Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Seven Questions: A Walk On The Dark Side

Amnesty International has just released its global annual report in Moscow. Joshua Rubenstein, a senior spokesman for the human rights organization, on the regimes and trends that are making the world a much nastier place was interviewed by FP. Here we take a look at China and Russia.

Foreign Policy: Joshua Rubenstein: Certainly, there are some trends that are very worrisome. You have a deteriorating human rights situation in countries like China, Zimbabwe, and Iran. This echoes previous years, but it’s complicated by the war on terror, where the vocabulary of the Bush administration is being adopted by other governments around the world. For example, in China, there’s tension between the central government and this Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang [autonomous region]. Now we’re told that the Uighurs are “terrorists,” and the Chinese are carrying out repression there as if somehow the activity for greater autonomy of the Uighurs is connected to terrorism....

FP: Let’s talk more about China. Surely its treatment of the Uighur minority is not China’s only human rights problem?

JR: We’re all aware that China has many domestic human rights issues—the torture of Falun Gong practitioners, the arrests of lawyers and journalists and Internet activists—but we also need to play more attention to China’s role in the world: Its role in Darfur where, along with Russia, it is the principal supplier of arms to the government of Sudan; its role in Africa generally, where it seems indifferent to human rights issues. China is just happy to be there and extract minerals and oil in the same way we used to see colonial regimes behave in the 19th century.

FP: Amnesty chose to hold a press conference in Moscow to release this report. Why Moscow?

JR: It’s important to shine a spotlight on Russia and on the former Soviet Union. Keep in mind that after the Soviet Union collapsed, there were very substantial hopes that these countries would move in a more democratic and peaceful direction. But unfortunately, under Russian President Vladimir Putin, we’ve seen a severe retreat from democratic principles. We’ve seen physical attacks on human rights defenders and journalists. All this has a big influence not only on Russian democracy, but on all of the former Soviet Union, on Central Asia, on Belarus. But I’m not sure that the U.S. administration is willing to raise these issues with Russia and risk provoking a new Cold War, which no one wants.(more)
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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