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
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 www.organharvestinvestigation.net).
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:
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?