What follows is essentially what is carried in the Sept./Oct. issue of
Diplomat and International Canada magazine (www.diplomatonline.com).
With the Beijing Olympics over, the world now seems likely to examine more
carefully what China does at home and internationally. Its current record vexes
some of us who believe that the core values of the Olympic Charter and Olympic
movement are universal dignity and equality for all members of the human family.
The rise of China in recent years has taken it in other directions, whether
among its own people or in countries, such as Burma and Sudan, which are
essentially now parts of its economic empire.
Many Canadians think our own national government should engage more
effectively with vulnerable peoples. In the case of the cyclone that ravaged
Burma in May, for example, the refusal of the country's military junta to accept
external humanitarian help left even more Burmese in peril. Did governments
around the world not have a responsibility to deliver relief to as many victims
as feasible? What of Sudan, where another military regime under the influence of
the party-state in Beijing has attempted for more than five years to destroy a
large community of Africans in Darfur for blatantly racist reasons?
Does the UN Genocide Convention of 1948 apply to Darfur as well? It certainly
appears to in criminalising acts anywhere intended to "destroy in whole or in
part members of a racial, national, religious or ethnic group." Unfortunately,
enforcement remains its fatal weakness. No actions were launched under its
provisions for almost six decades. The World Court dealt it a further blow last
year in an almost unanimous decision that instruments of the government of
Serbia were not responsible for the genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s.
Some jurists assert that the Convention is retroactive because it merely
codifies pre-existing principles of international law. If so, it should apply to
the Armenian Genocide of 1915, Stalin's Ukrainian Famine in the winter of
1932-33 and the Nazi Holocaust, which continued until Hitler's virtually final
days in 1945. How many lives might have been saved if the details of all three
became public knowledge sooner? The essential facts were probably known soon
enough, but the real problem was the absence of sufficient political will
internationally to end (STOP) these crimes. Thus the "never again" of 1945
became the "again and again" of Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Lest we forget, what
follows is a brief roll call of some subsequent kindred events.
With about 60 other governments, Canada deployed soldiers to both parts of
the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s under the NATO banner. The UN Security
Council proved unable to act, primarily because Russia threatened continuously
to use its permanent veto to protect the government of Serbia. Effective action
came far too late. The ethnic cleansing that persisted in parts of Bosnia,
including the brutal three-year siege of Sarajevo, will forever remind the world
of the lack of political resolve among European governments and the Security
Council during those years. Srebrenica, where 7,000 Muslim men and boys were
slaughtered, must not be forgotten either.
The catastrophe in Rwanda is described carefully in Romeo Dallaire's book
Shake Hands with the Devil. Suffice it to say here that -- beyond the heroic
roles played by Dallaire, Major Brent Beardsley and the locally-engaged staff at
the Canadian mission in Kigali -- the performance of Canada's politicians,
diplomats and other officials was deeply disappointing.
From Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to throughout the Canadian government, no
one can claim any credit for responsible leadership during the events of
April-July, 1994. Dallaire points out in his book, for instance, that as the UN
Force commander he was expected to take Canadian peacekeepers with him on his
assignment, but he could obtain none from Ottawa. This, in turn, made it even
more difficult to persuade other governments to provide soldiers. The
indifference of our Foreign Affairs ministry's senior management to what was
occurring remains a cause of dishonour to our country.
Linda Malvern's work, Conspiracy To Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, notes that
just before the killing began one new machete for approximately every three
Rwandan men was imported into Rwanda from China.
Consider one of many incidents occurring in South Sudan. On February 26,
2002, the town of Nhialdiu was wiped out to make way for a Chinese oil well that
now operates in nearby Leal. According to James Kynge's award-winning book of
2006, China Shakes the World, "Mortar shells landed at dawn, followed by
helicopter gun ships directing fire at the huts where the people lived. Antonov
aeroplanes dropped bombs and roughly 7,000 (Sudanese) government troops with
pro-government militias then swept through the area with rifles and more than 20
tanks..." About 3000 of the town's 10,000 residents perished that day.
The genocide in Sudan's province of Darfur since April, 2003 has in all
probability cost the lives of as many as 400,000 African Darfurians. The
party-state in Beijing continues to assist Omar al-Bashir's regime in Khartoum,
including financing and supplying arms in exchange for taking most of Sudan's
oil production at much-reduced prices. China officially sold about $80 million
in weapons, aircraft and spare parts to Sudan during 2005 alone. This included
an A-5 Fantan bomber aircraft, helicopter gunships, K-8 military attack aircraft
and light weapons, all of which have been 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. It has
essentially traded its veto and many innocent lives for cheap oil. Bashir
appointed Musa Hilal, the one-time leader of the murderous militia, the
Janjaweed, to a position in his government. Hilal has been quoted as 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 UN
peacekeeping convoy in Darfur, later claiming it was a mistake. Virtually every
independent observer says it was a deliberate attack.
When the active support for the Darfur genocide by China's government caused
serious questions about the upcoming Beijing Olympics, the party-state launched
a propaganda campaign to re-position itself as a "friend of Darfur." No mention
was made of China's trivial humanitarian assistance in Darfur or of the fact
that numerous water sources in Darfur have been deliberately destroyed by
Sudan's regular forces and by the Janjaweed. Water sources are targeted by
Khartoum's bombers; the Janjaweed have often denied civilian access to water and
have raped women and girls as young as eight seeking to collect it for desperate
families. Darfurians themselves now seem well aware of Beijing's role in their
torment and destruction.
There is mounting concern that the Khartoum-Beijing alliance will cause the
UN peacekeeping force in Sudan to be as ineffective as were the peacekeepers in
Rwanda and Bosnia. The actions of the government of China across Darfur can only
be seen as actively promoting, or turning a blind eye to, the annihilation of an
African people for economic advantage.
One of the bravest and most principled world leaders has now been under house
arrest for most of 18 years. In the national uprising in 1988, Nobel Peace
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi made her first speech as an opponent of Burma's
military dictatorship. She and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won about
two-thirds of the votes cast in the 1990 election. The generals allowed none of
the elected representatives to take their seats and arrested her. The UN Special
rapporteur on Burma has confirmed as a "state-instigated massacre" the attack on
her peaceful procession in May, 2003, northwest of Mandalay, when about 100
people were killed, including the NLD photographers; Suu Kyi was herself
In what became more 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. The junta had earlier received a $1.4
billion package of arms from Beijing, so it seems clear where the bullets and
guns were made. At the UN Security Council, the representatives of China and
Russia, who had earlier used their vetoes to remove Burma from the council's
agenda, prevented the Security Council from considering sanctions. The two
governments even managed to keep the Security Council from issuing a
condemnation of the junta's use of deadly force.
The Nargis cyclone in the Irrawaddy delta struck in May. The junta first
pretended by continuing to broadcast an opera on government television it had
never happened. The regime's 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 the dictatorship constitutional in a
referendum on a junta-drafted constitution.
Beijing protects the generals in exchange for most of the country's natural
gas. It also has gained the right 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.
The dictatorship of Kim Jong Il rivals that of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe for
any "worst governance" gold medal. It is no coincidence that Beijing supports
both regimes, although its attempt to ship $70 million in arms to Mugabe after
he lost the first round of the recent presidential election was blocked when
dock workers in South Africa refused to unload ships carrying the weapons and
were supported by the South African courts. According to the International
Crisis Group (ICG) in Brussels, China now does about $2 billion in annual
bilateral trade and investment with North Korea. About 150 Chinese companies
operate in that country.
The ICG asserts that China's priorities with the government in Pyongyang
- incorporating North Korea into the development plans of its three
northeastern provinces to help them achieve economic stability;
- achieving credit in China, in the region and in the U.S. for its help in
achieving a denuclearised North Korea;
- maintaining the two-Korea status quo, as long as it can maintain influence
in both capitals as leverage with the U.S. on the Taiwan issue; and
- avoiding a situation where a nuclear North Korea leads Japan and/or Taiwan
to become nuclear powers.
In October, 2006, after North Korea had completed an underground test of
nuclear weapons, the Economist magazine called on the U.S., China and Russia to
make sacrifices to avoid a nuclear arms race in Asia and the Middle East. "The
Chinese could, if they wished, starve North Korea's people and switch off the
lights," the magazine noted in its lead editorial, but added that pressure of
any kind was unlikely to persuade Kim to give up his bomb.
Systematic human rights abuses by the Iranian government currently include
the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities and women (in a kind of
gender apartheid, under Shari'a law the life of a woman is worth half that of a
man) and the imprisonment, torture and execution of political prisoners and
prisoners of conscience.
In recent months, 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
was heard about them for almost four weeks. It also fired missiles at the
approximately 4,000 UN-protected residents, including about 60 Canadian
citizens, living in Ashraf city in Iraq.
Canada initiated the successfully-adopted 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 (flogging and amputations) and execution of persons who
were under the age of 18 at the time their offence was committed.
In trading with Iran, countries legitimise its government and help to
maintain regime officials in positions of absolute power. Trade and investment
revenues from abroad also provide Tehran with funds that are 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-Iran trade has grown from $200 million in 1990 to $10 billion in 2005.
It includes conventional arms and ballistic missiles for Iran despite Tehran's
declared hostility to "godless communism" and Beijing's severe persecution of
its Uyghur Muslims. 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.
There are good indications that China has helped with the production of
Iran's Shahab-3 and quite probably also the Shahab-4 medium-range ballistic
missiles. Both are capable of reaching any state in the Middle East, including
Israel; the Shahab-4 could also hit significant portions of Europe. Two years
ago, the U.S. government imposed penalties on eight Chinese companies for
exporting material that can be used to improve Iran's ballistic missile
capability. In the Middle East, China's policy of providing Iran with nuclear
weapons technology is injecting a highly-destabilising element into an already
The list of groups and individuals persecuted across China is long. New
victims added during the Olympics included two woman in their 70s, Wu Dianyuan
and Wang Xiuying, who were sentenced to a one-year term of "re-education through
labour" for attempting to hold a legal protest for having been wrongfully
evicted from their Beijing homes seven years ago.
There is not much doubt, however, that overall the Falun Gong community is
the most inhumanly treated. David Matas, the Winnipeg-based international human
rights lawyer, and I concluded our own independent investigation last year. We
found to our deep and continuing concern that, since 2001, the government in
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 nations. We amassed a
substantial body of evidence and became convinced beyond any doubt that this
crime against humanity has occurred and is still happening (Our report can be
accessed at www.organharvestinvestigation.org).
These macabre deaths would not be occurring if the Chinese people enjoyed the
rule of law and if their government believed in the intrinsic importance of each
one of them. In my judgement, it is the lethal combination of totalitarian
governance and "anything is permitted" economics that allows this activity to
The Chinese Medical Association agreed with the World Medical Association
quite recently that "organ tourists" will not be able to obtain further organ
transplants in China. Whether this promise was anything more than public
relations intended to benefit the Beijing Olympiad remains to be seen.
Virtually all independent observers agree that human dignity across China
deteriorated in the run-up to the Games. Because of extensive reporting by the
world's independent media to their home countries before and during the Games,
many across the world are now better informed about exploited Chinese workers
and their families, the ongoing abuse of the Tibetan people, widespread official
nepotism and corruption, the egregious treatment of human rights advocates (such
as Gao Zhizheng), harassment of religions and democracy supporters, the 1,300
ballistic missiles on China's coast aimed at Taiwan, and continuous party-state
attempts since Mao's days to "conquer" the natural environment.
Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
In most of these situations, indifference from the international community
encourages abuses to continue. Human dignity on our shrunken planet, however, is
becoming more indivisible by the day. The R2P concept is a Canadian one, adopted
at the 2005 UN World Leaders Summit at UN headquarters. The formal outcome
document released at the summit stated that nations have "the responsibility to
protect" their populations "from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and
crimes against humanity." The international community's obligation is to "help
states exercise this responsibility." R2P can be invoked by the international
community through the UN Security Council "on a case-by-case basis" and "in
co-operation with relevant regional organisations as appropriate" when national
states are "manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war
crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."
No mention was made of natural disasters, but it seems clear that when a
regime, such as Burma's, denied much-needed food and medicine to its people, it
was engaging in a crime against humanity and should thus be subject to
intervention by other governments under R2P. Unfortunately, international
military force can be used only with the authorisation of the often immobilised
UN Security Council.
A major challenge for R2P in the future is that the party-state in China
strongly favours a 'walled world' in which sovereign authoritarian governments
can do as they wish to their own populations with impunity. Chinese diplomats do
their utmost to persuade governments in developing countries that following the
China Model would free them from the often-painful social consequences of the
stringent economic discipline in place since the financial crises in Asia, Latin
America and Russia in 1997, and the rigorous loan requirements and structural
adjustment policies which both the World Bank and the IMF enforce.
One-party regimes are thus able to push back nowadays with more confidence
against independent media, civil society groups, human rights organisations and
democracy itself. Plentiful 'untied' aid from Beijing for governments with
natural resources gives options to leaders who previously had been compelled to
rely on donor countries that insisted on progress on human dignity among their
nationals. Canadians, Europeans and others, who favour some pooled sovereignty
in institutions like the EU and NATO, are thus competing increasingly with the
Great Wall approach of the Beijing government.
Here are five policy proposals in respect of Canada-China relations intended
to assist the voiceless in China and those affected in Canada:
1) Zero tolerance for unfair trading practices.
There should in future be zero tolerance in Canada when unfair trade
practices are used by the government of China or exporters there, including
currency manipulation of the yuan, theft of intellectual property, the use of
forced labour to manufacture exports and the continued refusal to honour
commitments made by Beijing to the World Trade Organisation upon joining in
2001. Japan, India, South Korea and the other rule-of-law democracies in Asia
and the Pacific must be our favoured trading partners in the region until the
government of China begins to respect the rules of international commerce.
2) Canadian jobs and our own economy must be the priority.
According to a fairly recent survey of more than 1,000 Canadian businesses by
the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, one-fifth of Canadian manufacturers
responded to the rising loonie by shifting production to China. A Montreal
business leader told me that approximately 50 companies from his province would
not be manufacturing in China now without Export Development Corporation (EDC)
financial help. This should stop. No taxpayer money should be going to relocate
Canadian jobs to China or anywhere else. Goodyear Tire laid off about 850
employees when it closed its manufacturing facility near Montreal last year in
favour of moving to China, yet tires made in China have since been recalled
elsewhere as safety hazards.
3) Canadian values must be asserted continuously in dealings with Beijing.
All rule-of-law governments, including Canada's, must cease being naive about
the party-state in Beijing. The regime continues to rely on repression and
brutality to maintain itself in office, but what are Canadian diplomats in China
doing effectively to show themselves to be the friends of the poor, persecuted
and voiceless across China? What are they doing to advance the rule of law and
human dignity? Fully realising the differences, Canada might seek a role in
China not too different from the one we had in establishing popular democracy in
South Africa in the late 1980s, which is viewed by some as our country's finest
leadership role internationally in many years.
4) Canada and other rule-of-law governments should in concert seek to apply
lessons of non-violent civic resistance elsewhere to China.
To be sure, these must be applied very carefully in light of the Tiananmen
Square protest experience in 1989 and often elsewhere since. The non-violent
civic resistance, which occurred in Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines, Chile,
Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic states, South Africa,
Serbia, Peru, Georgia, Romania and other nations, could have implications for
China.. Each situation was different in terms of boycotts, mass protests,
strikes and civil disobedience. In all, however, authoritarian rulers were
delegitimised and their sources of support, including their armed defenders,
eventually abandoned them. All governments of Canada should make it clear that
they stand with the oppressed hundreds of millions of nationals in China and in
its client states elsewhere and seek a peaceable transition to the rule-of-law,
respect for all, and democratic governance. Beijing's decision to "persuade"
Robert Mugabe not to attend the opening of the Olympics perhaps illustrates a
new sensitivity to international opinion about the world's voiceless people.
5) Let's stop listening excessively to self-interested China business
It is now clear that economic liberalisation in China is not necessarily
going to lead to the end of political Leninism in Beijing and its client
countries. Torture and coerced confessions, party-state killing of Falun Gong
practitioners and others extra-judicially, systematic abuse of the Tibetan and
Uyghur minorities, nation-wide exploitation of Chinese workers and families, the
lack of any kind of social programs for most Chinese -- all are incompatible
with human dignity and the norms of the 21st century. There is no rule-of-law
anywhere in China and its 'courts' are a sham. The party-state shows continuing
contempt for the natural environment (except in Beijing before and during the
Olympics). Many 'experts' on China abroad, including Canada, kowtow to the
party-state because they think that their careers require support by the Party.
It's time to draw conclusions about China from facts on the ground to support
human dignity consistent with the best Canadian values.
Despite all, the new China is stirring in the direction of vast and profound
change. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese students have studied abroad and are
now an increasingly important part of the political, economic and social fabric
at home. Undoubtedly they return with new ideas and the experience of life in
rule-of-law and democratic countries. It is hard to see them settling back into
authoritarian rule for long. Chinese tourists are now venturing abroad as never
before and are seeing for themselves life in different socio-political
environments. Despite strenuous effort to clamp down on religion, tens of
millions of Chinese are reclaiming their right to believe. Temples, churches and
mosques are clandestinely mushrooming across China. These developments and
others will lead demands for greater freedoms by word of mouth. Canada and all
friends of the people of China need to recognise this phenomenon and position
ourselves to support the new tide of expectations that a younger generation of
Chinese will bring to bear on all these issues.