With US cities in flames over outrage about police brutality, nations that are usually on the receiving end of Washington’s criticism on human rights are gleefully turning the tables. The turn of events has left Washington red faced, as US foes capitalize on protests erupting after the death of George Floyd and initiate political point scoring.
Condemnation of the US record on race came from China, which days earlier faced US counter-measures for tightening controls on Hong Kong, as well as Iran, where officials have been slapped with US sanctions for suppressing protests in November.
The United States is experiencing some of its worst riots in 50 years with dozens of cities under curfews following the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who pleaded “I can’t breathe” as a white police officer pinned him under his knee for nearly nine minutes.
US foes capitalize on protests: China flays US for ‘chronic racism’
Chinese state media has latched on to the ongoing unrest in the United States, condemning the violence and the ‘double standards’ of the US when dealing with racism and protests in its own borders. Seeing as China promises retaliation over Hong Kong, the state media, run by the Communist Party, has unleashed a flurry of attacks on the United States.
Top Chinese Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said in a commentary on Sunday evening that the U.S. move to slap sanctions on Hong Kong is nothing but a show of political posturing.
It highlighted that Washington announced those sanctions just as protests were escalating stateside, after the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by Minneapolis police. The paper questioned why the U.S. was “complaining about others” and “attacking” them instead of focusing on its own problems.
The commentary also noted that U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic have hit a new high.
In Beijing, Zhao also seized on ongoing anti-racism protests in the US to accuse the US of hypocrisy, calling racism “a chronic disease of American society”.
Washington’s response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police was a “textbook example of its world-famous double standards”, Zhao said.
“Why does the US lionize the so-called Hong Kong independence and black violence elements as heroes and activists, while calling people who protest against racism ‘rioters’?” Zhao asked.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying took aim at Washington on Saturday.
"I can't breathe." pic.twitter.com/UXHgXMT0lk
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) May 30, 2020
“I can’t breathe,” she said on Twitter, with a screenshot of a tweet by US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus that had criticised China’s policy in Hong Kong.
The US Department of Defense said that around 5,000 National Guard troops had been mobilized in 15 states as well as the capital, with another 2,000 on standby.
Iran foreign ministry tweets about Floyd protests
After being repeatedly broadsided by Washington’s incendiary regime-change rhetoric, Tehran is now returning the favor. Iran’s Foreign Ministry seems to be urging Americans to “rise up” against their government.
The ministry tweeted out a photograph of a black demonstrator, fist in the air, standing defiantly in front of a group of riot police. The image is accompanied by a quote from civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
— Iran Foreign Ministry 🇮🇷 (@IRIMFA_EN) June 1, 2020
This tweet comes after the string of protests in the US, to urge the government to take strict action against the police officer that killed George Floyd.
This isn’t the first time that Iran has ribbed the Trump administration over ongoing protests across the US.
As nationwide anger grew over the police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called out the US for its human rights record, artfully editing a State Department press release about alleged injustices in Iran to make his point.
US castigates China, Iran and Zimbabwe for ‘taking pleasure’ from unrest
Trump’s national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, criticized Chinese officials for “taking some sort of pleasure and solace in what they’re seeing here.”
Americans seeking redress are “not going to be thrown in jail for peaceful protesting. There’s a difference between us and you,” he told ABC News.
Many demonstrations have been peaceful but activists have accused police of using excessive force in a number of incidents and a man was killed early Monday in Louisville, Kentucky.
Earlier, Pompeo took aim at Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif’s tweet lionizing the protests across the country.
You hang homosexuals, stone women and exterminate Jews. pic.twitter.com/eip0bu8RIL
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 30, 2020
O’Brien also singled out Zimbabwe among “our foreign adversaries” that may be relishing the scenes in the United States.
Zimbabwe — which has faced US criticism over violently dispersing protests as well as British-led pressure over its seizures of white-owned farms — summoned the US ambassador to protest O’Brien’s remarks.
As US foes capitalize on protests, they are criticised for diverting attention
As US foes capitalize on protests, observers say that they do not have a sterling human rights record either.
Activists say China is detaining at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in a vast network of brainwashing camps.
In the commercial hub of Guangzhou, African residents said that police forcibly evicted them this year from accommodation and that they were refused service at shops and restaurants as part of a coronavirus scare.
In Iran, a lawmaker on Monday acknowledged that 230 people died in last year’s protests triggered by a fuel price hike, although outside groups say the number was far higher.
“Like every country, America has never been perfect when it comes to human rights. Far from it,” said Rob Berschinski, senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First.
“But the fact that a human rights advocate like me can say this openly is what differentiates the United States and other free countries from countries like China and Iran,” he said.
“When the Chinese and Iranian governments criticize demonstrations in America, they’re doing so to distract from their own records, not because they care about racial injustice.”
Berschinski, who served at the State Department under president Barack Obama, said nonetheless that Trump hurt the cause, including by calling on Twitter for the shooting of looters.
“When American citizens are brutalized by our police and national leaders like President Trump promote violence, of course America’s ability to speak credibly on human rights abroad is harmed,” he said.
Unrest also prompts ‘gentle criticism’ from allies
Solidarity protests have taken place in US friends including Britain, Ireland and New Zealand. Allied governments have spoken in general terms about US police brutality, without criticizing Trump.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the violence “very alarming” and voiced concern over the arrests of journalists, including at least one British national.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that US police should show restraint “as in any other country in the world” and that police worldwide need human rights training.
Trump, who advocates a go-it-alone “America First” approach, has long brushed aside foreign critiques.
But in a leaked tape of a meeting Monday with governors, he complained that “the whole world was laughing” — because police did not respond forcefully enough.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk