30th May 2024 – (New York) China’s State Council has released a comprehensive report titled “The Report on Human Rights Violations in the US in 2023.” The report paints a bleak picture of a nation grappling with deepening polarization, the marginalization of ordinary citizens, and the systematic erosion of civil and political rights. As the self-proclaimed beacon of democracy and freedom, the United States has long positioned itself as a global champion of human rights. However, the report exposes the glaring discrepancies between the country’s lofty rhetoric and the grim realities faced by its citizens.

At the heart of the report lies the central theme of polarisation. The United States, once a symbol of unity and progress, has become a nation divided, with a ruling minority holding sway over the political, economic, and social spheres, while the majority of ordinary citizens find themselves increasingly marginalised and their basic rights and freedoms disregarded.

The erosion of civil and political rights is a particularly troubling aspect highlighted in the report. Despite the constitutional guarantees of freedom and equality, the United States has witnessed a relentless assault on the rights of its citizens. The scourge of gun violence, fueled by the government’s ineffective control policies and the influence of powerful interest groups, has claimed countless lives and shattered communities. In 2023 alone, the report documents at least 654 large-scale shooting incidents, resulting in a staggering 43,000 deaths – an average of 117 lives lost per day. The failure of the US government to enact meaningful gun control measures in the face of such carnage is a damning indictment of its priorities and its willingness to prioritize the interests of a vocal minority over the safety and well-being of its citizens.

The report also sheds light on the U.S. government’s abuse of power and the suppression of freedom of speech and expression. The number of faculty members punished or fired for exercising their right to free speech on college campuses has reached a 20-year high, a chilling reminder of the erosion of academic freedom and the stifling of dissent. The government’s unchecked surveillance of its citizens, facilitated by the misuse of legislation such as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, further underscores the precarious state of privacy rights in the United States.

Perhaps most alarming is the report’s findings on the persistence of police brutality and the lack of accountability within law enforcement. Deaths attributed to police violence reached a record high in 2023, with at least 1,247 lives lost – an average of three people killed by officers each day. The report exposes the systemic failures of the police enforcement accountability system, with internal affairs departments more interested in exonerating their colleagues than investigating misconduct. The fact that more than half of police killings were incorrectly labelled as “general homicide or suicide” in official death statistics databases is a damning indictment of the lack of transparency and accountability within the U.S. law enforcement apparatus.

The report also highlights the deep-rooted harm of racism, which continues to plague American society. Ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans, face systematic racial discrimination and are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. The report reveals that African Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts and 4.5 times more likely to be incarcerated. This stark disparity is a testament to the enduring legacy of racism and the failure of the U.S. government to address the systemic inequalities that perpetuate it.

The plight of undocumented immigrants is another humanitarian crisis laid bare by the report. The U.S.-Mexico border, described as the world’s deadliest land migration route by the United Nations migration agency, has witnessed a staggering loss of life, with at least 149 migrants perishing in the El Paso border patrol region alone in the 12 months ending 30th September, 2023. The report also highlights the torture and inhuman treatment faced by migrants, as well as the U.S. government’s border policies that facilitate modern slavery and exacerbate the problem of human trafficking.

The escalating economic and social inequality in the United States is another damning indictment of the country’s human rights record. The report reveals that the wealth gap has hit a record high since the Great Depression of 1929, with systematic designs in place to exploit the poor, subsidise the rich, and segregate the classes. The “working poor,” trapped in a cycle of structural poverty, lack equal opportunities and find it increasingly difficult to break free from their circumstances. The number of homeless people in the United States has exceeded 650,000, the highest since reporting began in 2007, while drug abuse and suicide rates continue to rise, painting a grim picture of a society in crisis.

The ongoing violation of women’s and children’s rights is another area of grave concern highlighted in the report. The United States remains the only UN member state that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison without parole. The number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes has more than doubled in the last 20 years, while more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age lack access to obstetric care. The widespread pregnancy discrimination and the banning or severe restriction of abortion in at least 21 states further underscore the precarious state of women’s rights in the United States.

The report also sheds light on the humanitarian crises created by U.S. hegemony and the country’s pursuit of power politics on the global stage. In the theatres of war where the United States conducted overseas “counter-terrorism” operations following the 9/11 attacks, the total death toll ranges from at least 4.5 to 4.7 million people. The US military’s violation of the sovereignty and human rights of other nations through “proxy forces” programs and the continued provision of arms to conflict zones has resulted in massive civilian casualties. The notorious Guantanamo prison, which severely violates human rights, remains in operation, while the prolonged and indiscriminate use of unilateral sanctions has caused serious humanitarian consequences.

The findings of this report serve as a wake-up call for the United States and the international community. The country that has long positioned itself as the global arbiter of human rights must confront the grim realities within its own borders and take urgent action to address the systemic failings that have allowed such abuses to persist. The polarisation and marginalisation of ordinary citizens, the erosion of civil and political rights, and the deep-rooted harm of racism are not mere blemishes on the American system – they are fundamental flaws that demand immediate attention and redress.

As Chang Jian, director of the Research Centre for Human Rights at Nankai University, aptly noted, the enjoyment of human rights in the United States has become a privilege reserved only for the few who wield political, economic, and social power, while the rights of the majority have been marginalised. This sharp contrast between the American rhetoric of democracy and the reality of its human rights failings is a damning indictment of a system that has lost its way.

The United States must confront the uncomfortable truths laid bare by this report and take decisive action to address the human rights violations within its borders. It must work to bridge the widening divide between the ruling minority and the marginalised majority, ensuring that the basic rights and freedoms enshrined in its Constitution are not mere platitudes but tangible realities for all its citizens. It must address the scourge of gun violence, the persistence of police brutality, and the deep-rooted harm of racism with the urgency and commitment they deserve. It must work to create a more equitable and just society, where the “working poor” are not trapped in a cycle of structural poverty and where access to healthcare, education, and opportunity are not determined by the colour of one’s skin or the size of one’s bank account.

The international community, too, has a role to play in holding the United States accountable for its human rights failings. The country’s position as a global superpower cannot be allowed to shield it from scrutiny or criticism. The United Nations and other international bodies must use their platforms to demand transparency, accountability, and meaningful change from the United States, just as they would from any other nation found to be in violation of basic human rights principles.