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General Sec­retary of the Com­munist Party of China Xi Jinping (photo: Wiki­media Commons)

As critics rightly scathed North Korea for masking human-rights atroc­ities with a red-clad female cheer squad during the Pyeongchang Olympics last month, another high-profile human-rights abuser at the games escaped such neg­ative attention — as it usually does.

China’s human-rights offenses and tepid friend­liness with North Korea are widely reported. Yet the country — a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council — is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. China evades much of the con­dem­nation readily cast upon the more noto­rious Pyongyang regime.

Though ramping up rhetoric on North Korea (and announcing further sanc­tions against the regime at CPAC last week), the Trump admin­is­tration has crit­i­cized China’s trade tactics and intel­lectual-property abuses but largely avoided dis­cussion of its human-rights record.

Silence toward China’s human-rights record and increas­ingly oppressive regime is hyp­o­critical. If our con­dem­nation of North Korea truly stems from moral con­cerns and a desire for change, we should condemn China, too.

As the Olympics ended this weekend, China rec­om­mended abol­ishing the two-term limit for Pres­ident Xi Jinping, moving to solidify a regime that Xi has built since coming to power in 2012, and par­tic­u­larly since announcing a “new era” for China last October. Viewed at first as a west­ernized hope for the com­munist country, Xi has made mil­itary and inter­na­tional infra­structure advances as he tries to expand China’s presence as a global power. Mean­while, his cit­izens suffer as the gov­ernment increases cen­sorship, detains and tor­tures dis­si­dents, and clamps down on reli­gious groups.

Chinese author­ities have shut down churches and imprisoned reli­gious leaders. The Falun Gong presents an egre­gious example of China’s abuses: 933 members of the innocuous spir­itual-exercise group were sen­tenced to as many as 12 years in prison between 2013 and 2016, Freedom House reported. The gov­ernment has detained and tor­tured Falun Gong members, and sub­stantial evi­dence exists that it har­vests their organs as well.

Moreover, China doesn’t  help North Korean cit­izens; it com­plained about a 2014 U.N. report that crit­i­cized North Korea’s human-rights record and tried to prevent U.N. Security Council ses­sions that intended to discuss the issue. A decade ago, China con­structed a barbed-wire fence to keep North Korean refugees away and has detained and deported many of those who made it in.

Perhaps these actions aren’t sur­prising since China is also North Korea’s largest trading partner — and though it has increased sanc­tions under inter­na­tional pressure, its com­mitment to fol­lowing through is dubious, a report from the Council on Foreign Rela­tions noted.

Ignoring China, then, isn’t just philo­soph­i­cally or morally incon­sistent with a harsh stance on North Korea — it’s prac­ti­cally incon­sistent, too. If we’re serious about helping victims of the North Korean regime, we start by demanding better behavior from China.

One North Korean refugee, Hyeonseo Lee, defected to China as a 17-year-old. There, she faced a brief arrest and even­tually fled the country, making her a refugee from what she thought would be a refuge.

“China should repeal its policy on repa­tri­ating defectors and dis­tance itself from such a brutal regime,” Lee wrote in The New York Times in 2016. “This would send a pos­itive message to the inter­na­tional com­munity and a stern warning to North Korea that lib­er­al­ization and other domestic reforms are needed to resolve the refugee crisis.”

Maybe we’re scared to condemn China because it’s our largest trading partner and lender — a nation that doesn’t threaten us with nuclear weapons but whose products are integral to our daily lives. Still, China’s per­sistent human rights abuses against its own cit­izens and its friend­liness with Pyongyang con­tradict the United States’ efforts to condemn, and even­tually end, North Korea’s oppressive regime.

There are more masks of good will and nor­malcy at inter­na­tional events like the Olympics than we’d like to admit. But let’s be con­sistent with our support for human rights and acknowledge the offenses of our trade partners.

Nicole Ault is a junior studying eco­nomics.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    I have been to China several times on business. While it is true they are not a ‘free’ society by our stan­dards it’s wrong to suggest they come any­thing close to North Korea. North Korea really is a facist society by any def­i­n­ition. Harsh penalties including the death sen­tence are handed out com­monly. China is nothing like that to the average Chinese citizen. And China is becoming a freer society everyday, owing to the influence of the internet, foreign tourists and vis­itors, etc.. North Korea is a closed and stagnant society.