Is Australia and China’s Relationship Compatible with Shared Values and UDHR?

This is an issue that comes to me as an inspiration. I have written a flow of ideas as I try and discern what is happening and also post links from Falun Gong and an article by CNN reporting American discourse  about human rights in China below.  The biggest strategic error in my view was decoupling human rights from trade.   In my view the US does not have a moral position to speak of human rights when we think of Guantanamo Bay and the wars in the Middle East where violations are viewed as expected in theatres of war and when law is side stepped to incarcerate suspected terrorists.  Human life is not valued.  China has an oppressive regime that believes that control means suppression of voices rather than allowing voices to be heard in order to ensure there is no revolution.

All nations, including the US and China should be held accountable to human rights by an International Criminal Court.  This is what justice without political interference looks like.

So here are my musings to start with about Australia’s cards.  Again I am no expert on the Australian Sino Relationship, I am simply a lay person giving a perspective based on my own perceptions.

I happened to see the Australian Prime Minister in China building the Australia Sino relationship. The Australian Government sees its economic future tied to the Chinese. They want to make sure we have a market for our commodities and China of course has many markets for value adding commodities and selling it back to the source for more than it paid. Their twin strategies of mining other countries resources (not their own) and manufacturing seems like a profitable business strategy.

I speculate if this renewing of marriage vowels is connected with the other suitor sending US marines up to Darwin and its new strategic focus on the Asian region. Obama was here not long ago recommiting to this relationship. Australia has a traditional alliance with the United States. The US sees the strategic position of Australia in this region. They have Pine Gap a US facility just out of Alice Springs. The Chinese have their networks here. I did wonder about the Chinese reaction to this move as a provocation which I recall was happening before the Gulf war and faded whilst they were busy. I wonder if this closeness of relations is to make Australia conflicted in its national interests or indeed compromised – hmmm economic growth on the one hand vs the United States alliance on the other. From a chess point of view, it is actually a very clever move, I think. That is the world of international relations. Nothing is ever straight up. You can see moves for best advantage and always what lays beneath it all is money not love. Sounds like many relationships these days hey!

Back to human rights and trade. This is a huge issue and one that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves as we blissfully disconnect with all our distractions. In my view no country should trade with a country that is clearly violent to its own people or aggressing other nations. It is like playing with the person bullying in the playground. Some may hang around this person seeking protection or not wanting to be targeted, so they pretend friendship and join in. We teach in anti-bullying that the bystanders (international community and all civilians) should take an interest in the bullying going on and get involved or call a teacher, or in this case call the international criminal court who would have the power to break up the dispute or mediate.

The most important point for me is – what is global citizenship? What is a global civilisation? Do we act together in unison on shared values or do we just go for our own self interest and maximise the payouts for us? Are we in harmony with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?  This is a document that has nothing to do with the individual versus group cultural perspective, it is about human dignity which is universal. The pain suffered by a western individual is the same suffered by a Chinese individual or Russian and so on. We are humans and the point of this document co-authored by Elenor Roosevelt was to create international values so we wouldn’t bludgeon each other to death through World wars. It was to set a level playing field for all humans. I am sure the people tortured in Cambodia would support this document, or those in Syrian prisons or Chilians and so on. People want to see humans treated with dignity and justice. That is the central point to the document. So if you show fairness and adherence to these values, like the Geneva Conventions, it brings some morality into our dealings with each other. For when we get blood lust it just gets worse and worse and so many innocent people suffer.

Typically in International Relations it has been framed by two philosophical thinkers (in western perceptions) posing the question – do we share a libertarian egalitarian worldview? espoused by John Lock or do we live in a world of tooth and claw? where the most powerful (bullying behaviour) rules the roost as defined by Thomas Hobbes? The latter reflects mindsets of the law of the jungle. People do what they want and don’t care about others. They have the money so they buy whatever, the rest can eat cake. That would be the energy of it. The former is one of we share together, we uphold international law, we have standards of human conduct and we work together as a global community. I see these as the philosophical perspectives underpinning our decisions.

One of the key issues that is extremely important in China is Falun Gong (Dafa) and it should be on the Australian delegations list of questions. If I was in China saying this I’d probably be arrested, hence freedom of speech out of alignment with government edicts is not tolerated as you are either with us or against us, sound familiar? I wonder who said that? The fear is any power that may challenge the regime, now that fear can easily extend to other regimes let alone one’s own people. Projections of power are projections and the target doesn’t matter, only upholding one’s power is the priority in this type of mindset.

I interviewed on radio Falun Gong practitioners who had been arrested by the Chinese government and put in jails. I might add I received an email with Chinese letters, have no idea what it said but sensed it was intimidation. I found that interesting. I am in Australia, incredible. The witness I spoke to had a child and her husband was killed by the authorities, she was telling her story. I was shown a book compiled on all the torture techniques and real photos of tortured practitioners. I’ve been to torture chambers myself as part of the Rotary Peace & Conflict Studies Program in Thailand. I went to Cambodia in this case. I can inform you it is chilling and it left me deeply contemplating the importance of peace and values in our world as a shared value where we all stand together. When we don’t people get taken in the middle of the night, who knows one day it may be you. At the time of this interview Alexander Downer (Foreign Minister) was seeking to ban Falun Gong protests outside the Chinese Embassy in Canberra. I was astounded by this that an Australian Government official (representing us) would actually attempt to stop peaceful protest by a persecuted group in China. That told me Australia’s allegiance to China appears more important than its own democracy. Falun Gong did take the Australian Government to court and won. Refer to This of course will not be mentioned on the 6pm news here in Australia when assessing our cosy relationship, the focus will be on money and economic security.

It is a critical issue and has implications for Australians and sets the bar on what standards we set as a democracy. Is democracy up for sale or do we stand on principles? Imagine (can hear John Lennon here) if other nations shared this set of moral codes let’s call it the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (refer, we could stand together as an international community on issues of human rights. I find it interesting that now Australia shares a seat on the Security Council with its friends China and United States. I wonder if they contemplate the real Charter of the UN to preserve peace and security or is it just a facade to business-as-usual and power over others in order to gain economic advantage? Do they genuinely sit and think about human rights, what it would feel like to be a person standing up for equality, for fairness, to protect the environment, to practice a peaceful health meditation and what it feels like to be arrested, to go to jail to be abused and beaten because you disobeyed?  What if you were forced to think in a certain way rather than following your heart, your own truth, or dare I say it, a higher power? Can you feel the empathy as you travel that road? That is what it means to understand human rights it is not a legal document it is humanity’s values which keeps our world from destroying itself.

Falun Gong have been tested without doubt as they have had to find Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance in the face of great suffering, persecution and international lack of action given China’s growing economic power. I am sure the Chinese people would not approve of these violations to Falun Gong but I am guessing they are too afraid to stand up. Funnily as I read this I just saw flash in to my mind the Chinese man who stood in front of the tank, no I change my mind here, they can stand up. That is the fear of the Chinese government, had a revelation there. They are afraid of the true power of the people. This is the sleeping dragon that awakens. I just felt truth kick in.

Falun Gong have been practicing a peace meditation for centuries. Here is an outline from Wikipedia

Falun Gong emphasizes morality and the cultivation of virtue in its central tenets of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance (Chinese: 真、善、忍), and identifies as a qigong practice of the Buddhist school, though its teachings also incorporate elements drawn from Taoist traditions. Through moral rectitude and the practice of meditation, practitioners of Falun Gong aspire to better health and, ultimately, spiritual enlightenment.

Imagine if the Chinese politburo decided to meditate what would happen? Just do it when they feel stress, just have a moment of stillness to reconnect to their true selves. Insights will flash in. If the Communist Party tried then empathy would arise and perhaps they would see that a peace group actually is interested in inner peace not violence or control and they have no intention of taking over the government. True freedom rests in inner freedom it has no desire to control anyone. Yet that is seen as a threat. Perhaps opposites (yin/yang) attract, when we see purity of intention in someone and ours is not, then we naturally feel hatred towards them. So in truth if we see all people like a yin/yang symbol the dark creates the light and the light creates the dark. I have contemplated this before. The more you control the more you create opposition to your control, it is the dot appearing in the yin and yang, all is change, all seeks balance. Another insight just came to me. The Communist Party on an unconscious level are afraid of that part of themselves that is peaceful, they seek to suppress any virtues as it shows the darkness within them. Everyone wants to believe they are right, when you face a virtuous person like a Gandhi who refuses to hit back, perhaps an Aung San Suu Kyi, you want to suppress them as you fear their power. The real power is liberation from the idea that power and control is real power. From a clown perspective (ha ha) I have to put this in, the masks fall off. I can feel the wisdom of ancient Chinese philosophy in this moment. The Chinese are an ancient and amazing civilisation and their answers are within.

Therefore, Falun Gong are clearly not a terrorist group or anti-government. They are simply dedicated to peace and seek to transcend conflict. So some history – Falun Dafa (Gong) was a common practice in China. The meditation was a health art form and supported by the Chinese Government until mid 1990’s. However, in 1999 approximately 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners descended on Tiannamen Square. This was in response to an article (connected to Politburo) in a university paper stating Falun Gong were superstitious and harmful for youth. They also experienced intimidation and harassment and they asked for the release of Tianjin practitioners. The authorities became paranoid about their membership base as they had more practitioners than the Communist Party estimated currently at 80 million.

So the response by the Government to peaceful protest was incarceration. Now I do feel moved to write this as I have being seeing an image in my mind for the last few days. It was shown to me many years ago by Falun Gong practitioners. It so shocked me that I find myself feeling deep concern about this regime. It is a situation were a female Falun Gong practitioner was placed in the women’s jail and I believe she refused to stop meditating, as punishment she was thrown into the males jail to be raped by the men. Why this image is coming to me now I have no idea, it has been haunting me. I just googled for more information and is a link from Falun Gong to follow this up

Now Julia Gillard is a woman and so am I. There has to be a standard of conduct regarding human rights in dealing with foreign governments. If they are committing crimes behind the scene on innocent people do we wish to enrich and reward them through our economic relationship? In light of this awareness do we see how we become involved tacitly?

As I’ve said in previous blogs I have had to decline good paying jobs on the basis of ethics as I did not want to lend my energy to some organisation I felt was unscrupulous or having no consideration for the people. I feel human rights is far more important than economic growth and indeed, in truth, is the foundation of ethical trading systems where corruption does not exist. The pink elephant our country will not face is that the commodities we are trying to sell are typically in the mining area and we are adding to global warming. Why are we advancing the carbon tax if we are still selling materials that pollute and warm the planet to others? China mostly uses coal burning. Where is the carbon offset there? These are indeed paradoxical questions and they are extremely important at this time. Al Gore’s words float in – the gold bar or the planet? For myself, the human rights issue is immediate and the most important it says a lot about the type of regime we would be trading with and who we are on reflection (mirror). Now if they decide they will implement fair judicial processes, conduct inquiries into this treatment of Falun Gong and other groups identified by Amnesty International (refer, reform their own approach to governance and allow their people more freedom of speech to show they are moving towards ethical governance, we can all breathe easy about it. We do not want a world leader that has no value for human rights. The US has fallen from poll position and the Emperor in China is dressed as a business man but I see no clothes. Eeek… (just got an image). You know the Emperor has no clothes that is where everyone pretends he has clothes because he told them, but a little child who only has truth sees he is naked, that is why you are naked before truth. Indeed the truth sets you free. Here is that story I feel this as a great metaphor for the reality before us.

This is not about disliking the Chinese Government it is about ethics as human beings and making decision that definitely take into account the dignity of human beings in the form of human rights. I think decoupling trade from human rights as Clinton compromised back in 1994 was a sell out of profit over people and the UDHR. This was a step away from the values we all say we truly stand for and how we expect to be treated.

One of the most enlightened Chinese people that I love was Lao Tzu the ancient Chinese philosopher he would say this…

“see to tell a blind horseman on a blind horse that he is riding toward an abyss”. I will post Lao Tzu in the next blog as he was a true leader for China and he reflects the wisdom of the Chinese, they are indeed a great people and I have always loved being with the Chinese. I also remember in Vietnam seeing the statue of the great philosopher Confucius, I remember getting a feeling for their sophistication and advanced philosophies, I see this as the way home for them. As for the United States remember your Statue of Liberty and live it and as for Australia, learn to be a sovereign nation that stands on its own and is sustainable and let go of your addiction to the economic paradigm, we need to learn self sufficiency it leads to true independence. I send to all I have spoken about above love and wisdom, I don’t dislike the US, China or my own country I am urging them to look deeper and go for truth. Perhaps we are on the verge of real greatness, our true power in global unity.

Here is an article from CNN referring to John Kerry and urging the US to confront China on human rights.  I have to smile as I see two blind horsemen… Let’s hope when we move from an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind to a new way of seeing, perhaps then the US and other countries like Australia can decide that human rights is the very foundation to world trade.

Kerry, confront China on human rights
April 13, 2013

(CNN) — “No nation has more opportunity to advance the cause of democracy,” said then-Sen. John Kerry at his recent confirmation hearing to become U.S. secretary of state. “And no nation is as committed to the cause of human rights as we are.” This weekend, Kerry will have arguably his best opportunity to demonstrate that commitment to rights in an environment in which tough, effective and audible American diplomacy is needed: China.

Chinese officials will no doubt have pressed hard to ensure that all discussions of human rights remain behind closed doors, a strategy Beijing employed during then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s and President Obama’s first visits to China. While U.S. officials have in some circumstances delivered tough human rights messages to Beijing, all too often, senior U.S. officials’ concerns about human rights remain inaudible to those who most need to hear them: activists and ordinary people struggling every day to protect their rights in China.

China’s brand new leadership headed by President Xi Jinping has offered up mildly pro-reform rhetoric on matters such as the arbitrary detention known as re-education through labor, the one-child policy and the household registration system, which discriminates against rural citizens.

Over the past decade, as China’s economy grew to become the world’s second largest and its international heft increased dramatically, the government made no comparable strides with respect to human rights protections. Basic freedoms including free expression and association remain elusive. There is no independent judiciary, and no week goes by without human rights activists, dissidents or whistleblowers being detained or jailed. There are no independent labor unions.

No foreign leader bothered to temper his or her congratulatory message to the new Chinese leadership with a suggestion that the government transition process should have been driven by popular participation, not designation by the Communist Party.

Some of the government’s most recent low-lights include the persecution of not just peaceful government critics but also their children and extended families. Not only does the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo remain in jail, his wife, Liu Xia, remains under utterly baseless house arrest in Bejiing; meanwhile, several relatives of Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist who sought refuge from persecution in the United States in 2012, continue to endure trumped-up legal charges and harassment in Shandong province.

Rather than engage in an urgent discussion about what is driving Tibetans to self-immolate in protest at Chinese policies, authorities are prosecuting, arresting and jailing an ever growing number of Tibetans. To demonstrate that China was powerful enough to hunt its enemies beyond its borders, national television broadcast live from their cell the last hours of four Burmese alleged to have run drugs and killed Chinese sailors; the final frames showed the men being put into trucks that would take them to the execution grounds.

Yet a growing number of people inside China are courageously challenging these and other abuses, including land seizures, forced evictions and abuses of power by corrupt cadres. Based on law enforcement reports, official and scholarly statistics estimate that there are 250-500 protests each day, with anywhere from 10 to tens of thousands of participants.

An informal but dedicated network of activists monitors and documents human rights cases under the banner of a country-wide “weiquan” (rights defense) movement. These activists face a host of repressive state measures. All these people—regardless of whether they are organized into groups, whether they identify themselves as activists, and often despite the fact that their work is peaceful and theoretically protected under Chinese law—face the risk of harsh reprisals.

Human rights in China continue to be treated by visiting government leaders as a somehow uniquely neuralgic topic, largely because the Chinese government and constituencies in other countries perceive them to be so. But this view misses a key connection: the United States and others are unlikely to see progress on the broad diplomatic, economic and security issues in their bilateral relations unless the Chinese government implements reforms to allow a free flow of information, an independent judicial system and the ability of people in China to speak their minds freely.

Human rights concerns aren’t a boutique issue, and securing progress on rights will deliver progress on a host of other issues.

If Kerry’s stated commitments on democracy and human rights promotion are to be meaningful, he needs to point out in Beijing that the new leadership is denying political rights, not upholding them. He is obliged to speak about real human beings and the specific abuses that have been heaped upon them, not to offer up abstractions for fear of irking his hosts. And if he is to contribute to real change in China, he needs to acknowledge and express support for the extraordinary diversity of people in China today who seek to live in a society governed by law, not officials who are above it.

Kerry’s official hosts may not appreciate this truth-telling approach, but a larger audience in China likely will.

Mohandas Gandhi

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”