China’s treatment of dissidents and human rights does not behove a great power  

The one-party regime in China has belied expectations that its membership of the WTO would lead to respect for human rights. Instead it is today posing a threat to global peace and stability

Photo Courtesy: IANS
Photo Courtesy: IANS

George Abraham

Rahm Emmanuel, the former mayor of Chicago, was once quoted as saying ‘never let a good crisis go to waste”. It appears that China is operating on the same axiom leveraging the Coronavirus crisis - thanks to either their deliberate mismanagement or severe dereliction of duty - by virtue of which the world has been brought on its knees.

Over 121,000 people have succumbed to the deadly disease already in the U.S., and India had to shut down the entire country to combat this deadly virus putting the lives and wellbeing of its ordinary citizens at significant risk. To add insult to injury, China now has invaded the Indian territory in Ladakh, resulting in the death of twenty or more of its soldiers.

This military action by the Chinese may not be an accidental one but part of a well-executed strategy to seize additional territory while the whole world is preoccupied with the COVID crisis. In recent weeks, the Chinese have sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China sea, swarmed a Malaysian offshore rig, threatened Taiwan, and tightened their grip on Hong Kong.

They have manipulated the World Health Organization in misleading the world on the danger of the COVID-19 and then went on a buying spree to corner most of the medical equipment and accessories needed to fight the virus and then sold them back to the same countries for an obscene profit.

China is proving beyond any doubt that they are not only a danger to the health and wellbeing of the world citizenry but also pose a genuine threat to the peace and security of the world. For those who constantly despise America’s leadership in the world, the growing power of China should give them a pause. The communist dictatorship under Xi Jinping has little or no respect for human rights and treats dissidents with disdain and often with harsh punishment. During the height of the COVID crisis in Wuhan, there were stories of patients whose front doors were bolted from outside and who were left to die, and residents hearing screams from the nearby crematorium.

How the Chinese soldiers have circumvented the basic agreement of being unarmed at the Line of control is an excellent example of their deception and despicable behavior. According to the Indian sources, what had started as an effort at disengagement suddenly unraveled, and scuffles broke out. Chinese came down with stones wrapped with barbed wire and sharpened rods and attacked the men, and several of them were thrown off the cliffs to the Galwan river, with many men said to have died after plunging into the frigid glacial waters below.

How China dealt with the COVID crisis would give a glimpse of how disingenuous and dishonest the rulers of that Communist country are in terms of suppressing the truth and propagating disinformation to the detriment of the rest of the world. According to U.S. intelligence reports, China has indeed concealed the extent of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it suffered from the disease. The outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, but the country has reported only 86,000 cases with 4600 deaths.

“ The claim that the United States has more Coronavirus deaths than China is false,” Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said in a statement after Bloomberg News published its report. “Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about Coronavirus to protect the regime.”

There is no doubt that as president of the one-party state, Xi Jinping bears the primary responsibility for the political decisions that facilitated the spread of this deadly virus around the world. China’s web of disinformation, corrupt political maneuvering within the World Health Organization (WHO), and lack of ethics resulted in the ongoing health and economic crisis as Governments struggle to contain COVID-19.

The phenomenal growth of the Chinese economy in the last three decades, together with unpredictable political governance in China, has created quite a bit of anxiety and grave concerns around the world. Although their aggressive actions in the South China sea during this Pandemic brought some pushback from the nation-states in the region, they have not helped to moderate Chinese behavior. Although the United States often sends a show of force to check the growing menace of the Chinese Naval power, the leaders of the region have been so pre-occupied with fighting the Pandemic and increasingly dependent on Chinese investment and medical aid thereby offering little or no resistance.

In 1962, a full-fledged war broke out between China and India, resulting in the deaths of 3250 Indian soldiers and loss of Aksai-Chin, an area the size of Switzerland. A sense of permanent peace was never achieved as China continued with its small incursions and consolidations through concealment and stealthy actions that never brought about any tactical escalation by India. Moreover, India has been too deferential to Chinese sensitivities, often taking a neutral stand in Chinese meddling in the South China Sea.

It is to be noted that whether it is discontinuing contacts with the Dalai Lama or holding an annual bilateral summit with the Chinese leader, Prime Minister Modi’s appeasement policies have not worked. While so much of India’s focus was centered on Pakistan, China has succeeded in slowly changing the territorial status quo using force. The mismanaged relationship with Nepal and the lack of support for India from its immediate neighbors are also indicative of the failed regional leadership at the Centre.

When China was admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the world held out hope that market liberalization would open the country for political freedom and more representative governance. However, nothing much has changed.

Right now, the iron fist of the Chinese Communist dictatorship has once again proved to be not only a grave danger to the health and wellbeing of the countries around the globe but also a major emerging threat to their peace and security.

(Writer is a former Chief technology Officer at the United Nations and ViceChairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA. Views expressed are personal)

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