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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.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

"Let's stop abetting dictatorship in Beijing"

My primary interest, as regular readers of this blog may have gleaned, is the Uygur people of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China’s northwest.

I “came” to the Uygur through an Internet “pen pal” friendship with a young Uygur girl from Urumqi the capital of XUAR. We started chatting and I started learning.

She did not ask much about my country, Australia, though it was obvious she knew little about it, come to think of it she did not ask very much more about me above the basics either. She was just excited I guess to be talking to a “westerner” and honing her language skills.

Now I am a reasonably educated and consider myself an informed person. I have always read newspapers and kept up to date with what was going on in the world. Well, at least so I thought before striking up this friendship.

When I started chatting with this Uygur girl I realised I knew nothing of Uygurs, quite frankly I had never even heard of them. I had a general understanding of the history of Central Asia, but ask me whether there were Turkic peoples in China and I would have looked at you askance.

So out of respect for my new found friend I started to do some research on these “Eye- gers” (pronounced Wee-Gurrs as I was later to find out) people . Now, as a result I run a website devoted to them, am involved in cyber-activism to a degree, and I author this blog.

What I am trying to get at, in a round about way I suppose, is that whilst this blog is called China Letter it originally started life as the Uygur Letter but as you learn about the Uygur you can not help learning of the interaction of Han Chinese and Uygur in the last 2,000 odd years. In doing so you learn of the policies of the Han Chinese toward the Uygur and the consequence of them.

So, by progression, I started to learn about China to understand why the Han Chinese have done as they have done toward the Uygur. Then I learnt about general human rights conditions in China and, by what in retrospect seems a natural progression, started a blog. A blog commentating on human rights in China generally.

I recount this story merely as background because I have “come” to China quite late in life without perhaps pre conceived ideas about China or her place in the world. I had not been inculcated with any particular brand of thought from University or life’s experience. For 45 years of my life China was just China, good bad and indifferent.

So over the last year or two every morning I crank up the “news aggregator’ to see what is happening, visits some of my favourite news and opinion sites, look at the Uygur and Tibetan chatrooms and message boards and start formulating my daily thinking on this enigma China.

I have read some horrible stories and I have heard some horrific tales since I “came” to China. Death, disease, torture, imprisonment, starvation you name it in studying China you will see it. I am particularly haunted I am not afraid to say by a particular picture of a row of Uygurs kneeling in the mud in some forlorn field, hands tied behind their backs awaiting the Chinese soldiers’ bullets to the back of their heads; their faces, their eyes....

But in some strange way I can accept it all. I do not dwell on where the Chinese have been I look rather positively as to where they can go. I get excited when I hear of the announcement of some new law that is a positive for human rights and just as quickly I tear hair at some new failure some “backsliding” to use the US State department’s recent addition to Sino-terminology.

But with all this what makes me cringe the most is not the horrendous stories or pictures, shocking as they are. What makes me cringe the most, and I will have to consult the thesaurus for a word stronger than “cringe” that better describes my feelings, is to see the never ending queue of smiling diplomats of the “free world” parading in the Chinese Halls of Government, to read the self congratulatory news article about some new trade deal or whatever.

Free world” politicians, “our” leaders “our” captains of industry “our “ respected public corporations walking (or grovelling it appears most time) into Beijing day in and day out as if the world has never seen it brighter. “Yes Mr president I believe in the one and indivisible China! Yes Mr premier those Uygur terrorists tsk! Tsk!. Taiwan? We support “one China” of course!” Human Rights? Yes you are doing terribly well there! Dalai Lama ? On my life I promise I will never entertain THAT person! Now can we have that trade deal please.....?

I can see them in my minds eye now retiring to their hotel rooms or embassy apartments pulling off their ties, sipping their champagne and slapping themselves heartily on the back, laughing about and recalling their day’s “success” whilst, in the real world, China’s people suffer so badly.

To a degree I can understand the Chinese. What they do is incredibly wrong but perhaps like a child you can somehow accept their failings to a degree in the belief that they will “grow up” and eventually take their position as a “responsible person” in an adult world. But how do you explain away the actions of the “free world”? My “free world” your “free world”? Products of enlightened education and democracy. How do you justify their “blindness”, their avarice, their lack of sympathy or even empathy and their apparent total lack of humanity?

Surly these diplomats, these politicians, these captains of industry can see what I see? As I have related I “came” to China by accident rather than design. I am no Rhodes Scholar or Harvard man. I have not got access to teams of experts to advise me. Why can they not see? Or do they see and choose to ignore?

This rather long winded piece was by way of introduction to an excellent article that really struck a chord with me (as you may no doubt have guessed). It is by Bruce Gilley a doctoral student in politics at Princeton University and the author of "China's Democratic Future: How It Will Happen and Where It Will Lead."

The paragraph that got me going is as follows

"The Bush administration should be commended for bringing the cause of democracy back into focus in its international relations in general and its China policy in particular. But it cannot lead where others will not follow. And it is the failure of the domestic and international community to take the cause of democracy in China seriously that is at present helping to sustain tyranny there. Fifteen years after the crushing of the Tiananmen movement, this is one of the great moral failures of our time."

But It can not lead where others will not follow” How very true, just look at the United States’ resolution concerning China’s Human Rights violations at the recent United Nations Human Rights Conference in Geneva. The likes of Australia, New Zealand Great Britain and untold other countries wished to hell that the U.S would not even have raised it because it required them to make a decision between supporting their ally or their wallets.

"Fifteen years after the crushing of the Tiananmen movement, this is one of the great moral failures of our time." The clarity and truth of this statement is just so obvious.

“And it is the failure of the domestic and international community to take the cause of democracy in China seriously that is at present helping to sustain tyranny there.”

Again how very true. One would have thought a self evident truth but “our” people do not seem to see it, or worse, see it and choose to ignore it.

Some other quotes from this excellent article

“...perhaps more worrying, the world appears inclined to actually support the Chinese Communist Party, rather than merely tolerate it.”

“Worrying” is not the word I would have chosen, it is more than “worrying” it is down right scary.

“China has become an issue for economists and technocrats rather than democrats.”

A precise and concise analysis. The humanitarians and democrats seem to “have left the building” where China is concerned.

Two Reasons..

The author looks at the two much touted reasons, or excuses as he more correctly calls them, for inaction by the “free world”. One is that China's people are not interested in democracy or freedoms and the second excuse is that democracy might make China internally unstable or externally aggressive.

With regard to the second “excuse” the author states

“Changes are afoot in China in any case. Besides brute repression, the Communist Party is today propped up by urban economic growth and ugly nationalism. These are not enough to sustain it in the long term. An increasingly sophisticated and complex society will some day demand political choices, choices that the enlightened reformers in the regime will be forced to grant.

He goes on to gives a reason why the “free world” should maintain pressure and a prediction at the ultimate results if we do not.

"But foreign governments who encourage the Communists to make changes now would be helping foster a smoother and faster democratisation. By delaying reform, we raise the chances of a tumultuous popular overthrow".

Through our inaction and shortsightednesss in allowing the Chinese Communist Party to feel self satisfied with it’s position in the world, if, and when the Tumult comes it will be far uglier and far more disruptive to the world than any results of pressure we apply now. A steep cliff is easier to traverse then a sheer drop.

Gilleys’ concluding recommendations are equally succinct

“Make summitry with Chinese leaders contingent on progress in political reforms, such as an expansion of local elections or the legalisation of opposition parties. Devise disclosure standards for companies that invest in China, so they would report on their activities in encouraging worker organisation and rights awareness. Encourage universities and think-tanks to re-engage the issue of democracy in China.
Not least, engage local leaders and people - especially women - in China on the issue of democracy and rights.

This is the least we can do to stop abetting dictatorship in China”.

An excellent article.

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