Wednesday, October 01, 2008


What follows is essentially what is carried in the Sept./Oct. issue of
Diplomat and International Canada magazine (

by David Kilgour

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

Genocide Convention

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


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 wounded.

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.

North Korea

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 currently include:

• 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

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 volatile


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

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 persist.

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.

Policy Proposals

Here are five policy proposals in respect of Canada-China relations
intended to assist the voiceless in China and those affected in

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

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

5) Let's stop listening excessively to self-interested China business lobbies.

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.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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