In the last week two things have happened that remind me why New Zealand and the world must stand up to China. China’s abuses are happening because western nations lack the gonads to stand up and tell China that this abuse is not acceptable.
The first thing is the introduction of the National Security Law in Hong Kong. This is a draconian piece of legislation that Beijing has spent the last year trying to get passed. If passed – which it did last week – it would enable Chinese secret police to operate in the open; dissent would be a criminal offence and trials in Chinese courts with life sentences would all be permitted. It originally could not do it directly because Hong Kong rose in protest. Then it tried to get it passed through the Hong Kong legislature. That failed too. So a vote went ahead in Beijing to ratify without Hong Kong input.
The second is the resurfacing of the Jian Yang problem. Jian Yang is a National Party Member of Parliament with suspected links to the Chinese Communist Party. Mr Yang denies them, but refuses to talk to the New Zealand media about his past. I wrote about this yesterday.
One should fully expect Beijing to throw a tantrum, something the Chinese Government is prone to doing every time it gets called on its abuses. They will tell us to stay out of their affairs as China stays out of other nations affairs. Which is totally not true. When opposition to Chinese influence developed in Fiji a few years ago, China sent police over to arrest 75 people.
Pro-Beijing supporters here in New Zealand have often confronted dissidents at peaceful demonstrations, and tried to intimidate them into stopping their activities. Some have gone so far as physical confrontation. A New Zealand academic’s house was broken into a few years ago, as was her office just a couple of days apart, following the release of a paper that she had helped author into Chinese Government influence in New Zealand politics.
New Zealand must draw the line on China. New Zealanders have a right to expect that their country will be free from foreign interference in domestic processes.
One might argue that then we are being hypocrites in being involved in China’s domestic affairs. And this is where there needs to be differentiation. The major concerns regarding China’s domestic affairs centre around their attempts to control sovereign states not under their direct control, namely Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Their agreement with Britain over Hong Kong was that it would be under Chinese rule, but maintain a democratic form of governance – One State Two Systems. For 23 years with slowly worsening Chinese influence, this was largely the case. All that changed on 1 July 2020. The introduction of the security law last week effectively ended the One State Two Systems and replaced it with One State One System. In the week since they have arrested over 300 dissidents, forcibly unseated the democratically elected council.
In the case of Taiwan, China views this most successful of all of the Asian nations in terms of fighting COVID19 as a renegade province. Chinese nationalists envisage a day when Taiwan might be taken by force, as it it is too strong and independent to surrender without massive resistance. Taiwan will be significantly harder because taking it by force invites a major military conflict. More likely China will continue to try to intimidate Taiwanese politicians and block its attempts to join world bodies.
We cannot turn a blind eye to Chinese international aggression. We have seen ample examples of what happens when an aggressor is allowed to get away with unjust acts – the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and the rest of that country in 1939. Nor can we turn a blind eye as the world did in the 1930’s to China’s affairs when entire ethnic groups are being subjugated in Xinjiang Province and it is here I am reminded of Martin Niemoller’s famous words:
First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist
Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me
China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang are utterly terrifying to read about. A vast network of camps with almost concentration camp like conditions in which Uighur Muslims are being held. Many are being used for slave labour. Among the female prisoners rape is rife; torture and beatings are common. Whereas other parts of the country enable relatively free movement, Xinjiang is like some sort of Orwellian nightmare come true – everywhere closely monitored electronically, visually and otherwise.
It is a shame that such a great nation like China, which has contributed so much over the course of history to this planet is behaving like this. However many people wondered – and probably still do wonder – how Germany came to be an international pariah in the 1930s and 1940’s. History, after all, has its lessons. We would do well to learn them.