Human rights, Helen Clark, and the PRC

Yesterday was, apparently, the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   Our former Prime Minister, former senior UN official, beloved of the Labour Party faithful, Helen Clark tells us so.

I can’t claim to be much of a fan of the United Nations, am not entirely convinced by the concept of “human rights”, and certainly don’t believe that any such rights flow from declarations of governments.  I’m not convinced some items in the declaration belong there.  But Helen Clark probably sees things differently.  She seems to be champion of all such things, worthy and not so much.   She’s a private citizen now, but it was only a year or so ago that our governments were championing her campaign to be Secretary-General of the United Nations and I’m told MFAT still uses her promote New Zealand foreign policy.

And what was our former Prime Minister actually doing yesterday on Human Rights Day?  Well, her Twitter feed says she was in the People’s Republic of China, attending something called the Imperial Springs Forum.

Is this some dissident forum, bravely championing the rights and freedom of the Chinese Communist Party’s subjects?   Silly, no of course not.     This was an event opened by the PRC’s Vice-President (open the report of the speech in Chrome and you’ll get a translation –  or Google a shorter version in English).  Here’s some of what he had to say

Wang Qishan said that the interests of all countries are deeply integrated and shared. China adheres to the path of peaceful development and advocates building a new type of international relations of mutual respect, fairness, justice, cooperation and win-win, and promoting the building of a community of human destiny that lasts for a peaceful and common prosperity. China will unswervingly follow its own path, do things in a down-to-earth manner, continue to learn from each other with sincerity and open mind, learn from each other, deepen cooperation, and always be a builder of world peace and global development. Contributors, defenders of the international order.

Doesn’t all that just describe so well the way in which the PRC operates?   Well, I guess “unswervingly follow its own [evil] path” might qualify.

Is the Imperial Springs Forum some quasi-independent body (if such an idea were even conceivable in today’s PRC? No, of course not.   Here is how one China watcher summarised it

All part of the same United Front work programme.  One of the leading figures behind it is apparently an Australian citizen Chau Chak Wing, of whom there are many rather gruesome stories to read (eg here), including some involving possible shadty dealings around the United Nations.   It seems to be a convenient –  for the PRC –  forum at which to gather prominent people from all over the world who will be polite and deferential, and treat the Party and the PRC as some sort of normal decent people –  not a bunch of brutal tyrants –  as a bunch somehow genuinely committed to open trade and free human development.   You can see the sponsors on the website here (and incidentially can see that our other former Prime Minister –  heavily involved in all things pandering to the PRC, including the New Zealand China Council –  Jenny Shipley was at last year’s event).

But what really struck me wasn’t what the PRC regime does.  We take them as evil and opportunistic –  they’ll use self-important people who make themselves available to be used.  It was more a case of what Helen Clark chose not to do.    There were quite a few tweets from her yesterday, including the one above about the Universal Declaration –  a document that China was a party to at its launch, and which the People’s Republic has made itself party to in 46 years in the United Nations.   Twitter is blocked in the PRC itself, but presumably there was some sort of VPN allowing the eminent former politicians and other attendees to carry on tweeting.

But there was not a word –  not even a subtle hint –  about the utter incongruity between the actions and expressed values of Helen Clark’s hosts –  the regime and its acolytes –  and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   On Human Rights Day.  You can read the whole declaration here but how about

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

The million of so Uighurs anyone?

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

As applied, say, to the PRC former head of Interpol?   Or

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

That would include those not-yet imprisioned Uighurs who’ve had PRC government spies forced into their homes?

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Forced organ donations?

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Where to start on what PRC subjects can’t do?

And then there was the article which really prompted me to turn to the keyboard today

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

The mass internment of Uighurs seems to be substantially about their Muslim religion. Serious religious commitment involves an alternative and higher form of loyalty than that to the Party.   That’s a threat –  as it was to the Nazis, or the Communist rulers of the Soviet Union.  As it is, and ever has been, to the CCP and to Xi Jinping.  And it isn’t just the Muslims.  This happened in Chengdu over the weekend  –  where the New Zealand consulate had been wining and dining Beijing’s Confucius Institute people from New Zealand a few days previously.

(Great book by the way, on all manner of religious traditions in China.)

It is not exactly secret.  I’m sure Helen Clark –  and the consulate in Chengdu, broadcasting news of its latest meeting with the local CCP/PRC powers than be –  will have been aware of it.   Not a word, of course, from our authorities, and that isn’t surprising.  But not a word either from a former Prime Minister, former senior official of the United Nations in the PRC on Human Rights Day itself.

Does the fine rhetoric, the official declarations, mean anything at all, or is it all just for show, some sort of Potemkin village, just enough to keep the conference invites coming, but not to be taken seriously, at least as regards any country that offers enough hospitality?

Had Helen Clark said something –  whether about the Early Rain church (it being in the headlines), about the Uighurs, or about any other of the myriad breaches – what was the PRC going to do?  They were hardly going to toss her in prison were they?  At worst, she’d have been ignored by her hosts, and not invited back.  But so what?   She can hardly need the money, and the PRC is hardly going to reform because some international toadies turn up to meetings with them.  With the UN stint behind her she is the sort of person who could effectively speak up and speak out for “human rights” and freedom in the PRC  (and against its aggression and interference abroad, including in New Zealand, against its effort to intimidate ethnic Chinese New Zealanders or Anne-Marie Brady –  who, at least as suggested by her writing seems to be personally of the left.)

If she cared, if it meant anything.

Instead she joins the pantheon of the prominent, determined never ever to say a word upsetting to Beijing –  Don McKinnon, Jenny Shipley, John Key, Bill English, (Todd McClay, Simon Bridges, Jacinda Ardern) and…..that champion of human rights, Helen Clark.

(For anyone more interested in the Wang Yi case specifically there is some useful, inspiring, material linked to by Ian Johnson, the New York Times journalist and author of that book on religion in the PRC.)


22 thoughts on “Human rights, Helen Clark, and the PRC

  1. Well said, Michael. Of course, Helen Clark only a few months ago was telling eager media acolytes that one reason she was passed over for the Secretary-General’s post at the UN was because they didn’t want a “strong leader” who would stand up to Russia and China! She has never uttered a word critical of the CCP. And she would never have even got as far as she did at the UN if she was seen as someone who would rock the boat. Her delusions — and the media’s willingness to indulge them — are astonishing.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Yes, very well said.

      “”Serious religious commitment involves an alternative and higher form of loyalty than that to the Party. That’s a threat – as it was to the Nazis, or the Communist rulers of the Soviet Union. As it is, and ever has been, to the CCP and to Xi Jinping. “”.
      Of course that is self-evidently true. As a life long devout (meaning: committed to a cause or belief) atheist please add me in too. I cannot abide the idea of worshipping a supreme being but that would be better than worshipping a compulsory political system with a track record of repression.

      Helen Clark had a perfect opportunity to publically speak the truth to a tyrant and she chose not to do so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So because she complains about the sex of a group she gets a pass on what the group is doing. Seems more like grabbing the low hanging fruit. Makes good publicity and a nice twitter shot. But has no depth or meaning beyond “hey, look at me. I give a toss. Sort of.”

      How long before Madam Clark gets an consultancy offered and greedily accepts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post Michael. Yes the Han-Nazi’s have totally corrupted an entire generation of New Zealand’s (utterly spineless and cowardly) politicians.

    I thought this was amusing. Chinese threatening US Navy sailing in international waters that China claims… this person is so foolish that they think the USN sends an Oiler though the Taiwan Straits without submarine support. But that’s their aggressive militarist, nationalist and racist thinking…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is someone, who destroyed our role in ANZUS and our air combat wing, desperately seeking relevance with a hostile regime who are happy to flatter her delusions for propaganda purposes. Pathetic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • For me, Helen Clarke would always hold a place in NZ history as the person who went against the UN charter for indigenous rights to land and brought in the Foreshore and Seabed Act to block Maori claims to tribal ownership to our coastal beaches and coastal waters. Unfortunately that lead to the creation of the Maori party with the full backing of 7 Maori seats which was traditionally Labour that put John Key’s National government into power. That event also marked the end of white pakeha supremacy in government and the power that those 7 Maori seats hold in a MMP election.


  4. Globalization and the Military – Herman Daly

    National disintegration caused by global integration is nowhere more striking than in its effects on that most nationalist of all institutions, the military. Military observers seem not to have paid much attention to how globalization blurs the issue of national defense as it erases the economic importance of national boundaries. As nations cease to be separate, loosely connected units, and become nodes in a tightly integrated global network, as their boundaries lose economic significance, then do we really need to defend those boundaries? We will presumably no longer need customs officials or border guards. But what about the military proper? What precisely are they going to defend in a globalized world? The globe is not under threat of invasion. Do we imagine that national boundaries will long retain any political or cultural significance once their economic significance is gone?

    With free trade in weapons and militarily relevant technology, and with easy migration of key military and scientific personnel, could the military defend anything — even if it knew what it was defending?

    Would anything count as treason anymore? For example, Hughes and Loral, nominally U.S. companies, contract with China to send their expensive communications satellites into space on cheap Chinese rockets. But it costs them a lot whenever a Chinese rocket blows up. To reduce that risk they transfer advanced rocket technology to the Chinese, technology which the Chinese can use in their own missile guidance systems and sell to other countries. If a Defense Department employee had sold China that information, would he not be charged with treason? Within the US Government the Commerce Department favors such deals, while the State Department has serious doubts.

    Can the industrial part of the military-industrial complex globalize while the military part remains national? With the global mobility of capital comes the mobility of both the industrial base and the tax base that support the national military. Is not national defense a social good, just like welfare or environmental protection? Will not globalization undercut a nation’s ability to tax capital to support its military, just as it undercuts a nation’s ability to tax capital to support welfare and environmental programs? What’s the big difference?

    No doubt it is considerations such as these that lead some people to favor globalization. It is good, in their view, precisely because it makes the national military obsolete. Given the destruction and waste wrought by national militaries it is hard not to have some sympathy with this position. But while globalization seems to make national militaries obsolete, it does not remove the need for appeal to force. Laws, contracts and property rights still must exist and be enforced, even if they are global rather than national. Economic inequality and class conflict grow as the old national social contract between capital and labor dissolves along with the power of nations to guarantee it. Do the globalizers envisage a global government to enforce global laws with a global police force? Or do we, to avoid really big government, follow the privatization and deregulation model all the way, letting the military evolve into private Pinkerton guards hired by each global corporation to protect its property and enforce its contracts? Global corporate feudalism?

    I know that we have not arrived at this point yet. But make no mistake about the fact that globalization is being pushed hard by powerful transnational corporations, and that the weakening of the nation is part of the agenda. Conversion of the national military into a corporate police force is consistent with such an agenda. Maybe globalization will stop before it completely disintegrates nations. But who or what will stop it? Might the nationalism, or even patriotism, of the military provide a barrier? So far it has not.

    Helen Clark will be hoping her and her fellow travelers who have decreed our nation become “diverse” with next to no military armed only with high fallouting “values” will be the voices all will wish to follow?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. China has a terrible record of abusing religious freedom. However you don’t understand the difference between Islam and any other religious belief. Only Islam teaches the highest act and the only one that guarantees entry to their sordid paradise (includes continual sex with 90 foot virgins and young boys with gleaming white teeth) is by killing non-Muslims. It is also mandated to fund this jihad. Also no other religious writings command the hatred of those not members of their religion as Islam does: hatred is listed for example by offering no help to non-Muslims who are in difficulty or friendship. As Islam means submission the aim is to force (270 million have died since Muhammad) the whole world under sharia law. That is why informed countries such as the Central African Republic have removed Muslims from their country to avoid more deaths of their citizens.
    China deserves criticism for its suppression of religion but a better understanding of the issues would lead to a more informed article.


    • Google map search of “Muslim mosques in China” and you get 22 Official mosques. Christian church in China and you get 40 official churches. Buddhist temples in China and you get 86 temples.

      Liked by 1 person

      • From wikipedia: “”The 2000 census counts imply that there may be up to 20 million Muslims in China.”” so that means just under 1 million Muslims per mosque. Freedom of religion?


      • With 1500 Muslims entering NZ, courtesy of the Jacinda Ardern Labour government, expect a new mosque funded by the NZ government every 12 months. Freedom of religion?


  6. The issue is the lack of ability to distinguish between the ideal of freedom of religion and whether a religion should be given freedom.
    Islam is currently the only major religion that should not be allowed (ban shariah law) because it is incompatible with national law. Islam aims to dominate and subjugate non Muslims . It is not a difficult concept to grasp that discrimination is good when it deals with evil totalitarian entities like Islam but not when used to harm a group who are no danger or treat just different.


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