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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
Spanish French

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:


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.

Darfur as "Crime Scene"

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, reflect 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-O'Campo, 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." I hope Canada is supporting the long overdue Costa Rica initiative on Darfur underway now at the Security Council.

The ongoing support for the Darfur genocide by the government of China has caused serious doubts among thoughtful people everywhere about the Beijing Olympics so, as Eric Reeves documents, the party-state has launched a propaganda campaign to reposition itself as a "friend of Darfur." In this misinformation effort, no mention is made of China's tiny humanitarian assistance in Darfur or of the fact that numerous water sources in Darfur have been destroyed by Sudan's regular forces and its Janjaweed. Water sources are targeted by Khartoum's bombers; the Janjaweed have often denied civilian access to water points, and have raped women and girls as young as eight seeking to collect water for their desperate families. Darfurians generally seem well aware of Beijing's role in their ongoing torment and destruction.

Arming Khartoum

China's role as the primary supplier of weapons to Khartoum over the past decade for use in Darfur was the subject of an investigation by Amnesty International. Amnesty said in mid-2007: "The bulk [of the military and related equipment] was transferred from China and Russia, two Permanent Members of the Security Council. The governments of these supplier countries have been, or should have been, aware through the published and unpublished reports of the UN Panel of Experts to the UN Sanctions Committee on Sudan as well as the detailed report by Amnesty International published in November 2004 that several types of military equipment including aircraft have been deployed by the Sudanese armed forces and militia for direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks in Darfur, as well as for logistical support for these attacks."

There is mounting concern that the Khartoum-Beijing alliance will cause the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan to be as ineffective as it was in Rwanda and Bosnia. The ongoing role of the party-state in China across Darfur remains far from the conduct of a responsible member of the international community. Mia Farrow and many others are quite correct in linking its activities to the "Genocide Olympics". All concerned about this too must continue to 'name and shame' the Bashir and Hu-Wen governments about their joint inhumanity in Darfur before, during and after the Olympics. We might also target the accessible corporate sponsors of these Games, including Manulife, Visa, Kodak, Samsung, Panasonic, Omega, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, General Electric, John Hancock and Coca-Cola, making the obvious point that silence about human dignity implies acquiescence with the practices of the government of the host country.


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, so it seems 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.

Next came the Nargis cyclone in the Irrawaddy delta in early May, which the junta first pretended had not struck by continuing to broadcast an opera on government television. The regime newspaper later suggested that foreign humanitarian aid was unnecessary because the victims could live on frogs. Its priority was attempting to bully citizens into making dictatorship constitutional in a referendum on the military-drafted proposed constitution. A saffron democratic revolution would be unacceptable to both the generals and to the party-state in Beijing. Hundreds of thousands of desperate Burmese have now needed food and other help for more than a month.

"Blood for Oil"

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.

All governments which respect human dignity must push harder and more effectively to persuade the regime in Burma to show respect for the lives and well-being of its own people. A special UN rapporteur reported in 2006 that fully 3000 villages in eastern Burma were destroyed by the junta. Where is Canada's Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which has been adopted by the UN? Might it not be applied in some way to the crisis in the delta?


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 includes:

  • 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 north eastern 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.

In mid-October, 2006, after North Korea completed an underground test on nuclear weapons, the Economist magazine called on the US, China and Russia to make sacrifices to avoid a nuclear arms race in Asia and the Middle East. The magazine argued that some response was necessary because Iran, among other countries, could go nuclear despite the warnings from the UN and the three other major players. "The Chinese could, if they wished, starve North Korea's people and switch off the lights", noted its lead editorial, but added that pressure of any kind was unlikely to persuade Kim to give up his bomb.

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: "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 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.


It is probably just as well that my time is now up because for various reasons my comments on Taiwan will be very brief.

Like many others around the world, I welcome the recent signs of good will expressed by the governments of China and Taiwan towards each other and would urge those in Beijing to seize a golden opportunity to improve cross-strait relations. Four ways of doing so would be:

  1. Respect the status quo of cross- strait relations and put the sovereignty issue over Taiwan on hold,
  2. As the new Taiwanese government has given its pledge to adhere to the principle of "no unification, no independence and no use of force", China's government should scale down and then withdraw all of the more than 1300 ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan,
  3. Begin good faith consultations with Taiwan's government over its international space and wish to play a constructive role in the world community, seeking a possible cross-strait peace accord, and pledging that
  4. The future status of Taiwan will be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with the will of the 23 million residents of the island.


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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