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China's role in Sudan, Burma, North Korea, Iran and Taiwan

Remarks by Hon. David kilgour, J.D
Symposium on People's Republic of China: Foreign Policy Risks and Opportunities
Room 200, West Block, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa
June 10, 2008
(excerpt)Full version

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

Let me also mention here my strong respect and affection for the people of China generally. Canadians identify with their history, including their humiliation by major world powers during more than a century, with their hard work, patience, arts, language, poetry and literature, early exploration of much of the world, success with agriculture and many other accomplishments. We are delighted that more than a million Canadian citizens today are of origin in China.

People vs. Party-state

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. In its encouragement of 'anything goes" capitalism over three decades, moreover, it has also allowed the air, soil and water to be polluted incredibly, against the health and esthetic needs of all Chinese people.

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

How the International Olympic Committee could award the 2008 Olympic Games to such a regime is thus difficult to understand. The focus in this talk is on its 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:



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 not used for the health, education and general welfare of Iranians but instead for funding 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 nuclear weapons technology exports to Pakistan had a similar objective, to prevent either a United States or Soviet Union dominance of the subcontinent along China's southern border. As a result, Pakistan is now a nuclear power, facing nuclear-armed India. In the Middle East, China's policy of providing Iran with nuclear weapons technology is injecting a highly-destabilizing element in the region.

By providing Iran with weapons that could be used in support of Islamic fundamentalism, the potential for religious conflict becomes greater. Old hatreds between Iranian and Iraqi religious groups could flare up in the future. Nuclear weapons would give Iran a strategic reserve that could allow its regime to act even more aggressively. Israel could also be unintentionally brought into the scenario, believing that the only reason an Islamic state would want a nuclear weapon is to use it against Israelis. 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:

  1. Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Including, flogging and amputations;
  2. Public executions, including multiple public executions, and of other executions carried out in the absence of respect for internationally recognized safeguards;
  3. Stoning as a method of execution, and the continued issuing of sentences of stoning;
  4. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. 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, and, in particular, attacks on Baha'is and their faith in State-sponsored media, increasing evidence of efforts by the State to identify and monitor Baha'is and prevention of the Baha'i faith from attending university and from sustaining themselves economically; an increase in cases of arbitrary arrest and detention;
  7. Ongoing, systemic and serious restrictions of freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of opinion and expression, including those imposed on the media and trade unions, and increasing harassment, intimidation and persecution of political opponents and human rights defenders, from all sectors of Iranian society, including arrests and violent repression of labour leaders, labour members peacefully assembling and students;
  8. Persistent failure to uphold due process of law rights, and violation of the rights of detainees, including the systematic and arbitrary use of prolonged solitary confinement;

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.



In conclusion, Mia Farrow, Steven Spielberg, Uma Thulman and many others have already stood up for human dignity at 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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