Something bizarre was heard this week. Of all countries, People’s Republic of China lectured India on respecting “different civilisations and religions” and on the need to “respect each other and live together as equals”. Chinese government spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “It is always important to discard pride and prejudice, better understand the differences between one’s own civilisation and other civilisations, and promote exchanges, dialogue and harmonious coexistence between civilisations.” Coming from the spokesman of a communist government for which suppression of the cultural and religious identities of different “civilisations” is state policy, such statements are worse than hypocritical. In fact, to say “suppression of rights” is an understatement. Communist China has been accused of committing far worse—genocide.
China’s history is soaked in blood, with its founding father Mao Zedong committing the mass murder of 50 million people upward. This was done apparently to refashion society the way Mao wanted it, and for that nothing was beyond him—be it execution or manufactured famine. Mao’s track record, in this respect, is worse than Hitler’s. Times may have changed, but the singular lack of moral compass in the Communist establishment has come to the fore, regime after regime—be it in the 1980s, when the Tiananmen Square massacre took place, killing thousands of civilians, or in the 21st century, when the Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang province has been stripped of all dignity and incarcerated in Nazi-like concentration camps. Amid this, the persecution of the Tibetans and the obliteration of their culture and way of life, including the Sinicization of Tibet, are a constant that the international community has come to accept as a given. And that is the tragedy of the Chinese minority communities. China is never held accountable for this wilful persecution.
Take for instance the recent visit by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to China. Her comment on the visit left many agape. According to her, the “visit was an opportunity to hold direct discussions—with China’s most senior leaders—on human rights, to listen to each other, raise concerns, explore and pave the way for more regular, meaningful interactions in the future, with a view to supporting China in fulfilling its obligations under international human rights law.” So massacring a whole ethnic group, keeping them in inhuman conditions in camps, Sinicising even their family names so that these do not reveal their religious identity, is a matter where both sides need to listen to each other and discuss. Instead of condemnation, what the world got was declaration of intent to understand Beijing’s problems. Contrast this with the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ decision in 2020 to approach the Supreme Court of India to become an amicus curiae (third party/neutral observer) in a case that challenged the validity of the Citizenship Amendment Act—a law passed by overwhelming majority in a democratically elected Parliament in the world’s largest democracy. There was no attempt to understand the law, instead, Bachelet’s office fell for agenda-driven lobbying by certain groups opposed to India and acted accordingly, perhaps with the intention to put pressure on the Indian courts to give a verdict against an Indian law. Even otherwise, Bachelet has been consistently critical of India’s treatment of its minorities—a country where the minority population is burgeoning—while maintaining complete silence on the way minorities have been disappearing from India’s neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
But when it comes to China, seeking accountability is not a part of the agenda of the United Nations. We saw how the World Health Organisation under a compliant Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made a mockery of the investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, but that did not stop Ghebreyesus from getting a second term—and that too with full western backing. At least Bachelet, after coming under severe criticism for her non statements on China, has decided not to seek a second term. And why blame the UN alone, where the Chinese have too much influence? What did US President Joe Biden’s fact finding team do about bringing the Chinese to book? Nothing.
No wonder China has the gall to rewrite international rules and now calls itself a “consultative democracy”. In this alternate universe, China’s action against Tibetans and Uyghurs is justified, it just has to be understood from Beijing’s point of view, Tiananmen Square was necessary action to maintain law and order, and India needs to learn from China about handling different civilisations. That China gets away with such canard is because of the international community’s near silence.