“As for Xi’s much-ballyhooed anti-corruption campaign inside China, it offends me that international media depict it as a good-governance effort…” Anne Stevenson-Yang
It’s the face of a good man, looking down very sadly, as if he has suffered a body blow – which indeed he has. And there’s a very real question of whether our government-led snuggling up to an utterly repressive, brutal and corrupt Communist Chinese régime is not only totally unethical – but also very, very foolish.
What about bringing reality on board in these matters? The sad photograph referred to is that of Illham Tohti, an economics professor and peaceful advocate for human rights who founded a website which published articles on social issues. Three days ago, seven of his students were also jailed after disappearing into police custody for 10 months. Mr Tohti is regarded as more deserving of the Nobel Prize than the shockingly unjust sentence inflicted on him.
Well, in China, you can forget about human rights. Needless to say the website was closed down, accused of forging links to extremists in the Uyghur Diaspora. Among his other “crimes” Tohti called for a stricter interpretation of China’s 1984 Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law. His wife, who had not seen her husband for eight months, wept when he was led away. She worries about his health, given that during his imprisonment, food and warm clothing were reportedly intermittently withheld from him. All his assets have been confiscated – although she has two young sons to support. The PEN American Center, which campaigns for freedom of expression and gave Mr. Tohti an award in March 2014, three months after he had been detained, released a statement saying: ,“His conviction makes a mockery of China’s professed commitment to social harmony by silencing one of the country’s unifying voices and, with it, fellow Uyghur writers who are now unlikely to dare speak out.”
What about the number of journalists imprisoned for writing articles critical of the current Communist government? What about the many dissidents locked away, reporting verified incidences of brutality and torture while in prison? What about all the victims of what is basically a tyrannical régime – for all its clever cultivation of countries like New Zealand which it wants to use for “strategic alliances”. What sort of strategic alliances… with a country whose buying up of influence right throughout the Pacific to gain possible military bases is raising considerable concern – a thoroughly undemocratic country which has, extraordinarily enough, even suggested possible, utterly inappropriate military alliances with this country? And how far can we trust our government?
As recently as early this month, President Xi Jinping, with whom our Prime Minister appears to have an extremely comfortable relationship, reportedly “intensified his ideological onslaught on China’s creative industries with a plan to send artists, filmmakers and television producers to rural villages and mining towns ‘to form a correct view of art’. This scheme, according to the state news agency, will be extended to script writers, directors, broadcasters and television anchors, all of whom will be obliged to spend one month “in ethnic minority and border areas”.
It is not surprising that a parallel with the attack on the tall poppies in the infamous Cultural Revolution springs to mind. China’s philosophy of keeping its friends close, but its enemies closer, should make us very circumspect in our relationship with a country whose practices of brutality towards its own people have been compared to those of Nazi Germany.
President Xi Jinping is now regarded as China’s most powerful and oppressive leader since Mao Tse Tung. “The smile on the face of the tiger” is a not inaccurate summing up of the public persona of this President presiding over “a major crackdown on government opponents that has seen academics, activists and human rights lawyers jailed.”
It is an exceptionally brave and principled individual who will now stand up to the downright bullying of this oppressive Communist régime. Internet and press censorship have deteriorated rapidly under Xi – a fact which our National-led government apparently has no problem with. We make no official public protest ever – against the well-known brutality of China’s government. Not ever. But according to the evasive John Key, possibly wearing one of his interchangeable hats, our concerns are voiced – it’s just that this is always done behind the scenes.
Really? A shame, then that we have no evidence whatsoever of this. And if in fact it is done. It is no doubt regarded on both sides as a mere routine gesture, with no genuine interest whatsoever on the part of New Zealand to shame China into treating its people as individual human beings, with very real rights, including that of freedom from oppression, freedom to speak to the truth of issues – and freedom from excessive bullying from their government.
New Zealand is now apparently being requested to support China’s hunt for supposedly corrupt officials and fraudsters who have fled China’s control to escape to countries, very possibly including New Zealand, with huge sums of public money.
Should we be thinking more deeply about this? Where are our standards? Should economic considerations alone concern us in our dealings with a country whose Communist government exercises a vice-like control over its people, abuses its citizens, even to a denial of basic human rights?
Granted that we have a charismatic New Zealand Prime Minister whose love affair with the media is only now beginning to look tacky — but who up till very recently has more or less got his own way with regard to the issues of the day. And has there historically been a more damaging attribute in a leader then the very dangerous gift of charisma? Nor is John Key regarded as overly given to landing fairly and squarely onto the truth of issues – but rather as imaginatively skirting around them. The selection of hats he wears to approach people in apparently differing capacities appears to be changed according to convenience.
But what when he is speaking for New Zealanders, and considering undertaking commitments about which the country has not been consulted?
According to the National Business Review, China needs help, not hindrance, in its new fox-hunting campaign. But what kind of government are we dealing with is the first question we should be asking ourselves, when considering any sort of cooperation beyond basic trade issues (now problematic enough) with a régime which hunts down its own dissidents and gives the lie to its apparent endorsement of democratic freedoms. China is of course, like any supposedly “Communist country”, much more like a kleptocracy – defined as “ a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class, at the expense of the wider population, often with pretence of honest service.”
So how should we respond when we have a call from the highest-ranking representatives of this government to facilitate the return of hugely wealthy Chinese immigrants arriving with money that the present Chinese leader (according to Prime Minister Key) claims is not theirs, and results from corrupt activities?
This begs very relevant questions. If this is so, who let these people into the country? Why has New Zealand been giving immigration preference to the super-rich – and therefore making it easier for corrupt money to enter the country? And what sort of values is our government showing to the world by making considerable wealth the prime requisite for entry? Moreover, what about the fact about which the government is in denial that – that our Mums and Dads and young, first-time homeowners are being forced out of the housing market by a now considerable imbalance – in particular the flood of homes being sold to Chinese buyers?
The warning signs are there, as in blogger Bernard Hickey’s drawing attention to the fact that a website that markets over 8500 New Zealand homes to Chinese buyers is just the beginning. The flood of Chinese investment is expected to rise 15 to 20% in 2015 and 2016…Yet John Key’s government has to be dragged towards looking at what Australia is doing to protect Australian families. While Key continues an obfuscation and rejection of information he would rather not have – his usual flippant denials (in this case the dismissive “all anecdotal’) – he is completely wrong. And this does raise the question – not for the first time – of where Key’s loyalties really lie?
While an Australian parliamentary enquiry has called for a foreign buyers’ register – and our government remains determinedly antipathetic to the notion – in Australia, non-resident buyers are not allowed to buy existing homes, only new ones… on the basis, the thinking goes, at least this way they are not competing with first home owners for existing properties. This still raises the fundamental question of whether the increasing Chinese buy-up of our farmland, our companies, and our valuable strategic assets is really in the best interest of New Zealanders?
Do we need a long spoon indeed, dining so cosily with this economic powerhouse increasing its military spending to a staggering extent, and harbouring a world-view which should make us very wary?
What about others who have been targeted by this thoroughly brutalised regime? Ask the Falun Gong forcibly detained in prison camps, their live organs removed for transplants, as verified in an independent reputable Canadian investigation. Ask Dr David Goodman of St Vincent’s hospital, Melbourne, who as recently as 2013 told a reporter from Fairfax media that there is a bank of live, involuntary donors in China whose organs are earmarked for harvesting, and that the number vastly exceeds that of those Chinese convicted of capital crimes and awaiting execution.
The reporter from Fairfax Media asked Dr. Goodman about organ tourism, if he “had ever had dialysis patients disappear, only to reappear two weeks later with a scar on their torsos.” “Multiple times,” Dr. Goodman replied.” About five years ago a whole cluster of them went off to China together and returned with transplanted kidneys. The donors were convicts about to be executed and the blood and tissue types had already been matched.”
Australia’s News Weekly on May 11, 2013, published an article written by Jeffry Babb, a Melbourne-based writer recently returned from a tour of South East Asia, on May 11, 2013. The title of the article – “Human Rights: China’s grisly organ theft: the crime our shame:” stated that “No-one one leaves this butcher’s shop alive; that one talks about it. Nobody know how many of China’s Falun Gong practitioners have been subject to “involuntary organ harvesting”… which can only be supplied if donors are ‘slaughtered to order’ and their organs removed while they are still alive.”
Where did these large numbers of organs come from? Reportedly, Australian patients never realized they had been customers of the “killing on demand” of prisoners for their organs. “The Chinese régime executes 2000 to 3000 prisoners on death row each year. Their published data show that in 2005, there were 20,000 organ transplants; in 2008, there were 86,800 kidney transplants, 14,643 liver transplants, far more than the number of death row inmates.”
Babb noted that the Chinese people themselves have a very well-developed sense of justice and fair play, that for very many years “members of China’s Mandarin class of ruling bureaucrats were selected through competitive examinations open to any talented candidate in China. The sole criterion was merit.
“Today, China is governed by a venal and self-perpetuating élite called the Chinese Communist Party. Eventually, one of the tens of thousands of “mass incidents” that occur in China every year will spark a conflagration, and this evil empire will topple….”
Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, Professor of Medicine, Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Sydney and a contributor to State Organs:Transplant Abuse in China, said, “Killing someone to sell their organs for transplantation… is a violation of the most basic human right – the right to life itself.” And on December 2, 2013, many doctors and attendees of the 12th Congress of the International Society of Organ Donation and Procurement (ISODP) signed the petition to help stop forced organ harvesting in China.
The word “evil” no doubt makes liberal theorists uneasy. Yet the evidence is as great as ever that it is as much a reality in human affairs as it has ever been. Mr Hosking, who apparently likes to throw around the word xenophobic, directing it at those asking very real concerns about whether we are being virtually colonised by Communist China, needs to think more deeply about these issues. ..”
Moreover, in http://www.chinafile.com/reporting-opinion/features/why-beijings-troubles-could-get-lot-worse, a prominent Chinese scholar, Anne Stevenson-Yang, expresses her exasperation with the lazy analysis by Western media (we can include New Zealand journalists here) in relation to the real situation in China. “As for Xi’s much-ballyhooed anti-corruption campaign inside China, it offends me that international media depict it as a good-governance effort. What’s really going on is an old-style Party purge reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s with quota-driven arrests, summary trials, mysterious disappearances, and suicides, which has already entrapped, by our calculations, 100,000 Party operatives and others. The intent is not moral purification by the Xi administration but instead the elimination of political enemies and other claimants to the economy’s spoils.”
What is our democracy worth if the toughest questions in politics are thought best avoided – while we cuddle up closer to this thoroughly undemocratic country whose government’s values are the antithesis to those held by New Zealanders?
I’m reminded of Dante’s “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”
Should John Key’s government be showing all the signs of moral neutrality towards Communist China, and sheer indifference to what is happening to brave and good people there?