Taipei Times: China's disregard for human rights

By Paul Lin

The global community, especially the West, has been overly indulgent toward China's human rights abuses, with the result that China has become too big for its own boots. Displaying this unwarranted arrogance, China is now
extending its dark hand abroad. If this isn't stopped, it will be less a question of China linking up with the outside world as of the outside world being subjugated by China.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Iceland from June 13 to 16. Because Jiang is soon to turn over his presidential duties to Vice President Hu Jintao, he is seizing the opportunity to travel as much as possible as president while he still can. Iceland, a first-rate place to avoid the heat of summer, became Jiang's top choice as a destination to visit before retiring.

But, just in case any Falun Gong members were thinking of protesting China's brutal suppression of the [group's] followers, there-by casting a pall on Jiang's holiday, Beijing provided Iceland's government with a list of [group] members' names. No prizes for guessing how the blacklist must have described Falun Gong's crimes. Without a doubt, members must have been made out to be fearsome devils or terrorists in order to encourage Iceland to refuse them visas and Iceland Air to refuse to allow them board its planes. Similarly, those [group] members already in Iceland wouldn't have been detained nor had their movement restricted.

It is truly shocking, however, that a democratic country could so credulously accept such a blacklist from China's fascist regime and be so quick to sacrifice its own national ideals. Was it China's political pressure, or was it the prospect of certain benefits offered by Beijing that caused Iceland to yield?

Members of the European Parliament expressed concern over the matter, while public opinion in Iceland was certainly at odds with the government’s action. According to one opinion poll, 90 percent of the respondents opposed banning Falun Gong followers from entering the country. One non-governmental organization organized a protest against the ban outside the school where Falun Gong followers from several different countries were being held -- 300 people showed up.

The Chinese Communist Party may have effectively trampled upon international human rights, but in the end Beijing's actions only helped publicize the Falun Gong's cause. On June 13 -- the day of Jiang's arrival -- 450 Icelandic legislators and other notables published four full-page newspaper advertisements -- with the word "Sorry" emblazoned in Chinese characters at the top of the page. On June 14 local human rights groups organized an anti-Jiang demonstration in Reykjavik that attracted about 1,000 people. Given that Iceland has a population of about 250,000, getting 1,000 people to a protest is no small feat.

China has also been doing a lot of damage to its international image back home as well. More than 10 policemen entered South Korea's visa office in Beijing on June 13 to seize two North Koreans who had taken refuge there. Three South Korean diplomats and reporters were injured trying to stop the police from seizing the two men. Such wanton assaults on diplomats and blatant disregard for international diplomatic protocol -- under which diplomatic compounds are regarded as sovereign territory -- amounts to the promotion of Beijing's reckless denial of human rights as an actual instrument of foreign policy. This is the behaviour of a rogue nation.

But let's face it -- China has always acted like this toward the people of Taiwan. Why should the people of North or South Korea be any different? This should be a lesson for all free, democratic nations. Mollycoddle the Chinese Communist Party and, in the end, you face disaster.

China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a signatory to the UN Convention on Human Rights, acted unlawfully in the situations detailed above. So why has UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan failed to speak out?

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

Translated by Ethan Harkness and Scudder Smith


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