Thursday, December 15, 2005

Blood-red herring

Asiapundit has an important update to this story that includes rumors that the families of the dead are being given the Hobson's choice of collecting blood money or getting beaten and receiving nothing. Meanwhile, "the authorities bombed the bodies they found and kept, so that they have 'evidence' on hand to show that villagers died by explosives."

Not to make light of this, but I'm guessing they haven't seen CSI. It sounds like China needs to bring independent overseas experts in on this. Now.

San Nakji asked... no, challenged me to make a statement on the recent news of a massacre at a Chinese village in which as many as twenty people or more have reportedly been killed. Since then, there has been a clear effort by the Chinese authorities to cover it up, even to the point, say villagers, of dragging bodies away.

Mourners in Dongzhou [photo from Asiapundit]

Many people are shocked. I am dismayed, definitely. But to those who have been thrown by this, I ask you: This surprises you how?

To put less fine a point on it: What made you think this was no longer characteristic of the Communist regime in China?

Everybody talks up the economic development — and the economic opportunities — to be had in China, and this tends to drown out the reality there. Yes, there is considerably more freedom there, especially in the cities, but we are kidding ourselves if we think the regime there is no longer a monstrous, multi-tentacled controlling force. Almost certainly, it is not as bad as North Korea, but everybody knows of Pyongyang's nefarious ways. When did we stop knowing this about China?

China exercises a great deal of control over its citizens in the countryside, which, in stark contrast to the populations of South Korea, Japan, North America, Australia, and Western Europe, make up a whopping 3/4 of the total population. That's three times the population of the U.S. living away from where the gaijin/gweilo can see them.

The Communists control their movement, where they can live, until recently whom they can marry. With a series of often devastating "disincentives," they control how many children they can have.

There is no real freedom of religion. They execute people, often publicly, after summary trials, sometimes on charges that would not warrant the death penalty even in Western countries (including South Korea and Japan) that still use capital punishment.

People's ability to bring up grievances is limited, and often the local party apparatus comes down on hard to those who dissent from their rule. People who are not officially indicted are often beaten--sometimes to death--in jail cells with no oversight.

Even in the cities, dissent is NOT tolerated. People are jailed and sometimes beaten and tortured for saying things exactly like what I'm saying now. If someone like me were in the PRC, he or she would likely be engaging in "self-censorship" to avoid an unwelcome knock at the door.

So is it any surprise that in some small, isolated village the authorities would answer dissent by shooting at the dissenters, killing a couple dozen of them? And is it any surprise that they would fall over themselves trying to keep it under wraps? After all, this is the same China that hid information about the SARS outbreak and the recent environmental disaster in Harbin, the result of which may have meant
many more deaths.

In the United States and other countries that are free-wheelingly doing business in China, this is an inconvenient thing to think about. Some would even call the human rights issue in China a
red herring.

Well the red from that herring is the color of hemoglobin. But it will be tolerated, as long as it doesn't get to the level of Tiananmen, right? Lots of little village incidents might surpass Tiananmen in death toll, but that's okay, because we won't know about it. So Beijing hopes.

Since President Clinton, in the mid-1990s, joined the Republicans in ending the annual debate over whether economic development should be tied to human rights in China, the United States hoped things would get better. I'm not so sure that has been the case.

We talk of North Korean human rights abuses--and they are serious--but we act as if China's human rights abuses are incidental or even an aberration. But are they really?

China has nearly SIXTY TIMES the population of North Korea. If every village government in North Korea is committing major abuses, then if just one out of every fifty Chinese village governments is doing the same thing, that would SURPASS the number of tortures or killings of North Korea. Where do we stand on the issue then?

The International Olympic Committee gave the 2008 Olympiad to Beijing in the hopes that they, like South Korea, would be democratized by the experience. But the two countries are world's apart in terms of where they were coming from and how they treated their people. South Korea under Presidents Park and Chun was no democratic picnic, but the people enjoyed far more freedoms and the political parameters were far narrower than the Chinese have. Plus, South Korea had more impetus to change: its entire image was riding on how it was perceived and it was in no position to thumb its nose at the democratic demands of the rest of the world.

The street demonstrations of 1987 led to President Chun stripping away the remaining obstacles to direct democracy. In Beijing, I fear that won't happen. If anything, public dissent will likely lead to greater suppression, and more incidents like this, not a loosening of the Party's monopolistic grip.

This means I am torn about boycotting the Beijing Olympics. I do believe now is the time for citizens around the world to stand up and threaten to change the channel (and thus cut off the revenue stream) if certain human rights conditions are not met. Among them would be the allowing of free assembly and the ability to air grievances, along with the equally important demands that Beijing stop rounding up North Koreans and sending them back to North Korea where they and their family members face certain imprisonment, likely torture, and possible death.

At the same time, we in the West need to end the fantasy that it is okay to buy blood-stained cheapery from Walmart, E-Mart, Carrefour, Mitsukoshi, the 100-yen Store, and Circuit City. China is doubly responsible for major human rights violations: those perpetrated on its own people, and those willingly and knowingly allowed in its client state, North Korea.

This incident should be a wake-up call: mini-Tiananmens in China are not a thing of the past.



  1. See, I knew you were dying to say that! Good point on the Seoul Olympics v Beijing, I hadn't really thought about that.
    I hope your mention of Australia wasn't meant to include my little part of the world....

  2. The real story here is how the villagers resisted government corruption and were able to get their story to the rest of China and the outside world. Expect more stories like this in the future. It is heartening to see Chinese people band together and stand up to government oppression, just like the peasants in Taishi.


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