(This came via email from a reader in Malaysia.)
July 18, 2011
By Pahit Manis
In a telling sign that human rights are not always a non-negotiable component of democracy – but more of a political weapon (now currently being used against Libya) and a bargaining chip for advantage – Britain’s Prime Minister maintained a deafening silence against the abuses of cherished Western ideals by his Malaysian counterpart just before Najib Razak’s recent official visit.
For weeks, the Malaysian government had carried out a campaign of intimidation and disinformation, through the lapdog media and nominally-independent police force, against the Bersih (Clean) movement calling for reform of the electoral process. (Among the organisation’s eight points are an end to `phantom’ voters and the use of indelible ink on ballots).
The Kafkaesque chain of events culminated with a ban on wearing anything yellow – including shoes, hats, though yellow underwear was not listed among the items, but talk about fashion police – and arrests of Bersih campaigners for alleged Communist links.
The movement was also accused of being 1) a Jewish plot 2) foreign-financed adventure and 3) a Christian conspiracy to take over the Muslim-majority country. Talk about unholy alliances: Bible thumpers, international spies, Jews and Godless goons!
Despite shrill warnings and an eventual ban on the rally, more than 50000 from across the country braved Gestapo-like raids on hotel rooms and police barricades into the capital, to press the case for electoral reform to the ruling coalition that has been in power for more than 50 years.
The response was barrages of tear gas and chemical-laced water from cannons on peaceful protestors in the streets. More than 1600 people were arrested and one died.
Despite the irrefutable evidence of human rights infringement, David Cameron stoutly maintained his stiff upper lip to host an unctuous bully. Yes, the same David Cameron who took to the soapbox against Wen Jiabao for China’s track record on civil liberties during the Premier’s visit earlier.
Not a good idea, Daily Telegraph bellowed in a ticking-off for Dave. (Defending `beleaguered’ China by default).
The Telegravda (as a reader avers) reminded Dave that China owns the Mother of all Piggy Banks (and counting) and it’s not wise to upset the cash cow. Or sow. Whatever.
Indeed. A Chinese official later leaked that Britain has fallen behind in the queue after France, Germany and even Spain as a preferred destination for investment. Ouch.
But all that is probably after the fact. Business pledges and decisions are made mostly ahead of a planned tour and fanfared on arrival as part of a bilateral love-in.
Angela Merkel was showered with US$22 billion and Britain got a measly one. Wot? And that is the real reason for Dave’s outburst at Wen; the loser’s rant, on behalf of embittered Britain Inc.
Not so, of course, with the unelected Najib, who only got his job when the previous incumbent was pressured out after a disastrous showing at the polls.
Malaysia is Britain’s 18 largest trading partner – including weapons to oppress the masses – and a key source of investment, counting the billions siphoned out, over the years, from the resources-rich nation. So Dave shut an eye and bit his tongue, like the head waiter of a posh restaurant who doesn’t care if his well-dressed customers are thugs so long as they tip big.
Dave found some shelter behind the skirts of his monarch, though. In a royal rebuke, Queen Elizabeth wore a yellow dress during her audience with the Malaysian politician and his self-styled first lady. At least Brenda has royal style and spine.
And where was Hillary Clinton when the Malaysian government declared war on its own people in the streets?
Madame Secretary, who never appears in public without a verbal missile ready to fire at some Enemy of Human Rights (usually China), was maybe getting a price-y pedicure while protestors were running for shelter in the streets?
Maybe she blinked. But Hillary can’t say she can’t find Malaysia on the map. She was here last year to deliver a hackneyed working woman/wife/mother spiel to an audience of naïve and pompous females.
(Right, yeah. Hillary is about as homely as those ghoulish women of the French Revolution who knitted away by the guillotine while the executioner dropped the axe on another enemy of the people.)
Her maiden visit came soon after Bill accepted a cut-price fee for a lecture paid by a scandal-hit Malaysian corporation.
Putting aside the unlikely notion of personal interests, it still remains that American policy is dominated by its national agenda – shaped by domestic issues and inter-party politics – rather than the sanctity of so-called universal values.
So long as America gets its oil, gas, timber, palm oil and cheap labour at rates that please its financial-political cartels, the administration will lower its gaze from the bloody antics of corrupt but compliant regimes.
The book on human rights, as authored by the West, is hurled only at countries with the backbone to stand up to American hegemony, and these include Libya –currently favored with “humanitarian intervention’’ through Nato proxies – perennial favorite China and a motley crew of leaders who occasionally dare to rebel against the American will.
Tibetan independence and cultural genocide are a popular human rights theme for China-bashing; it hits a crescendo whenever Dalai Lama comes calling at White House.
But increasingly, Washington’s wriggle room with China using Tibet/Taiwan/Xinjiang is getting tighter, chipped away by its economic malaise. Obama has to appease his detractors and lobbyists publicly but work behind the scenes to maintain strong ties.
China protests loudly but keeps buying treasuries, so long as prospects for American-funded separatists remain dim. It’s becoming a carefully stage-managed charade.
Meanwhile, Washington will turn a blind eye to real abuses elsewhere.
C. Custer says
Governments are hypocritical! In other news, grass is greeen….
Anyway, allow me to step in before the fray to make one quick and important point here, that all of you will inevitably ignore: just because the US or the UK can be extremely hypocritical when it comes to human rights does not mean that (1) human rights are not a universal concept or (2) China shouldn’t be criticized for its human rights failures.
Everyone should be criticized when it comes to human rights violations. The term may have become a pejorative, but the concept is as relevant — and universal — as it was when P.C. Chang was representing China in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights back in ’48.
That is all. Let the great condemnation of western hegemony begin!
“just because the US or the UK can be extremely hypocritical when it comes to human rights does not mean that (1) human rights are not a universal concept or (2) China shouldn’t be criticized for its human rights failures.”
I think you are ignoring the CONTEXT of who’s doing the talking.
Where is your CONTEXT now?!
You’re missing the point. The author says the West is silent when it comes to condemning human rights issues in Malaysia while seems to be very vocal in China.
“Everyone should be criticized when it comes to human rights violations. The term may have become a pejorative, but the concept is as relevant — and universal — as it was when P.C. Chang was representing China in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights back in 48.”
Yeah, “everyone” doing the criticizing. Who would be left to actually do the REAL work?
Yes, “everyone” should be just yap away on blogs.
And you don’t know P.C. Chang!
In the discussion of Article 29, Chang convinced the delegates to balance individual rights with duties to the community. Chang argued that only by putting aside “selfish gains” and devoting themselves to their communities could humans “increase their moral stature.” This is a fundamental principle of Confucian ethics.
Later UN conventions continued to balance individual and collective rights. The 1989 Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples trumped the right of European powers to own native land because only they, according to John Locke’s concept of private property, had “mixed their labor” with the land while the natives had not. The other basic implication was that communities as well as individuals have basic rights.
Chang always sought to balance the perversion of 1 single self-righteous morality standard with the compromises of many cultures, UNLIKE your self-pretense that somehow you know the “universal” concept of “human rights”.
In fact, since Chang injected much Chinese Confucian value into the UDHR, (in that historical context), I say Chinese people are the experts in what the UDHR means!!
“Chang saw both Asian and Euro-American cultures evolving gradually together towards a natural convergence. Chang may have also learned the lesson of the Farmer of Song, who, being so eager that his grain should grow faster, went out at night and tugged on the shoots with disastrous results.”
Chang was wiser man than you understand.
You are the proverbial “Farmer of Song”, pulling and tugging on the shoots at night with your “criticisms”, hoping that “human rights” will grow faster in the world.
What would Chang say about you?? We Chinese know the story well enough.
“Western Hegemony”? Are you trying to be emotive? LOL!!
We have to use the right yardstick to measure one country’s human rights.
Mentioning of P.C. Chang was interesting, since Chang’s position on UDHR was one of compromise, not one of absolutes.
Chang was involved in the drafting of every article of UDHR, and injected his Chinese Confucian value heavily into the wording.
It is clear from the history of Chang’s involvement as the “original drafter” of the UDHR. (Let’s face it, most of the words were chosen by Chang in his process of compromise).
Thus, to take the legal interpretation doctrines into consideration, the INTENT of Chang, the “original drafter”, in UDHR, was based upon Chinese Confucian values.
In this CONTEXT, the UDHR as a legal doctrine, should be interpreted in view of Chinese Confucian values.
Especially given Chang’s views, I have no doubt that the Western shouting of “Human Rights” are empty as the shouts of “Democracy”, in contradiction to the intent of the “original drafter”.
Charles Liu says
Exactely, you don’t ever see Charles Custer reply “In other news, grass is greeen” in response to Chinese government’s transgression.
Up to being banned from CG, I have never seen Charles Custer do that once. NOT ONCE. Talk about lack of parity when it comes to ones own high horse.
C. Custer says
That’s because I don’t make posts about things I think are obvious/boring. So, for example, you’ll never see me posting about the US’s human rights document condemning China, or China’s human rights white paper condemning the US. However, within posts, I do suggest that some Chinese government transgressions are common and unremarkable. If you’ve “never” seen that on ChinaGeeks, it’s because you suck at reading.
But I do try to avoid it as a post topic, because why the hell would ANYONE write a post about something they considered to be obvious? Generally, if my reaction to something is “in other news, grass is green” I’m just not going to write about it at all.
C. Custer says
Do you understand what the word context means? That’s part of the document’s history, and that is exactly why I mentioned Chang. But in terms of interpretation, legal documents should be interpreted based on what the text says.
C. Custer says
[deleted by YinYang for personal attacks]
So just how repressive is the Chinese gov’t in Tibet?
see short version of a 2006 study – see http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=2732.
long version of the 2006 study – see https://hiddenharmonies.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Sautman-2006-Colonialism-Genocide-Tibet.pdf.
Of course, there is the official white paper from the Chinese gov’t just released on the 60th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet. See http://www.gov.cn/english/official/2011-07/11/content_1904075.htm
Hi yinyang / Pahit Manis
I hope you don’t mind if I provide the link from PRS on my view with regard to this article.
Rhan, it’s odd you leaving a comment meant for this post on another blog. As Wukailong suggested, you should put your comment here – if you want.
I can’t really tell if you agree with this post or not. But I hope you end up having fruitful exchange with the author and we all can learn some more.
WKL and you are right. As the PRS post talk about democracy in Singapore and Asia while this thread comments seem mostly focus on USA and China, I first thought my comment might not appeal to you all, my apology. I re-paste below.
I read with interest a letter written by a Malaysian Pahit Manis “Dave and Hillary blink on human rights” from Hidden Harmonies (Read: https://hiddenharmonies.org/2011/07/letter-from-pahit-manis-dave-and-hillary-blink-on-human-rights/). As a Malaysian, I feel oblige to give my view and to refute the many inconsistence contention made by Pahit Manis, particularly pertaining to China and USA.
Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy, the government system is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system and general election is held every five years. On the contrary, China is a republic and governed by the China Communist Party, it is a one party state and no election was held since CCP comes to power. Therefore I think it is not sensible to compare the two countries that have a total different political system (democracy vs authoritarian) and expect the world especially USA to handle both with similar approach. I agree Malaysia elections were conducted in an unfair manner but according to The U.S. State Department reports that despite the many election irregularities during the 2008 elections, “most observers concluded they did not substantially alter the results.”, therefore I am not sure what were Pahit Manis expectation toward USA unless there is valid evidence to prove that BN were soundly defeated in 2008 election by means of irregularity which until now I see none. I also have the opinion that Pahit Manis comment were insensible when he wrote “where was Hillary Clinton when the Malaysian government declared war on its own people in the streets?” In fact, US did voice concern about Malaysian 9 July 2011 crackdown on 14 July 2011 (Read : http://malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/newscommentaries/42034-us-airs-concerns-on-malaysia-crackdown).
I share the same view with Pahit Manis that USA is hypocritical when comes to foreign policy, however I notice the contradiction among us who criticize USA, our emotion and demand toward USA is equally hypocritical. We criticize USA hegemony and accusing them of “humanitarian intervention” but at the same time, we hope US to pronounce clearly and loudly their support toward our struggle for democracy.
On a different note, I often has the impression that USA openly support of any democracy movement doesn’t help and instead instigating an opposite effect. At the 1998 APEC Summit in Kuala Lumpur, the then-Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, gave a speech supporting Anwar and the “reformasi” movement in front of the Prime Minister of Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific premiers. It seems the outcome is there are more Malaysian to stand behind our PM and point the finger toward Anwar as Jewish agent and USA lapdog.
I have no conclusion made as I don’t really understand the core point of Pahit Manis writing, but I hope he don’t have the intention to put our democratic movement into a complex situation. If I make a stance to support China to take his own path, I wish we should have the confidence that Malaysian could and should do the same.