A violent demonstration was staged in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 local time, when some protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol and forcibly stopped a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
During the incident, four protesters died. On the other day, a U.S. Capitol Police officer lost his life due to injuries caused amid the violence at the Capitol.
While taking powerful measures to suppress such protests at home, the U.S. has no problem with violent demonstrations happening in other countries and regions.
In total disregarded of the chaos and social unrest, disturbance in and destruction of normal social order, threats and harm to personal and property safety, as well as attacks on and damage to public transportation, government buildings and facilities and the safety of officials caused by violent protests, the U.S. described rioters’ savage acts of violence and vandalism in China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as “a beautiful sight to behold”.
Some human rights officials and experts with international organizations and certain Western media outlets have simply adhered to a “politically correct” approach to demonstrations, especially when they happen in developing countries including China.
It looks like they believe civil groups are always right and their attacks on the government are always justified.
It seems to them that human rights could be used as a tool and weapon to attack and criticize the government of other countries at any time, an extreme view in violation of legal logic and the rule of law.
Human rights are not supposed to be a slogan or a simple political label, as they have legal connotations and boundaries of rights, obligations and responsibilities.
Human rights, the rule of law, and development are important criteria for assessing the process of social development.
Respecting and protecting human rights are the essential pursuit of the rule of law, as well as the intrinsic goal of development.
The evolution of human rights couldn’t be separated from the actual conditions of a country or the support and guarantee of the rule of law.
The long-lasting and large-scale social turmoil brought about by the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in Hong Kong was targeted at the political system and government of Hong Kong, directly spoiled the political, social and economic order in the region, and threatened the national unity and security of China.
The violent protesters assaulted Hong Kong residents and tourists from the Chinese mainland, obstructed the police in enforcing the law and in saving individuals under attack and shops that were either smashed, burned or robbed, directly attacked the police and snatched their equipment, including guns, besieged government departments, blocked traffic, examined and attacked passing vehicles, occupied universities for a long time and even stormed the Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong.
No law-based society can tolerate such act of directly, grossly and severely violating the law.
The Hong Kong government and police department bore a great deal of pressure, and maintained great patience and exercised considerable restraint when faced with groundless accusations from the U.S. and some other Western countries as well as certain human rights officials and experts with international organizations amid the violent protests.
The U.S., which advocates unilateralism and long-arm jurisdiction, even passed a bill to impose sanctions against Chinese officials over Hong Kong, seriously interfering in the internal affairs of China, undermining the sovereignty of China, and harming the legal rights and interests of Chinese institutions, enterprises and citizens.
Although the recent violent demonstration in Washington, D.C. didn’t last long, it provoked intense response from different circles in the U.S.
Many American politicians have made remarks to criticize the illegality and intolerability of the incident.
Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary in the Trump administration, condemned the violence in strong terms in a statement and stressed that those that broke the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, called the incident “an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people”. Ironically, she was the same person that described the violent demonstrations in Hong Kong “a beautiful sight to behold”.
The American government has arrested a large number of protesters and intends to press charges against them. In response to such a violent demonstration at home, it has taken a firm stand, acted promptly and decisively and inflicted harsh punishment, nothing like what they felt about similar incidents in other countries.
Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire, as a Chinese saying goes. The wisdom and values behind the saying are echoed by the Golden Rule in philosophy, a principle found in most cultures that one should treat others as he or she wants to be treated.
The U.S. has obviously adopted double standard on discriminating between violent demonstrations in America and other countries, and shown entirely different attitudes towards similar incidents in different countries and regions.
In the information age, countries are faced with new governance opportunities and challenges.
They should continue improving and ensuring human rights under the spirits and framework of the rule of law.
Countries should treat all members of the international community out of a sense of responsibility and respect the right of people from different countries to independently choose their own development path.
International law has specified the doctrine of estoppel, which precludes a country from asserting something contrary to what is implied by a previous action or statement of that country or by a previous pertinent judicial determination and requires it to adopt the same legal logic for the same legal issue.
A person will never build himself in the society without credibility; it is the same with a country.
Legal logic matters, especially to issues concerning democracy and human rights. Officials from the U.S. and some other Western countries, as well as people who are used to looking at developing countries with prejudice need to pay attention to legal logic, respect the rule of law, and keep consistent in applying rules.
(The author Liu Huawen is the executive director of the Center for Human Rights Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as well as deputy director of the Institute of International Law under the CASS.)