The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002
Xinhua - April 3, 2003
The Information Office of the State Council on Thursday released a report
entitled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002."
Following is a summary of the document:
The US State Department released the "Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices for 2002" on March 31, when the United States is facing
condemnation from people of various countries in the world for
unilaterally launching a war against Iraq.
With the United States pretending to be "the world's judge of human
rights," the reports once again assessed the human rights situations in
over 190 countries and regions in the world.
The reports carry distorted pictures and accusations of human rights
conditions in China and other countries, but they mention not even a word
of the human rights problems in the United States itself.
Therefore, it is necessary to make known to the world the human rights
violations in the United States in 2002.
I. Ineffective Protection of Life and Security of Person
In American society, excessive violence has resulted in ineffective
protection of life and security of the person.
According to a report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) on Oct. 28, 2002, the United States recorded 11.8 million crime
offenses in 2001, a 2.1 percent increase over 2000.
The offenses included four violent crimes (murder and non-negligent
manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), and three
property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft).
Firearms were involved in 26.2 percent of violent crime cases, and murder
cases increased by 2.5 percent.
There was an offense in every 2.7 seconds, and there were 44 murders, 248
rapes and 26 hate crimes each day. Among the crime offences were 15,980
murders and 90,491 forcible rapes.
Crime in many major American cities went up in 2002. In Washington D.C.,
drug abuse, gang violence and prostitution ran rampant, and crime went up
by 36 percent from 2001; in Boston the crime rates increased by 67
percent, and in Los Angeles, by 27 percent.
The murder rate in the United States was five to seven times higher than
most industrial nations.
During January-November 2002, New York City reported 489 murder cases;
Chicago registered 485 homicide cases, in which 515 people were killed;
and Detroit reported 346 murders.
During the same period Los Angeles reported 595 murder cases with 614
people killed, up 11.3 percent and 20.5 percent compared to the same
period in 2001 and 2000, respectively (Los Angeles, Nov. 21, 2002, AFP).
The Constitution of the United States provides that the right of the
people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and the
constitutions of 44 states in the nation include provisions safeguarding
citizens' right to possess guns.
In the United States, guns owned by private individuals exceed 200
million, averaging nearly one for every citizen. In 2002, the numbers of
gun buyers across the United States went up by 13 percent to twice over
previous years, and the number of rifle owners increased even faster.
The National Rifle Association of the United States has over 2.8 million
members. Excessive gun ownership has led to frequent shootings, and
victims of firearms-related crime number more than 30,000 a year.
On March 26, a retired sheriff's deputy in Merced County, California,
shot and killed his 5-year-old daughter and his three stepchildren while
his estranged wife was out for a walk, then committed suicide with the
body of one of the youngsters in his arms.
On May 30, a gunman opened fire inside a grocery store at a Top Valu
Market near the downtown marina in Long Beach, California, killing a
woman and a 7-year-old girl and wounding four others before he was
fatally shot by police (Long Beach, California, May 31, 2002, AFP).
>From October 2 to October 22, serial gun shooting cases occurred in
Washington D.C. and neighboring Maryland and Virginia states, in which
ten people were killed and three others were seriously wounded.
The number of gun shootings went up by 40 percent in Los Angeles in 2002
over 2001. Between the evening of November 19 and the early morning of
November 20, five separate cases of gun shooting took place in downtown
Los Angeles, leaving two people dead and seven others wounded.
Crime rates among juveniles in the United States have remained high, with
youngsters accounting for 20 percent of violent crime.
Drug abuse among youngsters has kept increasing. Drug abuse among
tenth-grade high school students in the United States went up from 11.6
percent in 1991 to 22.7 percent in 2001, and 34.4 percent of senior high
school students in New York City have at least taken marijuana once.
In 2001, there were 638,000 narcotics-related cases, and drug abuse
accounted for 25 percent of violent crime in the United States.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, crime in schools decreased as
most schools have installed metal detectors and video cameras, but it was
reported that 6 percent of the students still carried guns to school.
Violence in schools such as bullying rose by 12 percent, and at least
10,000 students in the United States choose to stay at home once in a
month for fear of being bullied ("School Crime Decreasing, US Says, But
Students Still Fear Bullying, Reports Show", Dec. 10, 2002, Sun).
Violence in nursing homes for the aged in the United States is worrisome.
In March 2002, a report submitted to the US Congress said that inmates in
some of such homes had suffered splash of cold water, battery and sexual
However, such acts had never been regarded as crime, and most of them had
not been prosecuted. Statistics show that there are 17,000 homes for the
aged and similar institutions in the United States, housing 1.6 million
Violations of law have been found in about 26 percent of them, and two
percent of which have caused physical injuries.
II. Serious Human Rights Violation by Law Enforcement Officials
The rights of ordinary Americans have met with challenge after the
September 11 terrorist attacks. The anti-terrorism law USA Patriot Act,
which took effect on October 26, 2001, provides law enforcement agencies
with greater powers for investigation, including wiretapping of phone
calls and Internet E-mail communications by suspect terrorists.
A Federal Court of Appeals on November 18 ruled that the Department of
Justice asking for expanding its investigative powers is constitutional,
and therefore should not be restricted. It aroused great concern among
the American public that the DOJ would encroach upon their right of
privacy in its work.
Commenting on the court ruling, US House Judiciary Committee
Representative John Conyers said in a statement the same day, "Piece by
piece, this Administration is dismantling the basic rights afforded to
every American under the Constitution." Some civil rights and electronic
information organizations worried that there would have no effective
protection of civil rights after the ruling.
Police brutality is a chronic malady in American society. On July 6,
2002, a bystander videotaped a scene in which several white police
officers at Inglewood, Los Angeles, slammed the head of a handcuffed
16-year-old black, named Donovan Jackson, on a squad car and punched him
in his eyes, neck and hands. Afterwards, one police officer involved was
ordered a paid leave. In contrast, the man who filmed the videotape was
detained on July 10.
In another incident, on July 8, Oklahoma City police officers repeatedly
beat a black suspect on the ground with their batons. The suspect was
pepper-sprayed twice. On September 16, police in Boston shot at a suspect
car hijacker in the downtown area and wounded him seriously. The incident
led to a mass demonstration against police brutality.
Indiscriminate arrests are another serious problem in the United States.
According to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU), prosecutors declined to bring charges in 15,798 arrests in 2001,
or 26 percent of the 60,412 cases they reviewed that year, the vast
majority brought by Baltimore police.
In 2002 the number of monthly arrests increased by 15 percent over the
previous year to 7,832. Prosecutors declined to charge in24 percent of
the cases. Two-thirds of the cases they dropped were dropped on the day
of arrest because they could not be proved in court (May 9, 2002, Sun).
Within half a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the FBI
detained for security reasons more than 1,200 non-US nationals, mainly
men from Muslim or Middle Eastern countries (Washington, Dec.10, 2002,
EFE). Most of them were detained for overstaying their visas, and
according to rules the detention should last for no more than 48 hours.
However, many were actually held in custody for a month or more, or even
up to 50 days.
While in custody, they were deprived of their basic rights -- making
phone calls, access to a lawyer, family visits, being informed of the
reasons for the detention, or challenging the lawfulness of the
They were let out for exercise and air less than an hour a day. Many were
handcuffed, and some were even bundled. Those falling ill could not get
timely medical treatment.
In many cases torture was used to extract confessions, and unjust charges
were often reported in the United States. According to a Reuters report
on February 11, 2002, US authorities confirmed that over 200 inmates had
been wrongly convicted since 1973; among them 99 inmates on death row had
been proved innocent, but most of them had not got compensations
(Washington, Feb.11, 2002, Reuters).
Ray Krone walked out an Arizona courtroom a free man in April 2002 after
spending 10 years and three months in prison, with more than two years in
the death cell (USA Today, June 18, 2002). Yet, he could hardly obtain
any compensation from the state government in accordance with state laws.
A black man in Detroit, named Eddie Joe Lloyd, served a term of 17 years,
three months and five days in jail on a charge of raping and murdering a
teenage girl before he was freed in August 2002 (New York Times, Aug. 27,
The wrong verdicts are closely related to confessions from innocent
people extracted by police. According to an ABC (American Broadcasting
Company) news report on March 15, 2002, every year thousands of criminals
are convicted on the basis of confessions obtained from police
Also according to the ABC news report, in 1993, Gary Gauger, a man in
Illinois, was forced to confess he had killed his parents, a crime he did
not commit, when he broke down after 21 hours of police interrogation. He
was then sentenced to death for double murder. Two years later, the real
killers confessed to the crime in an unrelated federal investigation.
Gauger was freed in 1996, after spending three years behind bars.
The United States is one of the few countries to impose capital
punishment on child offenders and mentally ill people in the world.
Twenty-three US states permit the execution of child offenders (under 18
at the time of the crime). Two thirds of the executions of child
offenders over the past decade worldwide were carried out in the United
Since 1985, 18 child offenders had been executed, half of them in Texas
State (May 9, 2002, EFE). The executions in 2002 also included three
child offenders and one mentally ill man. There were 80 child offenders
on death row, and the figure in the case of the mentally retarded was
estimated to be around 200 to 300. (The Amnesty International)
Prisons in the United States are jam-packed with inmates. According to a
report of the Bureau of Justice Statistics under the Department of
Justice released on August 25, 2002, the adult US correctional population
reached a record of almost 6.6 million at the end of 2001, or fourfold of
the 1980 figure. About 3.1 percent of the nation's adult population, or 1
in every 32 adult residents, were on probation or parole or were held in
a prison or jail. Roughly two million Americans are currently behind
In a report titled "A stigma that never fades", the British business
magazine Economist said that America is "the world's most aggressive
jailer", and "when local jails are included in the American tally, the
United States locks up nearly 700 people per 100,000". (The Economist,
August 10, 2002)
Poor management of prisons leads to lack of protection of inmates'
legitimate rights. Extortion, abuse, violence and sexual assault are
serious in prisons of the United States.
An Amnesty International report released on May 14, 2002 said inmate
Frank Valdes at the Florida State Prison was beaten to death by guards in
July 1999. Autopsy reports proved massive injuries, including 22 broken
ribs and a fractured sternum, nose and jaw, and there were boot marks on
his face, neck, abdomen and back.
The three guards involved were charged of second-degree murder in 1999.
But the Florida State prosecutors decided in February 2002 to drop the
According to reports of US human rights organizations, brutalities
targeted at inmates number about 100,000 a year in American prisons. A
former chief law officer of Virginia State estimated the number of such
brutalities to be at least 250,000 oras many as 600,000 a year.
Sexual assaults between male inmates are prominent in the prisons. Most
of such assaults are coupled with the use of force, causing spread of HIV
virus and physical and mental injuries on victims. The prison and
judicial departments remain indifferent towards such complaints and take
no punishment measures.
The Sun newspaper reported on August 31, 2002, the Baltimore City
Detention Center has a poorly run system of health care and suicide
prevention. In some cases, the problems resulted in jail suicides, heart
attack deaths and fatal asthma spasms that federal authorities deemed
preventable if the inmates had been properly treated.
In another case, a fire killed eight inmates locked in cells in Mitchell
County jail in North Carolina and injured 13 others. The prison authority
blamed lack of water sprinklers for the tragedy.
III. Money-driven Democracy
Boasting itself to be the "model of democracy", the United States has
been trying hard to sell to the world its mode of democracy.
In fact, American "democracy" has always been democracy of the rich, a
small number of the population. Just as an article in the International
Herald Tribute of the January 24, 2002 issue says, "The American problem
is domination of politics by money."
The dominant role of money in American politics has been very obvious,
and elections have in fact been turned into races of money.
During the midterm elections in 2002, spending on campaigning TV
advertising amounted to US$900 million, surpassing that for the
presidential election in 2000.
According to an analysis made by the Associated Press based of data from
the Federal Election Commission, in the 2002 midterm elections 95 percent
of the seats in the House of Representatives and 75 percent of the seats
in the Senate went to candidates who had spent the most in campaigning.
In a report filed on August 30, 2002, AP said President George W. Bush,
in order to win control of the House and the Senate, cashed in on his
cachet to raise donations for midterm elections of his Republicans, and
collected US$110 million for three GOP candidates in Oklahoma and
Arkansas, setting records in campaign cash raising ("Bush raises nearly
$110 million for Republicans, setting record", Aug. 30, 2002, Sun).
Election of judges in the United States is also like a race of money. In
the year of 2000, judge candidates in only two states bought TV
advertising, whereas during the midterm elections in 2002, chief justice
candidates in nine states bought TV commercials.
"Money politics" has made more and more American people lose interest in
Statistics show the United States has experienced declining voter turnout
in presidential election years for about four decades.
Measured against the voting age population, turnout in presidential
election years fell from its high of 62.8 percent in 1960 to an estimated
51.2 percent in 2000.
In contrast, 60 percent of eligible voters shunned the midterm elections
in 2002, leaving the voter turnout at 40 percent.
A survey of minority voters in three cities of California showed almost
all the surveyed were fed up with the fact that money can buy over
politics and were not interested in political participation.
Asian American voters reckon money had too much influence over politics,
which is unfair; African Americans and Hispanics felt being shut out of
the door of politics and had become its victims.
The United States has been flaunting its "freedom of the press," but it
met with criticism from many sides in 2002 in this respect.
In an annual report published on Feb. 21, 2002, the International Press
Institute accused the United States of violating freedom of the press and
said it is the most astonishing event of 2001 that the way the Bush
administration treated the work of the media during the Afghan war and
the practices of the Bush administration attempting to suppress freedom
of speech by independent media (Vienna, Feb. 21, 2002, AFP).
Two senior journalists with the Washington Post wrote in their book
entitled "The News About The News: American Journalism In Peril" that
practices of pursuing profits have destroyed the sense of mission of the
journalistic community of the United States, and believed an overwhelming
majority of media owners and publishing businessmen forced newspaper
editors and TV news executives to concentrate on profits as opposed to
quality of coverage (New York, March 29, 2002, AP).
In its annual report published on May 2, 2002, Reporters Without Borders
exposed since September 11 attacks, the United States has exerted
pressure on the journalistic community in the war against terrorism,
which has restricted freedom of the press (Paris, May 2, 2002, EFE).
On August 6, 2002, a major news organ in the United States published a
survey showing the public wanting the media to "shut up".
The survey found among the respondents, 69 percent believe the media is
biased, and over two thirds of them read news reports with disbelief.
IV. Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness
The United States is the only superpower in the world, however, the poor,
hungry and homeless have formed a "Third World" in this most developed
nation, owing to the widening gap in wealth between the rich and the poor
and social injustice.
In the last two years, a series of scandals of major corporate fraud were
exposed in the United States, resulting in a credibility crisis and
financial losses, which has deprived ordinary Americans of a sense of
economic security due to the serious losses they suffered. The Labor
Department of the United States reported on January 10, 2003 that between
2001 and 2002, the United States lost 1.6 million jobs. In December 2002,
the country's unemployment rate was six percent; the number of jobless
people stood at 8.6 million; and employers slashed payrolls by 101,000
workers (Jan. 11, 2003, Sun).
In the United States, 60 percent of households own stock shares. As
corporate fraud scandals brought down the stock market, its
capitalization was slashed by US$2.5 trillion, with the employees of the
affected big firms and their shareholders suffering great losses. Since
energy giant Enron filed for bankruptcy protection, its stock price
plunged from US$85 a share to less than US$1 a share. Millions of Enron
stockholders have suffered enormous losses. A large number of Enron
employees lost all their pension funds, while teachers, firefighters and
some government workers lost US$1 billion in pensions.
WorldCom's filing for bankruptcy also plunged its stock share price to a
few cents from US$62; 17,000 of its employees became jobless, while
investors had their interests severely damaged (June 26, 2003, Sun).
The gap in wealth between rich and poor has become even wider. The US
Federal Reserve reported on January 22, 2003 that between1992 and 1998,
the gap in wealth between the 10 percent of families with the highest
incomes and the 20 percent of families with the lowest incomes increased
by 9 percent, but between 1998 and 2001, the gap jumped by 70 percent.
The Washington Post reported on September 24, 2002 that the top20 percent
residents with highest income in the United States accounted for 50
percent of the total income of the country, while the share of the
richest 5 percent (with an annual income of US$150,000 and above) in the
national total went up from 22.1 percent in 2000 to 22.4 percent in 2001.
Poverty and hunger have kept increasing. According to the Census Bureau
of the United States, in 2001, another 1.3 million people fell below the
poverty line; in 2002, the poor population continued growing.
According to the American organization Bread for the World,, 33million
Americans lived in households that experience hunger or the risk of
hunger in 2002. The newspaper USA Today reported that the nation's
estimated 3 million homeless had harder times in 2002,as authorities
reduced assistance to them and tough laws were passed against them (USA
Today, Dec. 27, 2002).
A survey report published by the US Conference of Mayors indicates that
the year 2002 witnessed an average of 19 percent increase in requests for
emergency food assistance in 25 large cities in the country, and also an
average of 19 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter
assistance in 18 major cities, the steepest rise in a decade.
And all the cities in the survey expect that requests for both emergency
food assistance and shelter assistance would increase again in 2003.
Boston Mayor and President of the US Conference of Mayors Thomas M.
Menino commented, "The world's richest and most powerful nation must find
a way to meet the basic needs of all its residents."
The Associate Press reported on November 3, 2002 that 777,000 people in
Los Angeles, or 33 percent of its population, were food insecure and
could not always afford to put food on the table. By July 2002,
homelessness in New York grew by 66 percent compared with four years ago
(Aug. 20, 2002, AP). In 2002, Los Angeles County alone had 84,000
homeless people, and every night, 43 percent of 9,000-15,000 vagrants
could not find shelters and had to sleep on downtown sidewalks.
According to statistics by relevant American organizations, the current
homelessness situation in the United States has become nearly as severe
as at the end of World War II. Most vulnerable to poverty and hunger are
pregnant women, the aged, people without ID, and single-parent families.
The report by the US Conference of Mayors indicates that among those
requesting for emergency food assistance, 48 percent were members of
families with children; 38 percent of the adults requesting such
assistance were employed; of the homeless, 39 percent were from families
with children, 22 percent were employed, and 73 percent were from
V. Women and Children Are in Worrisome Situation
Discrimination against women is common in the United States. USA Today
reported on January 6, 2003 that women hold merely 14 percent of seats in
Congress. According to a survey report released by researchers at Rutgers
university, discrimination against ethnic minorities was found in one
third of business firms in the United States, and discrimination against
women was reported in one fourth of 200,000 firms. In hospitals, shops,
restaurants and bars, women of African, Latin American and Asian descent
made up 70 percent of those who have been hurt.
American women are likely to become victims of crimes and violence. A
study report published by the Harvard School of Public Health on April
17, 2002 said that American females are at the highest risk of murder,
and the US female homicide victimization rate is 5 times that of all the
other high income countries combined. The United States accounts for 70
percent of all female homicides in the 25 high income countries, and
4,400 American females are murdered each year, with about half by
American women are also likely to become victims of sexual assaults. In
2002, several scandals of sexual assaults on women by clergies were
exposed. According to reports, over the past five years, in Arizona,
Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin, a
number of faith healing-related sexual assaults were exposed, with some
faith healers found to have raped women during the therapy.
Police and public prosecutors believe that hundreds of women in Los
Angeles and other places were sexually abused when they sought help from
faith healers (March 13, 2002, L.A. Times). Agence France Presse (AFP)
reported that a survey conducted by researchers at St. Louis University
in 1996 but kept under wraps after completion shows that about 40 percent
of American Catholic nuns (nearly 35,000) have been sexually abused,
often at the hands of a priest or another nun. (Jan. 5, 2003, Washington,
American children often fall victim to domestic violence, social crimes,
their parents' divorces, and abandonment. According to a study published
by researchers at Harvard University in 2002,in American states and
regions with high gun ownership, children have more chances to be
murdered, to commit suicide or to meet accidental death. Between 1988 and
1997, a total of 6,817 children, aged 5-14, were shot to death in the 50
states of the United States (Boston, Feb. 28, 2002, Reuters).
Young girls missing and the kidnapping of children are frequent.
Statistics show that in the United States, 58,000 children were kidnapped
by people other than their families each year, and 40 percent of them
were slain in the end. Another 200,000 children were kidnapped by their
family members, mostly for the right of custody (Washington, Aug. 6,
2002, Xinhua News Agency).
In 2002, a series of scandals of sexual assaults on children by Catholic
clergies were exposed. An article titled "Sins of the Fathers" published
by the Newsweek magazine on March 4, 2002 reported that the
child-sexual-abuse settlements may have cost the American church US$1
billion during the 1986-1996 period. Some 80 priests have been accused of
sexually abusing children, with one said to have assaulted more than 100
children over the past 40 years.
The Sun newspaper reported on April 29, 2002 that there were 46,000
priests in the United States, and in the past 18 years at least 1,500 had
been charged (Sun, Apr. 29, 2002). According to the newspaper Christian
Science Monitor, the targets of sex-related crimes committed by American
clergies were mostly children, and since 1985 over 70 clergies and
priests were imprisoned for molestation of children (Christian Science
Monitor, March 21, 2002).
Many children have encountered serious difficulties in their life,
medical treatment and education, and many of them have not received
parental love and care. According to a report published by the Public
Policy Institute of California in November 2002, 20 percent of
Californian children aged under 5 years live in poverty, compared with
the national average of 15 percent. The New York Times reported last July
that the proportion of American children who grow up in parentless
families is increasing, from the previous 7.5 percent to the present 16.1
The non-governmental Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children
says in its 2002 report that nearly 5,000 children were detained every
year by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for entering the
United States illegally. Their average age is 15 years, with the youngest
only one and a half years.
Most of these children did not have other criminal records except illegal
entry. However, over 30 percent of these children were commingled with
young offenders, handcuffed and shackled, sent to prisons or detained in
warehouses with very poor safety conditions.
VI. Deep-rooted Racial Discrimination
Racial discrimination is deep-rooted in the United States. Senate
Republican leader Trent Lott had repeatedly made remarks supporting
racial segregation during his political life. He had tried by every means
to prevent the Congress from passing a bill on establishing the birthday
of Martin Luther King, a murdered civil rights leader of the blacks, as a
On December 5, 2002, when attending a 100th birthday party for Sen. Strom
Thurmond from South Carolina, who ran for the presidency in 1948 as a
segregationist candidate, Lott said that the United States would be
better off if Strom Thurmond had won the presidency that year. Lott's
remarks triggered strong reaction of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In the end, Lott quitted his post as Senate Republican leader under the
pressure of public opinion ("Black Caucus unforgiving after Lott's
apology" by William M. Welch, Dec. 11 2002, USA Today).
For more than 100 years between 1862 and 1965, the United States had
enforced a law restricting immigrants from Asia and forbidding marriage
between immigrants of Asian descent and white people. Many states
nullified the law in the 1940s-1960s, but it is still in effect in the
states of New Mexico and Florida.
Racial discrimination is serious in law enforcement. According to a study
by the Justice Policy Institute of the United States, blacks constitute
only 12.9 percent of America's total population, but black prisoners
account for 46 percent of the total in jail in the nation; approximately
one in every five blacks is jailed for some time during his or her life.
The number of blacks in jail is greater than that of blacks at college.
In 2000, about 800,000 blacks were in jail, compared with only 600,000
blacks registered in institutions of higher learning. Among the new
inmates put in prison since 1980, people of African and Latin American
descent have accounted for 70 percent.
The Sun newspaper reported on Jan. 8, 2003 that defendants who kill white
people are significantly more likely to be charged with capital murder
and sentenced to death than are killers of non-whites, and a black