On my way home this afternoon I listened to an interview, in the Sinica podcast series (on all sorts of matters Chinese), with Nury Turkel, chairman and founder of the Uyghur Human Rights Project. For anyone at all interested in the subject it is well worth listening to.
As the interviewer himself put it, he is someone who is not generally seen as anti-PRC, and indeed regards himself as still being listened to to some extent by some of the more strongly nationalistic/pro-PRC people. But he is clearly appalled at what is going on in Xinjiang, initiated and executed by the regime in Beijing.
In the programme notes there is this summary
6:44: Nury calls for a larger international coalition to decry the horrors in Xinjiang, and highlight the shadow that Uyghur internment will cast on the longer history of China, stating, “In the end, we want two things. One, we want the camps to be shut down. It’s an embarrassment to the Chinese people, even in their history. It needs to be shut down. And, two, we want to be able to restore the Uyghur people’s basic dignity. Give them their dignity and respect back.”
In the course of the discussion it was noted that while Beijing is not generally that receptive to international criticism and pressure at all, some people are more likely to be listened to – or be awkward for the regime – than others. Hardline permanent anti-Beijing hawks are easily brushed off.
But people, institutions, and countries that have toadied to Beijing at every turn are a different matter. Much as I am critical of Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges I don’t believe either of them is likely to be comfortable with the atrocity that is Xinjiang. Fairly or rationally or not, the Prime Minister now seems to carry with her – perhaps internationally even more than at home – some sort of halo of kindness, decency etc. That image etc surely carries some responsibility.
New Zealand doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things, but precisely because our main political parties and successive governments have been such toadies, it would not be nothing – in Beijing or in the rest of the world – if Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges rediscovered some moral core, some courage, some decency, and were willing (together perhaps) to openly and publicly deplore what is going on in Xinjiang. (They might add in the plight of Falun Gong, Christian believers, and so on too). To call it as it is: a moral stain, and one that blights the reputation of any leaders who just walk past quietly, or make excuses (Todd McClay) for the atrocity.
Fairly or not, it often isn’t the people who strongly opposed evil from the start whom history remembers most favourably, but those who once walked with the perpetrators of evil and then stepped away and spoke up early enough. The evil in Xinjiang has gone on quite long enough, that no decent person should any longer be able to turn a blind eye. That includes New Zealand’s sycophantic officeholders.
For anyone interested in learning more, Sinica has a monthly article on the situation in Xinjiang.