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|Wednesday, February 28, 2001, updated at 09:25(GMT+8)|
US Human Rights Record in 2000 (Part I)The Information Office of China's State Council Tuesday released an article titled "US Human Rights Record in 2000."
The article said that the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -- 2000 issued by the US State Department on Monday made unwarranted charges against more than 190 countries and regions, including China, for their human rights conditions and accused these countries of fabricated abuses.
At the same time, the US reports had nothing to say about America's own human rights situation, the six-part article said.
However, there exist serious infringements on human rights in the United States, it said.
I. American Democracy - a Myth, Political Rights InfringedBy elevating itself to a model of democracy, the United States continuously hawks American-style democracy to other countries. Under the pretext of safeguarding this kind of democracy, the United States continues to make rash criticism of other countries and interferes in their internal affairs.
Nevertheless, well-informed people know that the so-called democracy has been a myth since the United States was founded more than 200 years ago. Political rights of the US citizens have long been infringed.
Although the US Constitution, adopted in 1787, stipulates the citizen's right to vote, the right to vote for every American, regardless of race, color or creed, was not implemented in law until 184 years later.
Owing to discrimination based on race, gender, property, education, age and residency, the African Americans, women and American Indians as well as roughly one-third of white American males were long deprived of their legal right to vote. The African Americans, women and American Indians gained voting rights in 1870, 1920 and 1948 respectively.
In addition, the voter eligibility limitations connected to property, poll tax and low education levels were removed in 1856, 1964 and 1970 respectively.
In 1971, nearly 200 years after the founding of the United States, the federal legislature approved the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, stipulating that age cannot be a legitimate reason for depriving any American of his or her right to vote, and setting the legal voting age at 18. This marked the beginning of universal voter's rights.
Although every American 18 or older is legally guaranteed the right to vote, voter turnout in America has remained at a comparatively low level. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the voter turnouts for elections for the House of Representatives have been ranged between 30 and 60 percent.
Meanwhile, the highest voter turnout rate in the history of presidential elections, which have been touted as major US political events, stands at 65 percent.
Under US law, any presidential candidate who wins the majority of votes wins the election. Over the years, President- elects only won 35 percent of all the electorate or less.
The voter turnout rate for the 1996 general election was only 49 percent, and only 25 percent of registered voters nationwide voted for president. Thus, the results of US general elections has not represented the will of the entire people or the majority.
The 2000 presidential election further exposed the inherent flaws of the US electoral system.
The two candidates, separately representing the Democratic and Republican parties, filed lawsuit after lawsuit on the counts and recounts of ballots in Florida and engaged in non-stop partisan bickering.
Some organizations even issued commemorative coins for the election turmoil. The 2000 general election was accompanied by civil demonstrations and protests.
In line with the electoral system in the election law which has been carried out for more than 200 years, electoral votes ultimately decide which candidate will win.
The 50 million voters who cast ballots for president represented less than one-fourth of the 205 million eligible voters nationwide, an all-time low in US election history.
Since the right to vote is evidently meaningless to the majority of eligible voters, the myth of American democracy was further exposed.
The Associated Press reported, "Some were shocked that a nation often held as a model of democracy could also stumble."
American democracy has always been a game for rich people. In the United States where politics is highly commercialized, any bidder for official post needs to spend a significant amount of money to win. No presidential or congressional candidate will go far without financial backing.
The general election in 2000 cost about US$3 billion, 50 percent more than that in 1996 and setting a record.
The congressional races in various states cost another US$1 billion. While not forbidding political donations, US law sets upper limits on donations from individuals to candidates, political commissions and parties, but allows any amount of "soft" donations from companies or trade unions to political parties.
The soft money collected by various parties and candidates in 2000 reached 648 million dollars, four times the amount of four years ago.
During the election campaign, at least 20 donors spent more than one million dollars each. Actress Jane Fonda gave a US$12 million check for supporting a new pro-abortion group.
According to an Associate Press analysis of Federal Election Commission data which was released on November 9, 2000, 81 percent of year 2000 Senate winners and 96 percent of House winners outspent their opponents.
The AP analysis found 26 of 32 Senate races and 417 of 433 House races won by the candidate with the most money to spend as of October 18, the last date for which figures were available.
Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that studies money and campaigns, said, "The depressing thing about American democracy is I can check the fund-raising balances at the Federal Election Commission and tell you what the election results will be before the election. "
Thus, the key to American democracy is money, which directly impacts the election results. A Spanish daily, El Mundo, referred to money as the "cancer of American democracy." No other country has seen cancer as disastrous as that in the United States, the newspaper said.
Freedom of the press in the United States is also influenced by money. Wealthy people have the power to manipulate mass media, which can serve as their mouthpieces.
If it can gain financially, the American establishment will turn a deaf ear to international covenants. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, any dissemination on advocating war or ethnic and religious hatred among peoples must be prohibited by law in any country.
However, ignoring the international covenant and universal practice in many countries, the United States has sold or allowed sales of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" since 1933.
During World War II, the United States took in more than 20,000 dollars worth of tax from sales of the book. For the next 34 years, the US Department of Justice collected taxes from book sales amounting to 139,000 dollars.
After buying the book's copyright in 1979, the US publisher Houghton Mifflin continued to sell the book. Experts estimated that the publishing house has sold at least 300,000 copies, netting profits worth between 300,000 and 700,000 dollars.
II. Rampant Violence and Arbitrary Judicial System Are Jeopardizing the freedom and lives of US citizensThe United States, the only country where carrying a private weapon is a constitutional right, is a society ridden with violence.
The United States is the world's number one "gun nation" with more than 200 million private guns, or nearly one for each American.
The number of registered weapon vendors in the country exceeds 100,000, more than the total number of overseas outlets of fast food giant MacDonald's.
A tracking investigation of 70,000 guns conducted annually by a US agency has shown that about 50,000 of them were used in assaults, and the rest turned up in criminal investigations: 5,000 were used in murders, 5,000 for assaults, several thousand were used in thefts and robberies, and some were used in drug-related assault incidents.
The excessive number of privately owned guns has resulted in countless gun-related assaults, resulting in tragedy for many innocent people:
On February 29, 2000, a six-year-old boy in the state of Michigan killed a girl, one of his classmates.
On April 18 that year, a man in suburban Detroit, who became angry when his neighbors complained about him, fired on the office of the apartment complex, leaving three women dead or injured.
At the night of April 24, seven children were senselessly slaughtered by a gunman at the Washington National Zoo.
On December 28, four masked gunmen broke into a home in Philadelphia fatally shooting seven people and injuring three.
This year on January 9, a gunman killed three people in Houston, Texas, and on February 5, another gunman killed four people and injured four others at a factory near Chicago.
Statistics have shown that over 31,000 people in the United States are killed by guns each year, and over 80 people are killed in gun-related incidents every day.
Police brutality is not uncommon in the United States.
Each year, thousands of allegations of police abuse are filed across the country, but relatively few police officers who violate the law are held accountable.
Victims seeking redress faced obstacles that ranged from overt intimidation to the reluctance of local and federal prosecutors to take on police brutality cases.
During 1999, about 12,000 civil rights complaints, most alleging police abuse, were submitted to the US Department of Justice, but over the same period just 31 officers confessed or were convicted.
The judicial system in the US is extremely unfair, with the death penalty exercised in 38 of the 50 US states.
By July 1, 2000, there were 3,682 people on death row in the nation, 90 percent of whom had been victims of sexual abuse and assault.
Most of them had to rely on officially appointed lawyers as they were too poor to pay for their own attorneys.
After reviewing the 5,760 death penalty cases over a period of 23 years starting 1973 in the US, a team of Columbia University professors revealed on June 12, 2000 that 68 percent of the death penalty sentences in the country did not fit the crimes.
They said that on average more than two of every three death penalty sentences were overturned on appeal.
The rate of erroneous judgment on death penalty in the state of Florida was 73 percent, while the figures rose to as high as 100 percent in the states of Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee, said the professors.
A total of 660 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 by the Supreme Court of the United States; 500 people were executed in the past eight years.
In 2000, over 70 people were executed, accounting for 11 percent of the total.
The United States violates international conventions by convicting and executing juvenile and mentally retarded offenders, and failing to provide defendants facing execution with competent attorneys.
Thirty mentally retarded people have been executed in the United States in the past decade.
Citing figures from the US Department of Justice, the American newspaper USA Today reported in its August 8 edition that about 6.3 million men and women in the US were on probation or parole, or were in jail or prison at the end of 1999.
The figure represents 3 percent of the adult population of the United States. The "correctional population" increased 2.7 percent from 1998 and 44.6 percent from 1990, according to the newspaper.
Under US law, whose who are serving prison terms and former inmates out on probation or parole are disenfranchised, and one quarter of the states denied the right to vote of those who had served their sentences.
It is estimated that over one million Americans who have finished serving their sentences are deprived of their right to vote.
A report of a US judicial policy research institute showed that more than two million men and women were behind bars by February 15, 2000, up 75 percent from the 1.14 million reported 11 years ago, accounting for one-quarter of the total across the world, and ranking first in the world.
The US Department of Justice also revealed in August 2000 that the rate of incarceration had reached 690 inmates per 100,000 residents by the end of 1999, also the highest in the world. The state of Louisiana took the lead with 736 inmates per 100,000.
Despite huge spending that far exceeds the federal budget for education, US prisons are overcrowded, prison violence is rampant and prisoners are badly treated.
Statistics show that in 1998, 59 inmates in the US were killed by other inmates, and assaults, fights, and rapes injured 6, 750 inmates and 2,331 prison staff.
Estimates by non-governmental groups in the state of California have shown that over 10,000 sexual assaults occur daily in US prisons, and male inmates are sexually assaulted by their roommates. In the most extreme cases, the raped inmates were literally the slaves of the perpetrators, being "rented out" for sex, "sold," or even auctioned off to other inmates.
Despite the devastating psychological impact of such abuse, perpetrators were rarely punished adequately.
A report released in September 2000 by the US Department of Justice said an "institutional culture that supports and promotes abuses" was in place in US prisons.
Frequent reports of physical abuse by prison guards include brutal beatings by officers and officers paying inmates to beat other inmates.
At Wallens Ridge State Prison, Virginia's super-maximum security prison, 50,000-volt stun guns were often used against inmates.
The Virginia Department of Corrections reported that between January 1999 and June 2000, prison guards at Red Onion State Prison, Virginia's super-max security prison, shot a total of 116 blank rounds and 25 stinger rounds of rubber bullets and discharged stun guns on 130 separate occasions.
At Corcoran State Prison in California, eight prison guards drove a group of inmates to a small playground for a wrestling match that resulted in several deaths.
Over 20,000 inmates were placed in solitary confinement in special maximum security facilities, where they were locked alone in small and sometimes windowless cells and released for only a few hours each week.
They were handcuffed, shackled and escorted by officers whenever they left their cells.
At Wisconsin's new super-maximum prisons, inmates were subjected to round-the-clock confinement in isolation, subject to constant fluorescent lighting in their cells and 24-hour video monitoring.
III. Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor and Deteriorating Situation of Worker's Economic and Social RightsThe latter part of the 20th century was the most economically prosperous period in US history, with the economic growth rate rising steadily 118 months by the end of 2000.
However, the gap between the rich and poor widened and the living standards of the laborers went from bad to worse. Pressing issues such as poverty, hunger and homelessness proved difficult to solve.
The gap between the rich and poor in the United States grew at the same pace as the economic growth. Statistics show that the richest 1 percent of the US citizens own 40 percent of the total property of the country, while 80 percent of US citizens own just 16 percent.
Since the 1990s, 40 percent of the increased wealth went into the pockets of the rich minority, while only 1 percent went to the poor majority.
From 1977 to 1999, the after-tax income of the richest 20 percent of American families increased by 43 percent, while that of the poorest 20 percent decreased 9 percent, allowing for inflation. The actual income of those living on the lowest salaries was even less than 30 years ago.
An article in the February 21, 2000 issue of US News and World Report pointed out that the average income of the richest 5 percent of families in 1979 was 10 times of that of the poorest 20 percent of families. In 1999, the income gap had been enlarged to 19 times, ranking first among the developed countries, and setting a record since the Bureau of Census of the United States began studying the situation in 1947.
The income of the executives of the largest US companies in 1992 was 100 times that of ordinary workers, and 475 times higher in 2000.
According to an assessment by the US journal Business Week in August 2000, the income of chief executive officers was 84 times that of employees in 1990, 140 times in 1995, and 416 times in 1999.
A survey shows that the real income of the one-fifth richest of the families in Silicon Valley has increased 29 percent since 1992, while the real income of the one-fifth poorest of the families in the valley decreased during most of the 1990s, and the current income for the poorest has bounced back to the same level in 1992, with the employees at the lowest rank now earning 10 percent less than a decade age.
A great number of Americans suffer from poverty and hunger. According to the statistics of the US government, over 32 million citizens, or 12.7 percent of the total population of the country, live under the poverty line. The incidence of poverty is higher than in the 1970s, and higher than in most other industrialized countries.
An investigation by the US Department of Agriculture in March 2000 showed that 9.7 percent of American families did not have enough food, and at least 10 percent of families in 18 states and Washington D.C. often suffered from hunger and malnutrition.
In 1998, 37 million American families did not have enough food. In the state of New Mexico, 15.1 percent of the families were under threat of hunger.
The number of homeless Americans has continued to increase. A study in the mid-1990s showed that 12 million US citizens were or had been at some time homeless. According to a survey of 26 large cities conducted by the Conference of Mayors, the urgent demand for housing increased in two-thirds of the cities in 1999 over previous years.
A report in The New York Times of July 9, 2000, said that housing in New York was in the shortest supply of recent decades. More than 130,000 families in the city were waiting for public housing at that time, and homeless shelters sometimes had to receive 5,000 families and 7,000 individuals for a night.
Serious infringements upon worker's rights have been reported. Compared with other developed countries, the working hours of laborers in the United States are the longest, while their social security benefits and rights are the worst. According to a report in US News and World Report in March 2000, the average working time of US citizens was 1,957 hours annually, longer than in other developed countries.
In Manhattan, about 75 percent of the people with high-level education aged between 25 and 32 years old work more than 40 hours a week. In 1977, only 55 percent of the people worked the same amount of time.
A newly published book in the United States said that some female cashiers and workers on production lines have to wear protective undergarments because they are not allowed to take time to go to the toilet.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions submitted a report to the World Trade Organization in July of 1999, saying that the rights to organize and strike were not guaranteed in US labor laws.
When employers decide to break up or prevent the establishment of trade unions, laborers have no legal redress. Only 13 percent of US workers have joined trade unions.
More than 7 million of the 14 million functionaries in the state and local governments have no right to collective negotiation, not to mention the right to strike.
Millions of workers, including farm laborers, domestic workers, and low-level supervisors, were explicitly excluded from protection under the law guaranteeing the right of workers to organize.
In the 1950s, hundreds of workers were retaliated by employers for exercising their right for association. By the 1990s, the number climbed to 20,000.
Worker's rights and social security cannot be guaranteed for U. S. workers. A study by the US Department of Energy in 2000 showed that the incidence of cancer among workers in nuclear weapons production was much higher than workers in other industries due to exposure to harmful radiation and chemical substances.
Since the end of World War II, 22 forms of cancer have been diagnosed among the 600,000 workers in 14 nuclear plants in California, Washington and other states; this incidence rate was several times that found in ordinary factories.
The US government treads lightly on this issue until it was exposed by media in recent years. Under public pressure, the US government had to acknowledge the mistake.
About 30 million US citizens had no social security eight years ago, and the figure has increased to 46 million currently. The British newspaper Financial Times reported on October 25, 2000, that 12.3 percent of US citizens had no medical insurance 20 years ago, and the rate has increased to 15.8 percent now, or one out of every six Americans.
The education situation in the United States is surprisingly poor. According to a report in USA Today on November 29, 2000, illiteracy is still a serious problem in such a highly developed country.
One in five high school graduates cannot read his or her diploma; 85 percent of unwed mothers are illiterate; 70 percent of Americans arrested are illiterate; 21 million Americans cannot read.
According to a child protection foundation, 71 percent of fourth graders are not at the education level they ought to be. College tuition has grown faster than the increase of middle class families' income. The dropout rate among college students has risen to 37 percent.
Statistics from the US Census Bureau show that the income of middle class families increased only 10 percent from 1989 to 1999, while the college tuition increased 51 percent during the same period. The average college tuition in 1999 was 8,086 US dollars, accounting for 62 percent of the income of low-income families.
The average tuition fee of private colleges was 21,339 US dollars in 1999, up 34 percent over 1989, accounting for 162 percent of the income of poor families, but only making up for four percent of the income of rich families. More than 30 million low-income families could not afford to send their children to community colleges.
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