Winning Pride in…killing
If you watched last year’s grandiose opening ceremony of the Bejing Olympics you probably remember it. But you surely do not remember any images from the Chinese authorities’ crackdown on the Tibetan protests a few months prior to that. I doubt you have seen any coverage of the mass killings by Chinese security forces in the province of Xinjiang. And this is a pity. A grandiose pity.
What is common between Olympics, arresting Tibetan Monks and killing Uyghurs? All are organized by the Chinese authorities.
There are many things we do not know about China and many things we do not know about the Olympics. In the eve of the event last year Freedom House published extensive coverage of the Human Rights record of the biggest country in the world. According to the annual survey Freedom in the World, China gets the same mark in political and civil rights as Belarus, and a slightly worse one than that of Iraq. Nevertheless, Belarus remains more criticized by those who care about civil and political liberties, while China is a preferred economic and political partner. The truth however, is that Chinese politics have changed little after 1989 and despite the market economy reforms, the country remains a totalitarian state with no freedom of expression, controlled by the Communist party on all levels.
Why is that bad? Because China enhances the authoritarian capitalism and gains popularity by means of its strong economy – the second strongest in the World. The Olympic Games last year were a major step in that respect: The official slogan for the organizers was “Gaining Pride in the Olympics”. So far so good- but do you also get pride in killing people?
Last month more than 170 people died in clashes with security forces in the Uyghur province of Xinjian. Some said that the conflict was on ethnic basis, others – that it is an economic one. Whatever is true, it is undoubted that China used excessive force against its citizens and murdered many of them in the name of “political unity”. We did not see this on TV though. Freedom House Special Report on Media freedom from 2006 explains why: “Media managers appointed by the party are entirely responsible for the news content of the media organizations they oversee. They are expected to censor content deemed unfavourable or divisive to political unity or seen as a threat to social order”. Of course, calls for multi-party system, government accountability or enhanced autonomy in some regions fall within this category.
At the same time the China model is gaining currency around the globe, Undermining Democracy report says: “It [the model] has automatic appeal among authoritarian elites who seek modern formulas for maintaining their power while also growing their economies, and it has begun to win over even average people in a number of developing countries, where decades of free-market reforms have failed to stimulate broad economic growth”. Perhaps many dislike the way US treats the rest of the world as the first global power. But let’s think what will change if we have another global power. In fact, the question should be not “if”, but “when”!
Turning a blind eye on the atrocities in China is not a good strategy. Letting China gain pride while murdering its people is not a good thing either. In the year prior to the Olympics the number of political detentions has doubled. In the year that followed digital media access continues to be blocked by the unaccountable government and distant provinces are kept with brute force.
China may have 51 gold medals in the last Olympics, perhaps next time, it will have more. This year however there are 65 types of crimes that are given capital punishment in China, hundreds of deaths caused by security forces, millions of evicted people and 1,3 billion without the right to chose their government. I hope this changes in the future and China gets pride for it. After all – what do we give credit for?