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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Tiananmen Arrests: The Tail Wags The Dog


VOANews.com

China's White Paper on Human Rights: An analysisThe reports of the arrest of three woman associated with the Tiananmen Mothers protest group is more evidence that, more often than not, the tail wags the dog in China and points to one of the major problems facing the Chinese government.

On Tuesday the Chinese Government released a "White Paper" on China's Human Rights initiatives. This "White Paper" was released in response to continued criticism of China's Human Rights record and, particularly, to counter a resolution by the United States, concerning China's Rights record, at the currently in progress United Nations Human Rights Commission .

The "White Paper" was not something that was thrown together over night. It was obviously carefully put together in anticipation of the U.S's resolution and released at the opportune time. One would have expected that major organs of state would have expected it.

It is a detailed document in some respects especially concerning the great strides China has made economically and the flow on effects to the living standards of the people. It proudly boasts massive increases in such things as private car ownership and mobile phone usage.

China sets great store on the "welfare" of the people as a whole being the litmus test for the effectiveness of it's policies on Human Rights. They believe that given China's population and unique set of circumstances that benchmarks used by the west are inappropriate as far as China is concerned. The individual's rights are subordinate to the whole.

With this philosophy they can almost blissfully, like an innocent child, give to the world this self generated report card and seem to honestly believe that they are in a good position. And, to a degree they are.

Recently the National People's Conference voted to enshrine the concept of Human Rights in the Constitution. It is hardly a specific clause and falls short of providing any real legal remedies to anyone feeling they have been denied their "constitutional rights". It is, however, an important and historical step. As the Chinese government point out the passing of this constitutional amendment recognises formally the "concept" of Human Rights at the highest level. By becoming a part of the Constitution it becomes a "Guiding Principle" by which all strata of government should be guided in all that they do.

And this is all very well and good but this incident over the Tiananmen Mothers and many other incidences too numerous to recount point quite clearly to the fact that whilst the "head" is thinking one thing the "body" is doing something else.

Tiananmen Square MassacreGiven the importance of this document and the very specific timing of it's release how could a thing like this arrest occur? Why would the Government allow an opportunity for the world to, once again, point an accusing finger at what, without doubt, has been the most controversial example of China's lack of respect for Human Rights bar none. And, to cap it off, it arrests mothers in their late 60's who are still, like anyone would be, devastated by the loss of their children and husbands.

Combine with that the fact that the resolution this "White Paper" is meant to draw heat from is a tradition of the Americans that commenced with the Tiananmen Square massacre> Given this fact one would have thought some planning would have gone into it's release. And surely it can not be lost on the Chinese that when the majority of the world thinks human rights in China it thinks two things :Tiananmen and Tibet. Why didn't they just go for a double and burn down some Tibetan Buddhist temples as well, it could not have made matters any worse!

This is evidence that in China the "tail wags the dog". Time and time again we are confronted with the sight of China taking two steps forward and one step back. The reason is because at the lower levels of the government apparatus and judiciary they run their own race. They appear to operate in a Mao time warp oblivious to the direction of the top. They still appear to pursue the old party line and there does not seem to be any degree of accountability whatsoever.

Imagine, if you will, a thing like this happening in the West. Blood would be bayed for, heads would roll at the highest level. But no, not the Chinese. Premier Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao would probably now be climbing the walls and tearing their hair out. If they are not then they should be.

In one foul swoop the positives that could have been garnered out of this "White Paper" release have been almost destroyed. I say almost because the number of news articles appearing on the "White Paper" far outnumber those on the mothers arrest.

Change in China must be effected from the bottom as well as the top and meet in the midde. China must instigate policies that allow for more accountability and transparency and this accountability must extend all the way to the top. China's cancer- like official corruption problem is but another example of this lack of oversight, accountability and transparency.

In the west accountability is aided by elections, a free press and the right to protest and dissent. If China will not allow such things then it must have a system to provide it alternatively and that must come from a strong government. Firm within itself

Until China can do this it will always will encounter these types of problems and the head can say and think what it likes but the tail will wag along independently and happily.