Friday, February 24, 2006


The Chinese puzzle

People get exercised, as they should, about torture by Americans of Iraqis, Afghans, and others swept up in this increasingly disproportionate "war on terror." It is our country and those who abuse its laws defame us and expose us to danger. And yet, we need to keep in mind that the rest of the world is not necessarily prettier. The human rights situation in China seems to me to be getting noticeably worse. One bright spot is that oppression of Christians does seem to be declining. Of course, the government has gone up against Falun Gong. But the maltreatment of political activists has gone way up. Some examples: At least eight prominent Chinese human rights activists have vanished after they joined one of the first overt attempts to coordinate a nationwide protest ... Among those still missing is Hu Jia, who played a leading role in exposing the contaminated blood scandal that infected tens - and possibly hundreds - of thousands of people with HIV in Henan province. ... A similar fate has befallen Qi Zhiyong, a pro-democracy activist whose legs were amputated after he was shot during the 1989 protests.... Yu Zhijian - a former teacher who threw paint on a vast portrait of Mao Zedong in central Beijing during the 1989 demonstrations, has been charged with subversion. ...Solitary confinement and other forms of psychological torture had taken such a toll that he was unable to recognise his mother.... The authorities have been struggling to control a wave of unrest. The Ministry of Public Security reported 87,000 protests, riots or other "mass incidents" last year, up 6.6% from 2004. Almost all protests have been confined to specific local issues - usually disputes over land - but security officials fear that malcontents are becoming more organised. These dissidents are the people who can save China from the huge environmental and social problems that are piling up. If they are destroyed, so is China's future. The Chinese government fears that rapid democratization could undercut economic progress which, after all, makes democracy possible. But the reverse is also true. Democracies must have truthtellers. Otherwise, like America over the last quarter century, they become increasingly corrupt, the economy grinds down, and the key components of democracy-- a genuinely free press, honest elections, rising education, and so on-- are no longer affordable.
You're right, but it's still disappointing to prodemocracy activists who once looked to the US ideals for inspiration and support. As National Radio Project this week makes clear, the US never measured up to its rhetoric on human rights, but until 12/12/2000 it at least paid them lip service.
The news from China makes me think of Lu Xun, especially "Wild Grasses". Everything seems to be caught up in a cynical horror of theft and aquisition and everyone is just another commodity.

The Bush junta certainly doesn't see anything wrong with this situation, they're probably envious in that they still have to pretend to aspire to something different. And even if they don't they wouldn't dare to do anything to one of their biggest creditors, not while the dauphin is in office, anyway. After him it's not going to be just a deluge, it's going to be a cataclysm.

The message to democrats around the world is that the United States isn't your salvation. You're going to have to fight your own oppressors and in a lot of cases the Bush junta too.
You've hit it exactly, Spartacus.

There are terrible things that go on in the US regularly, and the federal government is rarely the worst offender. Most jails constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Diane Wilson and Susan McDougal are our modern day Jane Addams, entering the jails to expose both the humanity of the prisoners and the inhumanity of the penal system. One of the frightening things that I learned is that space in US jails is often less than what the men placed in dog cages at Guantanamo had. And unlike Guantanamo, there's nothing to protect the weak from the strong or the mad.

So, the US commitment to human rights has always been more noble myth than reality. And yet that myth has been more powerful than American armies in rooting out tyranny around the word.

We can only hope that it is strong enough to extirpate the root of that evil weed that is growing in our government.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

More blogs about politics.
Technorati Blog Finder