Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Human Rights in China"

The professor for my Human Rights in China class, after a long discussion in which he essentially argued that the prevalence and visibility of human rights abuses by individual American police officers excuses China's systematic political policy of abuses, has just announced that defense attorneys are essentially useless for criminal defendants, because all they do is negotiate plea bargains anyhow.

Then he suggested that the unavailability of defense lawyers and mandatory 3-year state "re-education" camps are particularly acceptable in the case of recidivist offenders of minor crimes, since they're impossible to rehabilitate otherwise. Indeed, he proposed that this system is actually less objectionable than California's Three Strikes law. He then wondered aloud whether the law was truly constitutional, without any knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, before a U.S. law student quickly and unambigiously explained why it is definitely constitutional. Trying a new tack, he claimed that Three Strikes was more onerous to defendants because "felonies" are defined so "flexibly." Yeah, having the definition of a felony rigidly laid out by statute is very flexible.

I could understand a China apologist who says that China is bad but improving, that there are legitimate culture and geopolitical reasons for its human rights posture. I could accept calls for patience, an expectation that change will come slowly, in fits and starts. But I am consistently dumbfounded by the theme of this course, which is essentially that other countries are bad too, so China is okay. The professor loooooves to cite to the famous NYPD shoot-an-unarmed-black-man-40-times incident, ad nauseum. He treats individual examples of police abuse as equivalent to national policies of repression. In class discussion, he encourages the largely international class to volunteer examples of human rights abuses perpetrated by their own home countries, so as to say, Look! Everyone's bad! He seems to have no problem with embracing the logical fallacy that, somehow, this makes China good.

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