China indicted: Human dignity is indivisible

By The Hon. David Kilgour on June 26, 2008

In recent weeks, the world has witnessed catastrophes of nature in China and Burma beyond the ability of mostof us to comprehend. For what happened in Sichuan province, the thoughts, sympathies and prayers of all of us go unreservedly to all families of the victims and survivors...

But no-one should confuse the Chinese people with their unelected government. The differences many of us have with the latter in terms of human dignity, good governance, rule of law, freedom of speech and democracy have nothing to do with our regard for the former. The party-state of China persecutes large communities of its own citizens: Falun Gong, democracy activists, ethnic minorities, world religions, Tibetan Buddhists, Muslim Uighurs and Christians, human rights defenders, journalists who write the truth, and internet bloggers. The government of China is among the worst human rights violators.  

The Falun Gong community, which began in 1992 as a blend of ancient Chinese spiritual and exercise traditions, since mid-1999 has been persecuted more and worse than any other group. David Matas and I concluded in an independent study after examining 53 kinds of proof, that since 2001 the government of China and its agencies have killed thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, without any form of prior trial, and then sold their vital organs for large sums of money, often to 'organ tourists' from wealthy countries (Our report is available in nineteen languages at  www.organharvest 

How the International Olympic Committee could award the 2008 Olympic Games to such a regime is thus difficult to understand. The focus in article is on China`s close partnerships with some of the most despotic governments on earth, which enable them to better oppress their own people and to increase thereby the risk to world peace in various regions of the world. 


Sudan: “A crime scene” 

The genocide in Sudan's province of Darfur ongoing since April, 2003 has in all probability cost the lives of more than 400,000 African Darfurians from bombs, bullets and related causes, such as starvation. Beijing continues to assist Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir in numerous ways, including, financing and supplying arms in exchange for taking most of Sudan's oil production at much-reduced prices. It officially sold about $80 million in weapons, aircraft and spare parts to Sudan during 2005 alone. This included A-5 Fantan bomber aircraft, helicopter gunships, K-8 military attack aircraft and light weapons, all of which are found in Darfur, transferred there in violation of UN resolutions. 

China's government has long used the threat of its permanent veto at the UN Security Council to block effective UN peace activities in Darfur. In reality, this veto and many innocent lives are being traded for cheap oil. Months ago, Bashir appointed Musa Hilal, the one-time leader of the murderous militia, the Janjaweed, to a position in his government. Hilal has been quoted expressing gratitude for "the necessary weapons and ammunition to exterminate the African tribes in Darfur." Not long ago, the Sudanese military ambushed a well-marked U.N. peacekeeping convoy in Darfur, later claiming it was a mistake. Virtually every independent observer says it was a deliberate attack. 

Bashir's refusal to accept the UN-proposed roster of troops and civilian police-contributing countries, including an engineering battalion from Sweden/ Norway, units from Nepal, and a fully-equipped operation from Thailand, reflects nothing other than his political decision to deny UNAMID the personnel essential for an effective peace mission in Darfur. Last week, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told the Security Council: "The entire Darfur region is a crime scene", adding that 100,000 Dafurians had been displaced so far this year. Explaining his comparison to Nazi Germany, Ocampo added, according to the BBC, "Sudanese officials protect the criminals and not the victims. Denial of crimes, cover up, and attempts to shift responsibility are another characteristic of the criminal plan in Darfur." It is to be hoped that Canada supports the long overdue Costa Rican initiative on Darfur underway now at the Security Council. 


Burma: “Blood for oil” 

It is easy to forget important realities about Burma, including the fact that its post-independence fledgling democracy was toppled in 1962 by the military dictatorship of Ne Win, who believed that he and the military would win the 1960 general election. In 1988, there were widespread pro-democracy riots and an estimated 3000 students and monks were killed by the army. A determined and brave Aung San Suu Kyi made her first speech during the '88 uprising as an opposition leader. The out-of-touch junta called yet another election two years later in 1990. Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won 81% of the seats and 67% of the votes cast in 1990. No-one was allowed to take their seat by the generals and Suu Kyi has remained under house arrest for most of the past eighteen years. The UN Special rapporteur confirmed as a "state instigated massacre" the attack on Suu Kyi's procession in May 2003 northwest of Mandalay, when about 100 people were killed, including the NLD photographers, and she was herself wounded. 

In what later became pro-democracy protests last September, junta troops fired automatic weapons at peaceful demonstrators and entered monasteries to beat and murder Buddhist monks who had protested. Nuns and monks who helped lead the demonstrations were caged in barbed-wire enclosures. A foreign journalist was also killed. The junta had earlier received a $1.4 billion package of arms from Beijing. It is clear where the fatal bullets and guns were made.

Meanwhile at the United Nations Security Council, the representatives of China and Russia, who had earlier used their vetoes to remove Burma from its agenda (after keeping it off continuously since the crises of 1990 and 1988 in the country until late 2005) prevented the Council from considering sanctions against the perpetrators. The two governments even managed to keep the Council from issuing a condemnation of the junta's use of deadly force. China provided no leadership towards a peaceful resolution of the uprising in what has become in effect, like Sudan, a client state of Beijing.

As Dr. Peter Navarro puts the situation in the new edition of his book, “The Coming China Wars”, what we have currently in Burma is another "blood for oil" deal. Beijing protects the generals in exchange for the lion's share of the country's natural gas, which measure over a half a trillion cubic meters, and, far more importantly, it gets to build a $2 billion oil pipeline from Burma's coast on the Bay of Bengal to China's Yunnan province. This will allow China to take delivery of Middle East oil without passing through the narrow Strait of Malacca, which could be shut down in the case of a serious conflict with the West.


North Korea: “The hermit kingdom”

The hermit kingdom of Kim Jong Il rivals that of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe for any "worst governance" award today (It is no coincidence that Beijing supports both regimes, although its attempt to ship $70 million in arms to Mugabe after he lost the recent first round of the presidential election was blocked when dock workers in South Africa refused to unload ships carrying the weapons and were supported by their national courts.). According to the International Crisis Group (ICG) in Brussels, China now does about $2 billion in annual bilateral and investment—approx. 40% of the kingdom's foreign trade—with North Korea. About 150 Chinese companies operate in North Korea. There are currently about two million ethnic Koreans living in China and 10,000-100,000 refugees at any point in time.

The ICG asserts that the government of China's priorities with the government in Pyong Yang currently include: avoiding the costs of an explosion on the Korean peninsula; preventing the U.S. from dominating a unified Korea; incorporating North Korea into the development plans of its three northeastern provinces to help them achieve stability; achieving credit       in China, in the region and in the US for being engaged in achieving denuclearization; maintaining the two-Korea status quo, as long as it can maintain influence in both capitals      as leverage with the US on the   Taiwan issue, and; avoiding a situation where a nuclear North Korea leads Japan and/or Taiwan to become nuclear powers.

As Peter Navarro notes, nothing is likely to dissuade Kim from his bad habits, which include counterfeiting U.S. currency, acting as a conduit for drug and arms commerce, and periodically threatening South Korea with an invasion of Seoul. Navarro writes, "North Korea is able to engage in all this rogue behaviour precisely because of its ability to hide behind Chinese skirts. China currently provides the Pyongyang regime with two-thirds of its fuel and one third     of its food…The one certainty in this relationship is its lack of any certainty. This translates into high risk—the proverbial nuclear joker in the deck. Should famine, a dictator's whim,      or any number of random events trigger a North Korean military outburst, it would force China to take sides. The result may well be “the Korean War, Part Deux.”. A cheerless thought indeed!



Human dignity abuses by the Iranian government currently include persecution of ethnic and religious minorities (Arabs, Azeri, Kurds, Turks, Baha'is, Jews and Christians), women in a species of gender apartheid (under Sharia law the life of a woman is worth half that of a man), imprisonment, torture and execution of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and complete control over the media.

In trading with Iran, China and other countries doing so legitimize its government and help to maintain regime officials in positions of absolute power. Trade and investment from abroad also provide to Tehran funds that often are used for the funding of terrorist groups abroad, including Hezbollah and Hamas, under the mantle of "expanding the Islamic Empire".

China-Iranian trade has grown from $200 million in 1990 to $10 billion in 2005. This includes conventional arms and ballistic missiles for Iran despite Tehran's declared hostility to 'godless communism" and Beijing's continuing severe persecution of its Uyghur Muslims. Beijing simply ignores theocratic rule in Tehran. A major attraction for Tehran is Beijing's permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which is useful for resisting Western pressure on nuclear and other issues.

Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani pushed the relationship while Iran's president (1989-1997) and became a stakeholder in it. A Chinese contract to build the Tehran metro has as its local partner a company headed by his oldest son. He and others in Iran strongly favour the 'China model' of air tight political control while encouraging economic growth. In the mid 1990's, China became the leading supplier of conventional arms to Iran and has since provided assistance on developing dual use technology that can be converted to developing nuclear weapons. In 1995, China under pressure from the U.S. did stop the sale of nuclear reactors to Iran. There appears little doubt that China has since resumed nuclear weapon technology sales to Iran.

There are also indications that China has helped with Iran's Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 medium range ballistic missiles. Both are capable of hitting any state in the Middle East; the Shahab-4 could hit significant portions of Europe. Two years ago, the U.S. imposed penalties on eight Chinese companies for exporting material that can be used to improve Iran's ballistic missile capability.

China's goal of securing a reliable source of cheap oil and gas is probably being hindered rather than helped by its weapons sales to Iran by inserting a destabilizing element into Middle East domestic affairs, but also encouraging the United States to continue its extensive military presence there to deter Iran's use of force.

Canada initiated the successfully-passed UN General Assembly resolution in late 2007, which drew attention to numerous human rights abuses in Iran, including confirmed instances of: torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including, flogging and amputations;public executions, including multiple public executions, and of other executions carried out in the absence of respect for internationally recognized safeguards; stoning as a method of execution, and the continued issuing of sentences of stoning; execution of persons who were under the age of 18 at the time their offence was committed, contrary to the obligations of the Islamic Republic of Iran under article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; arrests, violent repression, and sentencing of women exercising their right to peaceful assembly, a campaign of intimidation against women's human rights defenders, and continuing discrimination against women and girls in law and in practice; increasing discrimination and other human rights violations against persons belonging to religious, ethnic, linguistic or other minorities, recognized or otherwise, including, inter alia, Arabs, Azeri's, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis and Sunni Muslims and their defenders.

We might all keep in mind too on the issue of Sino-Iranian relations and their current negative implications for world security that in the past few weeks alone the Government in Tehran has locked up all seven senior leaders of the country's 300,000-member Baha'i spiritual community. Not a word has been heard about them for almost four weeks. It also fired missiles at the approx 4000 UN-protected residents, including about sixty Canadians, living in Ashraf city, Iraq. This second act was clearly       an act of war; the first violated a     host of international covenants, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects freedom of religion.

Mia Farrow, Steven Spielberg, Uma Thurman and many others have already stood up for human dignity in the face of the 2008 Olympics. Is Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch not correct when she says that corporate sponsors, governments and National Olympic Committees should urge Beijing to improve human rights conditions in China? "Olympic corporate sponsors are putting their reputations at risk unless they work to convince the Chinese government to uphold the human rights pledges it made to bring the Games to Beijing," she said. "Human rights are under attack in China, and Olympic sponsors should use their considerable leverage to persuade Beijing to change policy." The rest of us should too. We are asking the government of China to honour the promises made when it bid for the Games. If you agree, please press our own government and our own national Olympic Committee to urge the government of China to fulfill it commitments. 


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