Archive for the ‘China’ Category


China’s persecution of the Uighurs continues unabated

Two or so years ago, we had not heard of the Uighurs but since then, more and more evidence has emerged about what has become arguably the world’s worst example of attempted cultural genocide.  In an editorial in the 17 October 2020 edition of the Economist, they suggest it is ‘the gravest example of a world-wide attack on human rights and a crime against humanity’.

Since 1989, the fate of the Uighurs has deteriorated markedly.  Around a million are incarcerated in what are claimed to be ‘vocational education and training centres.’  It is hard to think of other such centres around the world which feel the need to surround themselves with high concrete walls, coils of razor wire and watch towers.  Inside, they are forced to learn Chinese and Xi Jinping thought.  They are Sunni Muslims but if when asked ‘do you believe in God?’ they answer ‘yes’, they are beaten.  

According to the Economist, new evidence suggests that thousands of their children have been separated from their parents.  If they speak their own language they are punished.  Women are urged to marry Han Chinese men and receive rewards if they do.  Another tactic according to the BBC World Service, is placing a Chinese man inside their homes as ‘house guests’.  

The persecution of the Uighurs is now widely known around the world.  Initially, the Chinese denied the existence of the camps and then changed the story once some details became known.  Outsiders are not allowed in and few images have emerged except posed photographs and films produced by the government.  The lack of images has reduced the impact as people respond to images and footage – written reports and verbal testimony have much less impact. The wider issue of human rights is discussed by Amnesty and includes details of torture, attacks on human rights defenders, a legal system under control of the party and excessive use of surveillance. 

Lack of protest

One of the curious features of this scandal however is the lack of protest from other Muslim nations.  Why aren’t countries such as Indonesia, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan making more of a fuss?  Turkey is closely related to the Uighurs ethnically and their Turkic languages are linked, but it too is silent.  

Part of the reason is that China has used its enormous wealth to silence criticism.  Countries such as Pakistan are dependent on the Belt and Road initiative and has received tens of billions in loans from China.  It has just finalised a new loan of $11bn.  Turkey is also part of the Belt and Road project and has just signed a $1bn loan.  At one time it was a critic and then it changed its opinion.  Saudi – hardly a country with clean hands itself – has aligned itself more closely with China following the Khashoggi murder.  Mohammed bin Salman is quoted as saying:

China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism measures and act against extremists for its own security BBC World Service 20 July 2020

Other Muslim countries are also reluctant to speak up because of loans and economic dependence on China.  Apparently, about the only exception is Malaysia because it is well developed and less reliant on China.  The Economist article rightly argues that the West must speak up and expose this most egregious example of human rights abuse possibly since the Second World War when nations said ‘never again’ after the holocaust.  It suggests China’s regime is not immune to shame – why else would it go to such lengths to hide its activities?  Western companies should ensure for example that the goods they source from China are not made using forced Uighur labour. 

The situation is bleak however.  Last week, China, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia, was elected to the UN’s Human rights Council.  Truly the fox is in the henhouse. 

The UK government has supported an EU statement on the issue. 

Why is there no concerted international action?

There are several reasons:

  • The region of China, Xinjiang, is remote and largely unknown outside China and is therefore in a real sense, out of sight and out of mind
  • The West’s increasing dependence economically on China is a factor.  We rely on the country for much of our manufactures and for keeping inflation down.  British and other politicians have been all too keen to put business and trade ahead of human rights
  • China is highly resistant to listen to any criticism of what it regards as its internal affairs and western politicians are all to happy to go along with this and are reluctant to confront Chinese sensitivities
  • There is no charismatic individual to champion their cause.  It needs an individual who can speak for the nation and with whom, people in the West can identify
  • The lack of film or video evidence other than snatched pictures of concrete walls
  • Covid-19 is a huge distraction and consumes masses of time leaving little for other causes
  • China has been careful not to commit crimes of actual genocide.  It is not murdering millions by starvation or other means.  The oppression is real but there is no extermination
  • The oppressed are Muslims and anti-Muslim feeling is widespread in the West which results in low sympathy.  As we have noted, other Muslim nations have failed to criticism China’s oppression of fellow Muslims (in fact some support it), so why should we? 

This all adds up to a dangerous situation.  China’s increasingly muscular approach to world affairs should be a lot more worrying than it appears to be.  Their attempts to militarise the South China Sea by building whole islands; their increasing levels of threats and intimidation towards Taiwan; aggression along the border with India and clamping down on Hong Kong are some of the recent actions the Beijing has engaged in.  Sooner or later, Western governments are going to have to face up to the Chinese threat to human rights and call its bluff. 

The Economist does have a note of optimism however saying that ‘its propaganda has grown less effective’ as more evidence comes to light. 

Sources:  BBC World Service; HRW; The Economist; Amnesty International.  Further background from China Human Rights Defenders

See also the Grant Liberty website for an item on the Uighurs

 


Report on Amnesty Death penalty discussion

On 10 October 2020, the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty hosted a discussion with three people who are closely connected with the campaign to end the practice.  They were Kim Manning Cooper; Dr Bharat Malkani and Chiara Sangiorgio.  It was chaired by Paul Bridges.  It was a fascinating talk in which they discussed different aspects of how the death penalty works in the USA.  Amnesty has maintained a consistent policy of condemning the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.  It is fundamentally about human dignity.

Amnesty is also opposed to life sentences without the chance of parole.

USA

Much of the discussion focused on the miscarriages of justice in the USA.  The death penalty does not do what its proponents claim it does.  It does not deter violent crime.  States who do not use the penalty have some of the lowest murder rates in the Union.  It is expensive, with 724 people on death row in California alone, which has cost the state $4bn since 1978.  Mistakes are common and of course cannot be put right.  Since 1973, 170 prisoners on death row have been exonerated, a quite staggering level of error.  The One for Ten movement was referred to, which notes that for every ten people executed in the US, one has been exonerated and released, having spent, on average, ten years on death row.

Dr Malkani’s talk explored the effects on innocent people.  Following arrest for a crime they did not commit, there is a feeling of a sheer sense of disbelief.  Their first concern is for their loved ones.  How would they cope without them and if they have children, how will they handle school when everyone will know that their parent has been arrested for murder?  He mentioned the ‘ripple effect’ which results in trauma being felt among a wide community of individuals, not just the immediate family.

There follows a sense of hopelessness, realising that the might of the State is trying to kill you.  Next comes anger when you know you are innocent.  (No reference was made to the fact that that the US does not have the equivalent of PACE,  which requires evidence indicating innocence to be disclosed to the defence.  This evidence is often not disclosed with the aim of  a securing a conviction.)

Release

Dr Malkani went on to discuss the effects on people released after a long period of captivity.  Understandably, they want to return to their previous life, but they find this impossible as so much has changed both in society and in their families.  Their children have grown up without knowing them. It is also difficult to achieve a personal identity having spent the many years in captivity as just a number.  Now free, they are always described as someone who was on death row.

Because they were on death row, they received no training or attempts at rehabilitation since they were destined for execution.  The pace of modern technology meant the world was a completely different place.  There were no support systems in place.  There was also relationship breakdown after such long periods of separation.  Sadly, many die quite soon after their release.

Troy Davis

Kim Manning-Cooper spoke of the infamous Troy Davis case.  An off-duty policeman was murdered and a witness came forward claiming that Troy was the killer.  It now appears possible that the witness himself may have been the culprit.  There are too many irregularities to list but include witnesses who were threatened with being charged themselves, police statements signed by people who could not read or write, some witnesses were threatened by the police, no forensic or DNA evidence was submitted, and no gun was ever found.  An evidentiary hearing was held by the Supreme Court but ,despite the multiple failings in the prosecution case and some misgivings, the appeal failed and Davis was executed in September 2011.  His sister had campaigned tirelessly in his support.  Amnesty International campaigned for justice in the Davis case, a cause the Salisbury group took part in.

Kim said people often say ‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’.

‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’

This theme was developed by Dr Malkani.  The issue of race was built into the legal system in the USA he said.  It

Screenshot: Dr Bharat Malkani

dates back to the 13th amendment of the US Constitution which abolished slavery ‘except as a punishment for a crime’.  When lynchings ended in the 1920’s, executions skyrocketed, as evidenced by the  Death Penalty Information Center.  The bias extended to the prosecution process, with district attorneys unwilling to prosecute a black person murdered by a white but all too willing to prosecute the other way around.   Some members of juries in the state of Georgia are quoted as saying ‘black people have no souls’.  Many murders of black people remain unsolved.  Only 21 white people have been executed for killing a black person but 296 black people for killing a white person.

Finally, he said the effects on wardens and prison guards can also be profound as was shown in the award winning film Clemency.

Forensic evidence

The question was posed ‘could the justice system ever be error proof?’  This was related to things like the use of DNA.  The answer was that no system could be error proof, DNA was not infallible and was not a silver bullet, although sometimes evidence is found years later.  The justice system could not be used to solve issues of bad housing, drug addiction and social problems generally.  We needed to advocate for prison reform as well as ending the death penalty and life sentences without the prospect of parole.

Campaigning

In addition to Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Urgent Actions, the work of Reprieve was highlighted, and writing to people on death row organised by Lifelines.

Comment

This was a most interesting discussion.  There is a slow decline in the number of executions and Americans themselves are increasingly wanting the practice ended.  The role of Black Lives Matter is likely to have an effect.  There are other countries in the world with far worse records –  Saudi Arabia, and Iran – but especially China.  The numbers executed in China run into thousands but details are a state secret.

For American readers: PACE – the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides a range of protections to people arrested in the UK one of which is the defense must see all the evidence collected by the police, not just that which indicates possible guilt. 


Opposition shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy criticises government failure to condemn violence

Lisa Nandy MP said:

Britain is “absenting itself from the world stage” by refusing to show leadership over Hong Kong residents, confront China or condemn President Trump over his handling of the fallout from George Floyd’s killing, the shadow foreign secretary has warned.  Observer 7 June 2020

This statement was made during the violent events which have taken place across the US following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the continued unrest in Hong Kong over the concerns of the Chinese governments attempts to crack down on protest.

We will “lose all moral authority” to talk about police brutality in Hong Kong and elsewhere if we are not prepared to apply those standards equally to all parts of the world she said.  These comments were made following questions to Dominic Raab who declined to condemn the violence in either country.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the principle concern of the UK government is trade and nothing can stand in the way of that.  William Haigh tried to introduce a moral element to conservative party thinking when he was leader of the party but that seems to have been abandoned.  Now what matters is business and criticism of China or anyone else is not allowed it seems.  Similar reticence can be seen with other countries with dire human rights records such as Saudi, where a desire to sell arms trumps all moral considerations.

The Chinese Minister Chen Wen was interviewed on BBC’s World at One on 5 June and justified the imposition of tough new laws in Hong Kong are needed to create stability.  “Stability a prerequisite for prosperity” she said and that the new laws were only targeted at a handful of criminals, terrorists and those colluding with foreign forces.  This is far from the case and as Amnesty’s Regional Director Joshua Rosenzweig said the National Anthem law just passed is an “insult to free speech.”  Turning one’s back on the Chinese flag can result in up to 3 years in prison.

Sources: Observer; South China Morning Post; BBC; Amnesty International

 

 


Arsenal football club embroiled in an embarrassing human rights dispute

The UK’s Arsenal football club became embroiled in an embarrassing and potentially expensive dispute with the Chinese authorities this week concerning the statement made by one of its footballers, Mesut Özil. The problem arose because Mesut, a Muslim, said on Instagram, concerning the plight of the Uighurs in China:

East Turkestan, the bleeding wound of the Ummah, resisting against the persecutors trying to separate them from their religion. They burn their Qurans. They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men. The women are forced to marry Chinese men. But Muslims are silent. They won’t make a noise. They have abandoned them. Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?

Sport, money, human rights, politics brought together in one place


Is the situation with human rights around the world in terminal decline?

The title of this piece ‘What’s it got to do with us?’ was said at a signing in Salisbury by someone invited to sign a card for a prisoner of conscience.  She did not sign.  Of course, anyone involved in any kind of street signing will have come across this kind of response from people who are not persuaded there is any point in sending such cards and who do not think someone in prison in a foreign country has anything to do with us anyway.

This year sees the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This was done following the second world war and with the formation of the United Nations itself was part of a belief that there had to be a better way for countries to organise their affairs.  Although there was a desire for such a better way, it would be a mistake to overlook the difficulties in negotiations to get UNDHR agreed.  The colonial powers – principally UK and France – had worries about what was happening in their colonies.  They were reluctant to see rights being applied there especially in view of the brutal suppression of freedom movements.  Nevertheless, it was signed and it did usher in a new world order.

Looking at the world today however, does not lead us to believe that we are on an improving trend.  It is hard to select from a series of terrible events to illustrate the point.  The suppression of free speech and the arrest of thousands of journalists and academics in Turkey is one example of many elements of the declaration being ignored.  Syria, which has seen thousands die from bombing and the use of gas, is another example, this time by a member of the UN Security Council itself, namely Russia.  In China, vast internment camps established in Xinjiang to detain hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, and the arrest of human rights lawyers has been detailed in a UN report.  As Human Rights Watch expresses it:

The broad and sustained offensive on human rights that started after President Xi Jinping took power five years ago showed no sign of abating in 2017.  The death of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo in a hospital under heavy guard in July highlighted the Chinese government’s deepening contempt for rights.  The near future for human rights appears grim, especially as Xi is expected to remain in power at least until 2022.  Foreign governments did little in 2017 to push back against China’s worsening rights record at home and abroad.  World Report, 2018 [accessed 18 November 2018]

In Yemen, which this site has featured in a number of blogs, has seen a country taken to edge of viable existence by a campaign of bombing by Saudi Arabia and atrocities by the Houthis.  The Saudis have been supported by arms from the UK, France and the USA.  British RAF personnel are supposedly advising the Saudis.  The point here is not just the misery inflicted on the country but that schools, hospitals, weddings and other community events have been targeted in the bombing campaign.

Seventy years after the signing of the Declaration, we should be celebrating steady improvements across the world.  We are not.  Rights and freedoms are routinely violated in many countries around the world.  Torture is still widely practised by the majority of countries: countries that have signed up not to use it.   Even countries like the UK have been found shamefully outsourcing its use of this abhorrent practice to Libya.

We could go on listing wars, the displacing of millions including the Rohingya from Burma, the continuing scourge of slavery which is probably at a higher level today than during the triangular trade, and the murder of journalists in countries like Russia.

Here in Salisbury we have seen the brazen Novichok attack on the Skripals by what seems, beyond doubt, to have been Russian GRU agents.  In Turkey there has been the murder and probable dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi.  None of this kind of activity is new – the CIA have been involved in murders and coups especially in South America – but that we have become inured to it.  To turn on the news is to witness war, misery, tides of refugees fleeing persecution or war, stricken cities and starving peoples.   There is a distinct feeling that the international rules based order ushered in after the second world war, now seems to be crumbling.  Famines in the ’80s and ’90s in Ethiopia and Somalia resulted in huge humanitarian efforts and the British public were moved by the scenes and reportage from the area.  Considerable sums were collected to help.  Today, we see the enormous damage and misery in Yemen but there is no sense of national outrage.

Causes 

John Bew, in a New Statesman¹ article, argues that the events of 2007 and 2008 were an important factor.  This is part of the theme of Adam Tooze’s recent book Crashed: how a decade of financial crises changed the world².  Up until the crash, there was a feeling of ever increasing prosperity (for some at least) and that free market ideology had won the day.  The crash destroyed that belief and importantly, ordinary people, not especially steeped in economic thought, began to realise that things were not right.  There was also a shift in power eastwards towards China and away from the west.  With it, the assumptions of democracy, free trade, and a rules based order had been weakened.  With the increasing interconnectedness of the world order and global trade, the ability of societies to deal with the ‘left behinds’ diminished.

With this decline, countries like the UK needed to work harder to sell goods to pay their way in the world.  That often meant looking the other way when we sold arms to unsavoury regimes.  ‘If we do not sell them, the Chinese will’ was a common belief.  Although the UK government often proclaims that we have a tough regime for arms control, the fact remains that brokers and dealers frequently and all too easily circumvent them.

The architects of the new world order after WW2 were the victorious powers: USA, China, Russia, UK and France.  These are the biggest seller of arms today joined perhaps by Israel and Germany.  The very countries wanting to achieve peace in the world are those busy selling the means to destroy it.

As the Amnesty annual report puts it:

In 2017, the world witnessed a rollback of human rights.  Signs of a regression were everywhere.  Across the world governments continued to clampdown on the rights to protest, and women’s rights took a nosedive in the USA, Russia and Poland.
From Venezuela to Tunisia, we witnessed the growth of a formidable social discontent, as people were denied access to their fundamental human rights to food, clean water, healthcare and shelter.
And from the US to the European Union and Australia, leaders of wealthy countries continued to approach the global refugee crisis with outright callousness, regarding refugees not as human beings with rights but as problems to be deflected.
In this climate, state-sponsored hate threatens to normalise discrimination against minority groups.  Xenophobic slogans at a nationalist march in Warsaw, Poland and sweeping crackdowns on LGBTI communities from Chechnya to Egypt showed how the open advocacy of intolerance is increasing.  Annual Report 2017/18 [extract]

Prospects

The prospects for human rights around the world look grim.  The idea of a steady improvement around the world does not look promising.  The belief in a new world order following the war also looks rather thin and forlorn.  With the major countries, who should be setting an example but are not doing so, the chance of improvement in the future does not look great.

In the UK, the are some in government who would like to remove the Human Rights Act from the statute book to be replaced by a weakened bill yet to be published.  If that ever sees the light of day we shall be campaigning against it.

There is also the problem of compassion fatigue.  No sooner does one calamity – whether man made or natural – disappear from our screens, than another one appears.  There seems no time to recover between them.  It is perhaps not surprising that people feel a sense of hopelessness.  The scale of some events is so huge, the quarter of a million Rohingya forcibly displaced  for example, that any response seems puny by comparison.

But people who believe in human rights and their importance in the world continue the fight.  We continue to highlight as many examples of wrong doing as we can.  In the words of our founder ‘better to light a candle than curse the darkness’.

If you live in the Salisbury area we would welcoming you joining us.  Events are posted here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages – salisburyai


  1. Revenge of the Nation State, 9-15 November 2018
  2. Adam Tooze, published by Alan Lane 2018

Film reveals terrible state of Chinese justice system

UPDATE:  if you have arrived here having picked up a leaflet at the Poetika event in Salisbury this evening – welcome!

A small audience at the Arts Centre watched a documentary film hosted by the Salisbury group called Hooligan Sparrow set in China.  The story concerns the attempts by a lawyer Ye Haiyan to get a college principal and his assistant prosecuted for spending the night in a hotel with 6 underage girls.  They were likely to have escaped punishment because of the endemic corruption of the Chinese police and communist party.   Subsequently they gave $2000 dollars to the girls which made them prostitutes and thus made them the criminals under the Chinese system.

Ye was determined to bring them to justice and started with a simple protest outside the school.  The film then charts the subsequent events of harassment, violence and intimidation by the police, secret police and hired thugs.  Remarkably, much of this is filmed and we can see and hear the activities of the police engaged in the intimidation.  Ye ends up homeless having been evicted from flats and hotels.  Finally, she returns to her home village to live in some quite basic accommodation.  A most telling and sad scene shows her and her daughter sat on the roadside with all their possessions piled up unable to find anywhere to live.   This exact scene is recreated in an exhibition in Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Ai WeiWei in prison. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

The exhibition was of work by Ai WeiWei, an artist who has also been intimidated, arrested and interrogated by the police on more than one occasion.  He has a degree of fame outside China which gives him a modest level of protection.  During one of his imprisonments, he was subject to close surveillance 24 hours a day, every day, including when going to the toilet.  This was recreated in an exhibition at the Royal Academy three years ago (pictured)

Ye certainly lived a colourful life and at one time worked in a brothel which is where she acquired the nickname ‘sparrow’. In order to raise awareness for HIV prevention, Ye lived the illegal life of a sex worker, distributing free condoms while claiming that they were government subsidies.

Much of the footage was shaky as the filming took place under extreme duress.  We hear threats to kill her or break her legs.  It is nonetheless riveting work and vividly brings to life the dire state of human rights in China.  The list of infringements of human rights in the country are too many to list here as this report from Amnesty shows:

The government continued to draft and enact new laws under the guise of “national security” that presented serious threats to human rights.  Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died in custody.  Activists and human rights defenders were detained, prosecuted and sentenced on the basis of vague and overbroad charges such as “subverting state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.  Police detained human rights defenders outside formal detention facilities, sometimes incommunicado, for long periods, which posed additional risk of torture and other ill-treatment to the detainees.  Controls on the internet were strengthened. Repression of religious activities outside state-sanctioned churches increased.  Repression conducted under “anti-separatism” or “counter-terrorism” campaigns remained particularly severe in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and Tibetan-populated areas.  Freedom of expression in Hong Kong came under attack as the government used vague and overbroad charges to prosecute pro-democracy activists.  [extract] Amnesty Report 2017/18

Much western coverage of China speaks of its economic progress and remarkable growth.  It is the world’s second most powerful nation and its activities in the South China Sea is causing real concern.  Western politicians fawn over President Xi Jing Ping in the hope of business.  But this film shows a lonely woman seeking justice on behalf of six young girls, being subjected to violence, intimidation and threats by a range of state agents.  China does its best to shield its citizens from outside influence shutting out foreign web sites behind the ‘Great Firewall of China‘.  One is reminded of other countries which behaved like this notably, Soviet Russia, East Germany and Rumania.  Each crumbled and it was the activity of a single person which often started the collapse – the priest in Rumania for example.  It can be like a stone chipping a windscreen.

The question is therefore, quite how powerful is the communist party in China that it feels the need to intimidate and mistreat any who question it?

The film was made by Nanfu Wang.  Our thanks to group member Fiona for organising this event.


If you would like to join the local group you would be very welcome.  We are holding a stall in the market place on 23 June so come along and make yourself known.


A reminder that the film Hooligan Sparrow will be shown next Thursday 14 June at 7:30 pm.  This is FREE but there is a parting collection to help cover our rental and other costs.  It’s at the Salisbury Arts Centre in the White Room upstairs.  Tickets can be obtained from the front desk.


Showing of the film Hooligan Sparrow in June

We are pleased to be able to show the documentary film Hooligan Sparrow at the Arts Centre on Thursday June 14 starting at 7:30.  It will be free but it will be ticketed and we are currently exploring ways to get tickets.  There will be a parting collection to help cover our costs.

The film is set in China and the danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal.

Marked as ‘enemies of the state’, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment.  Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.

Filmmaker Wang becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, and in the process, she exposes a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets.  Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.

(text taken from the website of the film)

Please keep an eye on this site and or on Twitter and Facebook (salisburyai) for details of how to get the tickets.   If you are interested in joining us this would be a good opportunity to make yourself known to a member of the group before or after the showing.


Theresa May’s visit to China and human rights

The human rights situation in China is dire.  The list is long and includes excessive use of the death penalty.  The numbers are unknown because they are a state secret but are believed to be in the thousands.  China leads the world and may even execute more than the rest of the world put together.  Torture is common.  There is precious little freedom of speech and journalists reporting in China quickly find police arriving and stopping any interviews.  Under its current premier, repression has increased significantly.

The Great Firewall of China prevents contact with the outside world.  Lawyers and activists are monitored, harassed, arrested and detained.  Religions have a difficult time practising there.  Finally there is Tibet and the poor treatment of Tibetans.  China is a leading exporter of torture equipment including devices that one might have thought to be confined to the middle ages.  Altogether, China infringes nearly all international norms of good behaviour and it matters especially because they are one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

But they are a massive and growing economy and countries want to do business there.  None more so than the UK which hopes to increase trade following our departure from the European Union.  Hence the prime minister’s visit there this week.  As ever with these visits the question of human rights is brought up.  There is a kind of dance performed where the prime minister or her spokespeople claim the matter is brought up and the Chinese say nothing was said.  The Chinese are very sensitive on the subject and historical memories of the Opium wars and the resultant national humiliation are still keenly felt.

But China wants to be considered a modern country yet its dreadful reputation in the way it treats its citizens and minorities holds it back.

It’s not often we get an insight into what was actually said but after this visit, an editorial in the Global Times waxed lyrical over the visit and praised Mrs May for not mentioning human rights.  The prose is odd but the relevant passages are:

[…]

May will definitely not make any comment contrary to the goals of her China trip either.  For the prime minister, the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit’s friendly atmosphere.

China’s robust development has instilled impetus for Europe to overcome its prejudices against Beijing.  David Cameron’s government gained Britain strategic initiative by joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Some European media pressed May and Macron on human rights, but the two leaders sidestepped the topic on their China trips.  This shows that the Sino-European relationship has, to a large degree, extricated itself from the impact of radical public opinion.  Leader 2 February 2018

The central problem is that China is a one-party state where dissent is not permitted.  Hence the crackdowns, arrests and suppression of free speech.  As time goes by however, more and more Chinese will travel the world and despite the great wall, gain access to the internet (we note some hits from China on this little site!).  As the country develops, more and more Chinese will look for freedom and to criticize the politicians.  So the Chinese authorities will find it harder and harder – and more expensive – to maintain the status quo.  The denial of human rights therefore is not some kind of esoteric luxury or the west seeking to impose its moral order on them.  It is a crucial part of their development and ramping up repression and arrests is taking the country in quite the wrong direction.

Failure – if failure it was – by Mrs May to bring up the issue of human rights would not have been just another lecture from a western liberal (if that term can be applied to Mrs May) but a crucial issue for the Chinese themselves as they develop into the world’s largest nation.

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons greetings

Posted: December 23, 2017 in China, Group news, Uncategorized

Seasons greetings to all our followers.