites on Thursday, without direct mention of this specific award. Huanqiu Shibao, a nationalist newspaper (and nominally, not necessarily by content, a sister paper to the English-language “Global Times”) addresses the prize issue head-on, in a way that may be tailor-made for its (angry, by trend) readership.
Links within blockquotes added during translation.
On the American “Human Rights Watch” list of the 2012 Hellman/Hammett Award winners, 12 out of 41 are Chinese, and there are seven people from China’s Uighur, Mongolian, Tibetan etc. national minorities among them. Nearly all of them have been in prison or are currently in prison. When looking at the organization’s name, and looking at which people are the prize winners, and what this prize is used for, one can expect that the Chinese people can make their guess, too.
During these two years, there have been more and more extreme Chinese dissidents who won “human rights prizes” in the West, and [those dissident’s] reputation is going lower and lower. What once bewildered Chinese society has become routine. We all know that there are a few people in this country who oppose the political system and that the West supports them. This has become an established pattern in the game between China and the West.
With China’s great scale of development, interaction between Chinese and Western people has also reached an amazing dimension, and the share of these Sino-Western frictions within the interaction is shrinking, and so is the influence of extreme dissidents in China. Frequently, they don’t get as much attention as lawful [or rightful] criticism on the internet does.
In exact words, extreme dissidents in China have become completely marginalized, and the way the West continues to use them to provoke China is lacking innovation. In fact, the voice of the entire Western discourse has become ever smaller in China, as they are losing to the excitement of the Chinese microblogs.
The highest individual amount of prize money of the Hermann Hammett Awards doesn’t reach 10,000 US dollars, and one of its purposes is said to be giving “politically prosecuted” people in different countries some “living allowance”. But maybe they don’t know that this bit of money is pitifully small, [unsafe translation: for lawful critics in China]. China has become “tall and hefty”, and that bit of money and the hopes from the West are just a drop in the bucket.
What China and the West are struggling about concerning human rights is not clear. The two sides don’t understand each others words at all. Which is alright. Inside China, you have as many human rights critics in China as you want already, and although they are at times extreme, they are also comparatively specific. Society can thoroughly make sense of their context. Human rights prizes awarded by the West often come with abrupt choices, choosing strange people, and we don’t need to spend too much thought on that.
Of course, Western criticism of China’s human rights isn’t completely meaningless. They did move things in Chinese society. Sometimes,confrontation is also a means of interaction. However, objectively speaking, much of Western criticism goes beyond China’s realities, thus causing suspicions among Chinese people about intentions behind Western methods. All this has seriously harmed strategic mutual trust between China and the West, and its negative impact on the 21rst century gretly exceeds its benefits.
Extreme dissidents played an offbeat role of their own in China’s reform and opening, but when their role will be assessed from the distant future, they will definitely not be seen as a mainstream force in advancing China’s progress. If the focus of these Western awards isn’t a prank, it must be caused by a failed analysis of China’s power.
Pluralization in Chinese society has subtly built changes in the way the country progressed. When the government issued a call in the past, society responded in its multitude. Now it leads to a debate. It has become unlikely that the country makes another grave mistake [This and the previous line seem to allude to the excesses of Maoism], but at the same time, societal efficiency is also declining. China is in the process of finding a new point of balance in these changes. If extreme dissidents who break through the legal system of these social changes and explorations, they create destructive mishap, and will be investigated in accordance with the law.
Western support for Chinese extreme dissidents seems to become ever closer, but times when this kind of thing found its way into the limelight are gone. They have become as tasteless as chicken ribs, but the West seems to be reluctant to throw them away. Nowadays, Western organizations doing these things look more like astute public-relations industries. Assuming an air of importance. To make themselves look good, they are seeking gimmicks close to China’s rise.
Much of the commenting underneath seems to be about unrelated everyday issues (Maybe there are relations which I can’t see, though). One of them which would seem to show some of the desired effects, and also one of the more extensive ones suggests that
Patriotic people don’t need to listen to American and other Western countries’ forces’ anti-China rumors, or be furious about them. Westerners people nowadays lose in the political and economic field and know perfectly well that their own institutions have problems, but won’t change, believing it’s the mother of all systems. Therefore, they will blame anyone except themselves, […] this is the common fault of Western people, seeing in exasperation how China becomes stronger by the day, moving heaven and earth and racking their wits about how to obstruct China’s development, but to no avail. Instead, China develops even faster. Now they only have the human-rights and democracy card left […]
爱国之人不要听美国等西方反华势力的谣言，而恼怒，西方人如今政治经济完全失败，明知自己的体制出现问题，可是就是不改，认为自己是体制的老大，而怨天尤人，[气人有笑人无，] 这是西方人的通病，看着中国日益强大而气急败坏，想方设法，绞尽脑汁的妨碍中国的发展，但是都无济于事，反倒使中国发展更快。现在就只有民主这张牌 […]
It is also one of the comments – if not the comment – in the thread which got the most “support” votes – 267 by 11:00 UTC. The average “support” among the latest thirty-three comments got twenty “support votes” or less.
The People’s Daily editorial – published two days before Huanqiu Shibao’s, and in a different context (the International Telecommunications Union resolution) – could be summed down as follows:
- Those who oppose censorship are a minority (if not outsiders, which is deemed an unfortunate position in a Chinese context)
- America and other (barely mentioned) countries that didn’t agree to the International Telecommunications Union resolution are in a minority
- A free internet is war on vulnerable nations
- China is at the center of the family of nations
- dissidents are isolated.
The message People’s Daily’s and Huanqiu Shibao’s editorials have in common is that the country grows stronger, and that “Western” standards would be an exception, rather than the norm. In some ways, Huanqiu Shibao’s approach is more subtle than People’s Daily, though. Even “radical minorities” played a certain role, according to its description – and it suggests that there were “lawful” ways to bring about change. When it comes to banging the drums of nationalism however, there is no room for subtlety in Huanqiu’s case. While People’s Daily merely uses ITU voting results to point out China’s strong position, Huanqiu counts the prize money from Human Rights Watch and provides an assessment (“pitiful”).
The biggest commonality between the two editorials seems to be the message to (“extreme”) dissidents: you are marginalized.