Thursday, May 29, 2008

Matas: Calling China to account

Those who argue that Beijing is making great strides in respecting human rights and international law had better think again

Special to Globe and Mail Update

For tyrannies, there is a huge gap between word and deed. Repression at home goes hand in hand with hypocrisy abroad. The question then becomes, who will notice? Who is prepared to tell the tyrant that he is wearing no clothes?

When it comes to China, the answer is: not Peter Harder. In an essay last Saturday in The Globe and Mail advocating that the government of Canada provide "public expressions of support and confidence" in China, the former deputy minister of foreign affairs wrote: "In spite of the current controversies about China, its government has a mostly commendable record of responsible international behaviour."


China has been financing the Sudanese genocide in Darfur, leading Mia Farrow to call the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games the genocide Olympics. Sudan uses the massive revenue from sale of oil to China to purchase instruments of destruction from China.

A Chinese arms shipment to the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe last month was thwarted only because South African dock workers refused to unload the arms.

China is the primary arms supplier of the Burmese military regime.

Immediately before the genocide in Rwanda in 1993, China sold and exported to Rwanda three quarters of a million dollars worth of machetes, one for every third male.

But Mr. Harder also wrote: "Membership in the World Trade Organization means that China adheres to international commercial values and standards, and to the rule of law."


An investigation by Minister of State David Kilgour and myself led us to conclude, to our horror, that between 2001 and 2006 China killed Falun Gong practitioners in the tens of thousands so that their organs could be sold to foreign transplant tourists. Falun Gong is an exercise regime with a spiritual foundation based on ancient Chinese traditions banned in 1999.

Christians who are not part of organizations controlled by the Government are harassed and detained.

China seized Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil from Uzbekistan in March, 2006 and threw him into a jail where he remains to this day as part of its campaign of repression against Uighurs, an ethnic group in the Chinese northwest.

Chinese paramilitary police, in March, beat and killed Buddhist monks peacefully protesting repression in Tibet.

The U.S. State Department, in March, reported that "atrocious" torture is widespread throughout China.

China routinely sends back refugees to North Korea who face arrest, torture or death upon return.

China has the death penalty for almost 70 crimes, many of them minor offences. Though a January 2007 change in procedure has led to a drop in executions, China still executes more offenders by far than any other country.

China maintains a system of labour camps where people are detained without trial and forced into slave labour. The Laogai Research Foundation estimates the number of detainees to be at least two million.

Freedom House reports that China imprisons more journalists than any other country. As well, it blocks access to web sites that contradict Chinese propaganda.

Human Rights Watch reports that human rights lawyers face severe abuses ranging from harassment to disbarment and physical assault. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng wrote: "You cannot be a rights lawyer in this country without becoming a rights case yourself." Gao himself has been beaten, tortured and disappeared.

Communist China has killed more innocents than Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia combined. There is no accountability today for these crimes. The official policy of China remains to deny the existence of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989.

The courts in China are subject to the direction of the Communist Party. According to Politburo member Luo Gan, in a February 2007 speech: "Enemy forces are seeking to use China's legal system to Westernize and divide the country, and the Communist Party must fend them off by maintaining its dominance over lawyers, judges and prosecutors."

Amnesty International reported last month an increasing wave of repression because of the upcoming Olympics, in an apparent attempt to portray a stable image to the world.

This is not the rule of law. Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization does not mean that China now lives by the rule of law, only that Chinese hypocrisy has become more blatant.

David Matas is a Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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