CHINA’S BRUTAL HUMAN RIGHTS SUPPRESSION MAKES IT UNFIT TO BE WORLD LEADER
Over the years there have been a good number of group photos of world leaders at various summits, but none that showed a US president not occupying the central position. In this vein, the latest one showing the heads of state attending the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7-8 was quite telling to me.
It showed Germany’s Angela Merkel at the center of the group, with Xi Jinping standing to her immediate left and Vladimir Putin further to his left. Donald Trump was on the far left fringe, albeit in the front row, away from the center position that one would have thought he would take. That the supposed standard bearer of the free world stood on the fringe appeared to me to aptly project the state of affairs of the world today.
What became freshly evident at the G20 summit 2017 was the aggressive posture of an arrogant and imperialistic China, and the conspicuous reluctance on the part of other nations to raise their voices against China.
En route to Hamburg, Trump stopped over in Warsaw to deliver an address, lauding the Poles for their fight for freedom, independence, and human rights, and pledging America’s solid bond in support.
Did Trump deliver the speech perceiving the G20 summit as an arena in which the opposing values of the free nations and the China-Russia bloc would fiercely clash? If so, to what extent were his words reflected in his deeds during the summit?
Neither Trump nor the leaders of the European nations took up the matter of Liu Xiao-bo, the Nobel Prize-winning human rights activist jailed since 2008, reportedly in critical condition suffering last-stage liver cancer at this writing(July 12).
On June 26, 2017, when China announced Liu’s condition, his cancer was already in its terminal stage. Although Liu expressed his desire to be treated overseas, even if his chance of survival was slim, the Chinese government refused to give him permission to leave China. American and German cancer specialists flew to China to examine him, and on July 8, it was announced that Liu’s condition was “rapidly deteriorating” and that chemotherapy had been discontinued.
Western nations have been keenly interested in the state of human rights across the globe. The US, in particular, has a history of dealing sternly with China over its human rights abuses. That undoubtedly is a major reason why the US has won the respect and trust of the international community. Unfortunately, one fails to see in the Trump administration an earnest commitment to grapple squarely with the human rights issue.
Germany, positioned to lead Europe, is also showing a stronger interest in economic cooperation with China than dealing with its human rights violations. Xi Jinping must have been greatly satisfied that the human rights issue barely surfaced during the summit sponsored by Germany.
China Tortures and Executes Intellectuals
Liu is the democratic movement leader successive Chinese administrations have feared most. Akio Yaita, deputy head of the foreign news department of the conservative national daily Sankei Shimbun, has this to say about Liu:
“Liu has been fighting for the freedom of the Chinese people all his life and is their great spiritual leader akin to a god. Bo Xilai, a disgraced former member of the politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, is another of Xi Jinping’s formidable political adversaries. Bo enjoys enduring popularity among the Chinese populace as a politician who has fought for their rights. Liu and Bo represent the spiritual forces guiding both the leftwing and rightwing camps in China towards the center. Quite coincidentally, both of them have contracted liver cancer. I suspect there are abnormal circumstances behind their ‘illnesses.’”
Incidentally, Bo is a health buff who never drinks or smokes, his hobby being long-distance running—the exact opposite of Xi who indulges in drinking and smoking and whose trips to the gym never extend beyond the massage room. Yaita, who once served as the Sankei’s correspondent in Beijing and well versed in the ways of China, has serious doubts about Bo having naturally contracted liver cancer despite such a healthy lifestyle.
As for Liu, I feel certain that the Chinese authorities chose to not dispense the medical treatment he needed badly despite being fully aware of his condition. This time, they have presumably decided to announce his condition, convinced he would never survive even if proper medical attention is given. It is also likely that the Chinese authorities felt they could lessen the public relations fallout by updating his condition now rather than making a perfunctory announcement of his death later. Yaita has this to say about some outstanding cases of human rights suppression in China:
“On ‘Black Friday’ (July 10, 2015), more than 200 Chinese human rights lawyers were detained, including Li Heping. He was an extremely capable and courageous man who adamantly refused to admit to the charges the authorities made against him. He was tortured while in prison and given food and drugs contrived to boost blood pressure quickly, becoming almost blind as a result. When he was released last May after being in custody for about two years, his hair had turned completely white. He came out of prison as an old man, a totally different person.”
One technique of torture traditionally used in China is to put a bag over one’s head to hinder breathing. Explains Yaita:
“Leaving a detainee for a period of time with his face completely covered with a vinyl bag seriously reduces his intake of oxygen to the detriment of his brain cells. The bag is removed barely before the detainee drops dead. This process is repeated persistently until the detainee turns into a complete invalid.”
Cambodia’s Pol Pot administration is known to have incorporated the same method, emulating Mao Zedong in torturing and executing Cambodian intellectuals. Obviously, the Xi administration still practices it today. At the G20 summit, however, Xi was not condemned or asked to rectify the situation. Where was Trump, the heroic defender of freedom in his speech in Poland?
Innocent Japanese Detained in China
If the US and European nations refuse to take on China, then Japan must, upholding the universal values of freedom and human rights. Now is never too late. The Japanese government should declare immediately that it is ready to take over Liu’s treatment. Because of the geographical proximity between China and Japan, traveling to Japan for full-fledged treatment would be clearly much less trying physically to him than going to Europe, or the US.
There is another reason for Japan to act quickly. A total of 12 Japanese are detained in China, accused of spying. Six of them, held since last March, work for NC Geophysical Survey Co., a Japanese firm based in Chiba Prefecture. Four are engineers.
Goro Sasaki, president of the firm, described the detained employees as “serious and eager workers” who understand little Chinese. Sasaki questions what type of spying activities they could have possibly engaged in while conducting geological assessments for two Chinese hot spring developers in Penglai, eastern Shandong Province, and Wuzhishan on the island of Hainan. I think their detention may well be a new Chinese strategy to exert diplomatic pressure on Japan.
In September 2010, China held four employees of the construction company Fujita on spy charges within days after Japan detained the captain of a Chinese trawling ship that had rammed two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats. The incident took place in Japanese territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. This time, the Chinese obviously plan to use the six Japanese as pawns in future negotiations. In 2010, China further retaliated with a suspension of rare metal exports to Japan, violating the rules of the World Trade Organization. The bilateral relations between Tokyo and Beijing soured, and Japan finally was compelled to compromise by releasing the captain.
At this juncture, what China undoubtedly wants is continued Japanese economic cooperation. The Chinese also wish to put a check on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has vigorously alerted the world about China’s unrestrained development of islets in the South China Sea, talked positively about Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen administration, and shown a readiness to promote closer Tokyo-Taipei ties. Next year, Xi is slated to visit Japan, and prior to that, Abe will be visiting Beijing. Against this backdrop, the Xi administration is scheming to pursue policies towards Japan that will put it at its greatest advantage.
It may perhaps be strategically necessary for Japan to assume a forward-looking posture towards the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as it is difficult to continue relying on the US economy as much as before. But we must realize that as a humanitarian nation, Japan now stands at a crossroads where it must plainly declare to the world community its renewed determination to honor universal values. For that purpose, I think it quite appropriate for the Japanese government to demand an immediate release of all of the 12 Japanese currently under detention in China and announce its readiness to receive Mr. Liu immediately for high-caliber medical treatment available in Japan.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 762 in the July 20､2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)