Do we really have to suck up to the Chinese like that?

This afternoon, I got a Channel NewsAsia SMS news alert that read:

PM Lee says outrage in China over anti-China protests, especially among Chinese youths, will have lifetime consequences beyong Beijing Olympics.

I rubbed my eyes in disbelief for a moment! Could it be that the Singapore Prime Minister actually criticized the Chinese for their anti-western vitriol that the world has become so accustomed to whenever nationalist sentiments are provoked? (PM Lee himself was a recipient of that Internet vitriol when he visited Taiwan in 2004 just weeks before becoming Prime Minister.)

When I visited the CNA website to read the whole report, I realised I was dead wrong. PM Lee actually said in a speech at the London School of Economics Asia Forum:

The outrage in China, especially among the young, can be read on the flooded Internet bulletin boards, all carrying virulent anti-foreign sentiments. Pity they are in unintelligible Chinese ideographs. Were they in the English language, young Americans and Europeans would realise that these displays of contempt for China and things Chinese will have consequences in their lifetime, well beyond the Olympic Games.

If I understand correctly, what PM Lee meant was:

Those stupid ang mohs should have never insulted the Chinese people by voicing support for Tibetan independence and protesting against the Olympics being held in Beijing. Look what has happened now: 1.3 billion Chinese people are outraged. You folks will live to regret it the rest of your life, because China is a future military and economic superpower which you cannot afford to offend.

PM Lee had also said:

No protesting group truly expects that their public display of anger and outrage at China’s treatment of Tibetans or ethnic Han dissidents will change China’s policy when it affects its core security concerns. They know no government can give ground on any core issue under such public duress, whatever the merits of the arguments.

You see, PM Lee is viewing the world from the worldview of this little oyster called Singapore. He seems to have forgotten that many autocratic governments, from the time of the French Revolution to the Philippines’ Marcos and Indonesia’s Suharto were toppled by “people power” movements.

Sure, governments in countries like China and Singapore are at no risk (now) of falling in that manner because they have got an iron grip of all the levers of power.

But to pronounce that the Chinese government will not be moved by these protests is equally wishful thinking, especially in the age of the Internet and free flow of information.
I’m sure the Tibetans are watching the protests around the world and gaining lots of inspiration from them.

These are erudite words of advice to the whole Western world, coming from a leader who has yet to address the problems in his own backyard, like an escaped terrorist and rocketing inflation.

In his effort to butter up the Communist Chinese, PM Lee has revealed how out of step he and his government are with regard to the growing tide of democratization and justice that is sweeping even our end of the world.


China must be held to account before Olympics

A 13-year old Sudanese child witnessed a rebel soldier being first shot in the arm,
then executed by gunshots to the groin. (Sudan Watch)

Film mogul Steven Spielberg made the most rattling move so far for the Communist Chinese government by pulling out as artistic advisor to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His objection: Beijing’s complicity in the genocide going on in Darfur, Sudan. This was by no means an unexpected move. He had urged China as far back as April last year to do more to press for change in Darfur.

Spielberg’s announcement came on the same day that nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates — including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and Jody Williams — sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging China to uphold Olympic ideals by pressing Sudan to stop atrocities in Darfur.

I fully support Spielberg’s move. The PRC government must be held to account for its human rights abuses not just within its borders, but outside as well. Darfur is just one in a long string of human rights abuses which date back to the founding of the Communist state.

In more than four years of conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes. Just last Friday, Sudan’s government attacked three towns in Darfur, forcing about 200,000 people from their homes and leading thousands to flee into neighboring eastern Chad.

Closer to home, we are all aware of the role that China has played in propping up the Myanmar generals who are responsible for killing thousands of their own people and dragging their country down into an economic abyss. Not to mention their jailing of responsible journalists like The Straits Times’ Ching Cheong over trumped up charges, and not even giving him the benefit of an open trial to present his case.

China is trying to use the Olympics to show their world that they have arrived, that they are a superpower to be reckoned with, when their dismal human rights record clearly suggests otherwise.

The world should seize this window of opportunity to highlight China’s contribution to the suffering in the world. I hope that in the coming months, international pressure will be be ramped up on Beijing to force them to relook at their policies. I have no doubt that Ching Cheong’s early release was in part due to the upcoming Olympics. Imagine what more can be achieved if more influential personalities like Steven Spielberg stand up and tell China’s leaders that enough is enough.