After the Newtown shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, China was closely monitoring the aftermath and the media storm on gun control and the causes leading up to this grizzly tragedy in Connecticut. This coverage emphasized the number of guns used and the bloody trail left by Adam Lanza, who took so many lives with his mother's legally acquired assault rifle and handguns.
During this same period, China suffered its own tragedy in one of its elementary schools, where a deranged man went into a school and stabbed nearly two dozen students. However, the lesson the Chinese learned was that their system was better than the U.S., because they don't allow normal citizens to own modern guns.
The problem is that China, like the U.S., has also witnessed a string of incidences where mentally troubled individuals have entered schools and injured and sometimes killed students and staff over the past few years. More importantly, China cannot claim to be superior when it doesn't have a bill of rights that give us our essential liberties, including the freedom of speech and the freedom from unwarranted searches of our homes from the government.
The gun-related calamity in Newtown was poignant for China, as during this same time period, a 36 year old man, named Min Yingjun, went into a elementary school in Chengping, a city in Henan Province, and stabbed 22 children with a knife. No children were killed as a result, though many of these children were rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment.
The reaction may surprise some people. While most Chinese people express their condolences for the family of the Newtown shooting victims, many in China tout the superiority of China's legal system and its ban on civilian ownership of firearms.
On Weibo, China's version of Twitter, many netizens expressed pride in the fact that by banning gun ownership among regular citizens, the incidents of violence, like the one in the school in Chengping, had minimal loss of life.
One user said: "[The U.S.] should learn from [China] and adopt gun control" by banning civilian ownership of any and all firearms.
Another one noted: "When I see these democratic elites [in America] pretending to condemn the murderer, it seems absurd. You are the people who sustain the gun policy. You are also the people who condemn the shooter."
Perhaps most audacious of all the comments was this post: "As the ‘free, democratic, human-rights-based’ land of heaven, the one that has lectured other countries everyday for a hundred years about ‘freedom, democracy, and human rights,’ even to the point of armed intervention, America should calm down and examine its own gun-control policy."
The official state media, Xinhua, has also pushed the U.S. to adopt stricter gun control laws. Xinhua directed a lecture-style at the U.S. stating that "[The] blood and tears [of the Newtown shooting victims and their families] demand no delay for U.S. gun control."
At the same time, there are many citizenry who are frustrated with the fact that Chinese media has persistently downplayed the somber tragedy in Chengping and the fact that Chinese leaders seem to ignore the incident altogether during their public appearances.
In a Weibo post, a Chinese netizen noted:
"In the face of Henan children suffering harm, did our country’s leaders shed a tear!? Why is it that when this kind of incident happens, they always pretend to be deaf and mute!? I’m not saying that our leaders have to be like Obama shedding tears, but can we at least be like others in facing the incident? Instead of the mainstream media not even covering it, hiding it, attempting to avoid it every time the country has a 'special incident.'"
When President Obama addressed the nation, he shed a few tears to demonstrate his strong empathy for the victims of the Newtown shooting, their families and all those people were were heartbroken by this tragedy.
The problem with the assertions of superiority in China is that there have been multiple public incidents of violence in or near Chinese elementary schools during the past few years. Between 2010-2012, there have been a total of seven attacks against children and adults near or in schools, resulting in the deaths of 12 children and 4 adults along with 65 children and adults wounded by mentally trouble individuals. Many of these attackers in China had mental problems like Adam Lanza and they were not getting proper treatment by the public health system in China, which was being misused by politicians and the elites to silence critics and opponents.
What's more, China is also one of East Asia's top small arms exporters with the fastest growth rate. From 2000 to 2006, small arms exports from China increased by 1815%.
In short, China cannot claim its superiority with gun control and public safety when their schools are being attacked by mentally trouble individuals — who are not being properly treated by the public health system — and when their gun industry exports so many guns on the global market. In fact, China should look at how it treats its mentally ill population and how it protects its children while they attend school with their teachers.
In China it's illegal for a civilian to own a firearm, but there are still multiple incidents of gun-related violence in China from illegal guns. It's also illegal for a citizen to speak against the government and its policies as many citizens are routinely detained and punished for speaking out.
The reason for this state of affairs is in large part due to the fact that the Chinese people have no real protection under their so-called "bill of rights." The Chinese Constitution, adopted in 1982, has stood as the primary legal document for governance in China for 30years, with a bill of rights in Chapter 2 that promises to protect the freedom of the Chinese people. Yet during this time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has not honored the social contract implied from this document.
While the constitution says that freedom of speech and religion are sacred, often times they are not treated as such when such actions and practices under the two are perceived as a threat to the CCP's grip on the country.
The fundamental freedoms of the U.S. don't exist in China — whether it's regarding gun ownership or speaking against unjust government actions — and the Chinese people ought to consider this before criticizing the U.S.
What's ironic about this is that there are still many gun-related incidents in China, which are caused by illegal guns made in underground shops and through black market deals involving legitimate gun manufacturers — which are sometimes seized by government raids and investigations. According to gunpolicy.org, there are approximately 40 million guns in civilian hands in China despite the fact that civilian gun ownership is strictly prohibited by the Chinese government.
Therefore one may reasonably say that China is in no position to criticize the U.S. on how it handles gun control, much less to presume that it has any right to "lecture" us on how we should copy the Chinese model when some of the basic human freedoms aren't protected by the Chinese government.
The U.S. is far from being perfect and there is a need to examine the efficacy of our gun control laws given the many tragic incidents — like the Newtown shooting — and how effectively we treat our mentally trouble population, but our country is a free one that allows us to speak and live in a manner that is a shining example to the world.
China would be better off if they tried to work with the U.S. to figure out how we can give the mentally ill proper treatment as a matter of public policy and how we can protect our schools against an armed attack so that our children and teachers can engage in the vital business of education in peace.