Human Rights Watch and Moral Befuddlement

Human Rights Watch and Moral Befuddlement
Bevin Chu
January 15, 2007


Human Rights Watch Logo

Human Rights Watch recently issued a sharp condemnation of the mainland Chinese government, one that made me laugh out loud every time I reread it.

Why?

Because on this occasion Human Rights Watch was not condemning the mainland Chinese government for human rights abuses.

On this occasion Human Rights Watch was condemning the mainland Chinese government for failing to condemn other governments’ human rights abuses!

Human Rights Watch condemned the mainland Chinese government for “studiously avoiding” using its own growing political influence to ameliorate human rights abuses in other nations, and for its “no strings attached” economic ties with these nations.

How’s that for a laugh?

Instead of scoring a telling argument against the mainland Chinese government‘s eminently sensible policy of non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs, Human Rights Watch merely revealed its own moral befuddlement.

China `showers aid’ on abusive regimes, says rights group
AP, WASHINGTON
Friday, Jan 12, 2007

Human Rights Watch yesterday accused China of putting its own economic and political interests above concern for mistreated people around the world by “showering aid” on countries known for widespread abuse.

While Chinese officials struck deals in resource-rich places like Sudan, Zimbabwe and Myanmar last year, Beijing “studiously avoided” using the influence that comes with a booming economy to promote better human rights, the prominent independent rights group said in its annual report released yesterday.

“Instead, it insists on dealing with other governments, in the words of President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), `without any political strings,'” the report said, describing China’s stance on human rights as ranging “from indifference to hostility.”

Comment: Wait a minute! What’s going on here? Is Human Rights Watch heaping condemnation upon mainland China? Or is it lavishing praise upon mainland China?

You’ll forgive me if I find myself momentarily confused.

As an uncompromising champion of economic laissez-faire and political non-intervention, the condemnation leveled against mainland China by Human Rights Watch sounded remarkably like well-deserved praise!

The condemnation of mainland China sounded remarkably like a famous passage I am fond of quoting. See if you can guess its author.

“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”

If you guessed George Washington, you guessed correctly.

Good. How about this passage?

“Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But [America] goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

If you guessed John Quincy Adams, you guessed correctly.

Human Rights Watch, in short, was condemning mainland China for practicing the far-sighted, eminently sensible non-interventionist foreign policy prescribed by America’s Founding Fathers.

How funny is that?

Associated Press: Last year, China rejected the report as “highly biased.”

The report noted some signs that “China’s reluctance to meddle in others’ affairs might be easing somewhat” — citing pressure on Sudan to allow UN peacekeeping forces into Darfur and a strong stance following North Korea’s nuclear test in October.

Comment: Did you get that?

According to Human Rights Watch, not meddling in others’ affairs is bad, while meddling in others’ affairs is good.

According to Human Rights Watch, mainland China deserves condemnation for being reluctant to meddle in others’ affairs, but potential praise for becoming less reluctant to meddle in others’ affairs.

Human Rights Watch consoled itself by noting that “China’s reluctance to meddle in others’ affairs might be easing somewhat.”

I didn’t make it up. I didn’t put words in anyone’s mouth. That was a direct quote.

I have to assume, Gentle Reader, that you are laughing as loud as I am at the moment.

Associated Press: But it was blistering in its view that China should be doing more. More pressure from China on Sudan would reverse the impression that China “is more interested in continuing the flow of oil to its growing economy” than it is “in staunching the flow of blood in Darfur.”

Comment: According to Human Rights Watch, mainland China may well be “more interested in continuing the flow of oil to its growing economy” than it is “in staunching the flow of blood” in oil rich countries within the Third World.

This is probably true. In fact, I’m sure it’s true.

But what of it?

The important point is that mainland China is merely increasing the flow of oil, it is not causing the flow of blood. Mainland China is merely increasing the flow of oil to its growing economy through voluntary trade in the global marketplace, it is not causing the flow of blood in the first place.

That honor goes the United States, which has demonstrated absolutely no reluctance whatsoever to meddle in others’ affairs, absolutely no reluctance whatsoever to “bomb them back to the stone age,” absolutely no reluctance whatsoever to inflict “shock and awe” upon other nations, until they cry uncle and “adopt democracy,” or go through the motions of doing so.

To understand the mentality of those not the least bit reluctant to meddle in others’ affairs, consider the following passage by Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the US Navy Seabees during WWII:

“A person who wants to exercise political power over his fellow man asks himself: “How can I ‘do good’ for the people if I just leave them alone?” He does not want to pass into history as a “do nothing” leader who ends up as a footnote somewhere. So he begins to force all other persons to conform to his ideas of what is good for them. If there is opposition, an emergency is declared or created to justify these actions. If the benevolent ruler stays in power long enough, he eventually concludes that power and wisdom are the same thing. And as he possesses power, he must also possess wisdom. He becomes converted to the seductive thesis that election to public office endows the official with both power and wisdom. At this point, he begins to lose his ability to distinguish between what is morally right and what is politically expedient.”

Associated Press: Other world powers were criticized by the rights group for “being so busy cutting their own trade deals with China that they rarely voiced concern about Beijing’s inhumane behavior at home or abroad.”

Comment: Mainland China, in other words, is not alone. Other world powers, to the dismay of Human Rights Watch, are also practicing the eminently sensible non-interventionist foreign policy of America’s Founding Fathers — economic engagement combined with political non-interference.

In fact, it would appear that the only world power not practicing the eminently sensible non-interventionist foreign policy of America’s Founding Fathers, is America.

Instead of making a telling argument against mainland China’s policy of non-interference, Human Rights Watch merely revealed its human rights moral befuddlement.

Human Rights Watch has a slogan: “human rights, now more than ever”

Considering the organization’s moral befuddlement, that is both funny and sad.

Human Rights Watch demands “human rights, now more than ever.” I’d prefer a little less moral befuddlement, now more than ever.

Post Script:

Human Rights Watch refers to “Beijing’s inhumane behavior at home.”

Lest anyone, especially Taiwan independence fellow travelers, be tempted to accuse me of turning a blind eye to the mainland Chinese government’s domestic abuses, let me make something perfectly clear.

The issue is not whether there are abuses. Of course there are abuses.

The issue is whether those abuses constitute a justification for foreign predators to commit aggression against the Chinese nation.

Abuses committed by the American government against the American people are the exclusive concern of America’s citizens. They are none of China’s business.

By the exact same token, abuses committed by the Chinese government against the Chinese people are the exclusive concern of China’s citizens. They are none of America’s business.

Unless America and other nations are inviting Russian or Chinese troops to march into their nations’ capitals, on the pretext of redressing “human rights abuses,” the way US troops have been marching into Kabul and Baghdad, then they had better rethink their stand on “humanitarian intervention.”

China’s citizens include 1.3 billion Chinese on the mainland, 23 million Chinese on Taiwan, seven million Chinese in Hong Kong, and half a million Chinese in Macau. They, not foreign predators masquerading as selfless benefactors, will seek redress for any abuses committed against them by their own governments, on their own initiative, and in their own time.

The Chinese people neither want nor need Western imperialists to “bear the White Man’s burden.” The Chinese people know that when Western imperialists “bear the White Man’s burden,” the ones who actually wind up bearing the burden are Black Men, Brown Men, Red Men, and Yellow Men.

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