WHY JAPAN MUST PROTEST CHINA’S SUPPRESSION OF MINORITIES NOW
How Japan will deal with the current situation in Hong Kong is inextricably linked to what kind of nation it wants to be.
US President Trump has signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which passed the two chambers of the legislature almost unanimously. The law requires the State Department to certify that high-level autonomy is safeguarded in Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” arrangement put in place when Hong Kong was returned to China by the UK. It also entitles Trump to freeze assets owned in the US by those who violate human rights in Hong Kong as well as deny violators entry into the US.
The new law is expected to generate certain positive effects, as no small number of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders are believed to possess assets in the US. Encouraged by the enactment of the bills, Hong Kongers have put up the Stars and Stripes to show their thanks. Pro-democracy demonstrations show signs of intensifying again. Meanwhile, the Beijing government is getting state-run media outlets to report on preparations being made by the People’s Liberation Forces stationed near the Hong Kong-China border. Obviously, the Chinese government is determined to not allow any more “willful actions” on the part of Hong Kongers while announcing a series of retaliatory measures against the US, including a refusal of port calls by its warships.
In question under such circumstances is what action Japan will take toward Hong Kong. As is widely known, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to invite President Xi Jinping as a state guest next spring. While there are forces strongly opposed to the plan in Japan, sources close to the foreign ministry maintain that a last-minute change of the plan would invite disaster. This view is based on the following understanding:
•The US government has no serious intention of intervening to help Hong Kong in the current situation;
•If the US intervenes, the Hong Kong economy could get worse, costing the US significantly in its profitable trade with Hong Kong;
•Japanese and their government have no particular reason or resources to meddle in the situation; and,
•Therefore, it would have the adverse effect of further complicating the situation if any country is to try and indiscreetly encourage Hong Kongers to have greater expectations.
In a nutshell, this would mean that there is nothing a third country can do for Hong Kong, meaning we have no choice but to buckle under the CCP’s pressure.
With China steadfastly maintaining the Hong Kong problem is its “domestic affair,” it is true that the possibility for action by other countries is limited. As the world’s second largest economic and military giant, China is in a strong position to back up its words.
But we must realize that the values of the international community and the attitude of each government toward Beijing have been changing steadily. Japan in particular must be attuned to this fact. It is in Japan’s national interests to keep in step with the international community striving jointly to create a better world. If Japan should fail to stand on its traditional values now and fail to coordinate with the rest of the world, will we ever have a second chance?
Japan Possibly Falling under China’s Dark Control
The US is not the only nation that is voicing increasingly strong criticism of China and its suppression of civil and human rights. Great Britain and France, as well as Germany which once was markedly pro-Beijing, are following suit.
The international trend has clearly been shifting toward a fresh recognition that, when a nation fails to honor its responsibility for protection of its citizens resulting in a precarious situation that “shocks the conscience of mankind,” this is a good enough reason for a “humanitarian intervention” even if the government may claim it is a “domestic affair.”
The UN’s peace plan for Kosovo of 1999 and the North Korean Humanitarian Act of 2004 are concrete examples of this trend. Let’s remember that in 2006 Japan itself came up with its version of the North Korean human rights act with much stricter provisions. It simply doesn’t make sense—and is unethical—for Japan, a sovereign democracy, to continue to assume a do-nothing posture toward Beijing.
At this juncture, we Japanese must clearly take notice of the ongoing situation in Hong Kong, where 256 deaths by suicide and an additional 2,537 deaths from unknown causes are known to have taken place in the four months since the pro-democracy demonstrations started in early June.
These numbers reflect official statistics compiled by the Hong Kong Security Bureau—a daily average of 21 bodies of those who have died of unknown causes have been found. Chinese-born popular critic Hei Seki concludes that Hong Kong has turned into a second Tiananmen. I believe he is right about that.
This is how the CCP operates. I believe it is absolutely unpardonable to insist that the ongoing emergency is China’s “domestic affair.” Condoning this at this time will have an adverse effect on Japan, with the possibility of the Japanese people falling under the dark rule of Communist China.
That is the exact point Yang Hai-ying, a Mongolian-born professor at Shizuoka University, raises in The Last Princess of Mongolia (Soshisha, Tokyo; 2019), a recently published book he co-authored with Satoshi Shinma.
Yang repeatedly argues that all ethnic issues in China are not domestic matters but rather international issues with which the international communist must squarely grapple. Using “internal affairs” as a shield, China puts a strict check on foreign intervention, but Yang points out that overlooking China’s suppression of Mongolians is tantamount to indirectly turning a blind eye to the history of the prewar relations between Japan and Mongolia, as I will later explain, eventually rebounding on the Japan-China relationship itself.
Likewise, maintains Yang, China’s suppression of Tibetans is a blatant challenge to India, which has embraced the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. China’s massacre of Uyghurs presents a very stern international problem to Turkey and several Central Asian nations that provide havens to tens of thousands of Uyghurs, Yang further explains.
I view Japan’s relationship with Hong Kong as very similar to our relationship with Taiwan. In other words, the affairs of Hong Kong and Taiwan have a very close bearing on Japan, despite China’s claims that they are internal affairs.
Truth about Autonomy for Minorities in China
How has China managed to deal with what it claims to be its “internal affairs”? Yang depicts China’s brutal method of atrocities by spotlighting the tragic life of Stinkanru, the last princess of Mongolia and a scion of Genghis Khan.
Born in 1927, she was bright and beautiful. When she was ten, the war broke out between Japan and China with the Marco Polo incident on the outskirts of Beijing. Japan eventually lost the war and pulled out of China, leaving behind Mongolians who had cooperated with Japan and its policies.
That cooperation became a major cause of the tragedy that hit Mongolians following the end of the war. Another was their postwar efforts to declare independence from China.
Both these factors earned the hatred of the CCP, subjecting the Mongolian people to
lasting days of especially stringent suppression. The Great Leap Forward begun in 1958 compelled the princess and her mother, the last empress of Mongolia, to live in a hole dug in the ground.
This communist campaign is said to have left 20 million farmers starved to death. Prince Stinkanru and her mother barely subsisted on their only “food”—dried flesh of dead cattle dumped in a scrub forest.
When the Cultural Revolution started in 1966, Mongolians were the first to be exposed to the storm of the proletarian craze. The princess was subjected to particularly horrible torture. Condemned before a large crowd and subjected to physical and mental violence incessantly, she turned into a wreck who would bow her head, feebly murmuring: “I apologize for the errors of my ways. I apologize for the errors of my ways.”
Yang writes: “Within the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, a genocide was executed with Chinese arbitrarily lynching Mongolians, causing innumerable deaths. This is the truth about China’s regional ethnic autonomy for a minority.”
The CCP innately harbors a fierce antagonism toward Japan. Putting a check on their inhumane modus operandi at all costs would undoubtedly be beneficial to the whole world but serve Japan’s interests above all else. Japan has a potent weapon in its traditional values and moral stature. Now is the time for us to push that advantage vigorously forward.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 880 in the December 5, 2019 issue of The Weekly Shincho)