Tuesday, March 08, 2005

If you regularly visit this weblog you know that I will be one of the last ones who would say that criticizing Israel is wrong, or that criticism of Israel equals anti-Semitism. On the contrary, much criticism is expressed by people who really love the Jewish state and are concerned for its soul and its well-being. Also, as what under very difficult circumstances is still a relatively well functioning democracy, Israel is rightly expected to abide by laws that dictatorships can ignore. Still, it is remarkable how Israel is often singled out for fault-finding whereas some otherwise higly respected countries again and again get away with absolute evil. Such a country is China, where human rights are a joke, and which for more than 50 years has been occupying Tibet without any serious international protests. Of course, China is an important player in the international field, but a little less enthusiasm in embracing that giant would be appropriate, I think. This is why I very much liked the following letter to the editor ( in particular its last sentence ), published in this morning's International Herald Tribune. It refers to this article by H.D.S. Greenway. ( PS: Yes, I am aware that Israel is one of the more enthusiastic partners of the Chinese government, something which I am not very proud of) What's to respect?
H.D.S. Greenway ("Treat China with respect," Views, Feb. 26) seems to be under the impression that "civilization" is a matter of gracious sculptures and fine fabrics, but it is obviously much more than that. At its core, it is the recognition of human dignity. So when Greenway urges respect for China, he has everything back to front; it is the long-suffering Chinese people who deserve respect, not the dictators in Beijing.
Even if one could ignore the fact that China has close relationships with some of the world's most ruthless, dangerous and oppressive regimes (North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Myanmar, to name a few), it would be impossible not to see how the government treats most of its own citizens: as little more than chattel.
Freedom of religion, movement, expression and information are severely curtailed. Ethnic minorities are bullied or marginalized. The rule of law applies only so long as it suits party cadres. And to top it all off, the government kills; intimidating women into abortion, executing huge numbers of criminals and when it feels the need, shooting them dead in the street. Revulsion, not respect, is the appropriate reaction to such behavior.
And if the Chinese government is civilized, God help us when barbarism raises its ugly head. Jeroen Agneessens, Tervuren, Belgium

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