Xinjiang: an opportunity for Ardern and Bridges

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.


29 thoughts on “Xinjiang: an opportunity for Ardern and Bridges

  1. It takes courage to speak up and challenge evil. This quality has been stifled in New Zealand for sometime. New Zealand today is a country ignorant of history and with few lasting moral values. Ardern’s government is planning to impose further restrictions on freedom of speech in a way that would no doubt delight her Communist Chinese hosts. Barking up the wrong tree I’m afraid.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes, it isn’t as if I expect anything positive from Bridges or Ardern, but each month they associate with such evil, the more indelible the memory of their shame will one day be. People who are aware recall fondly the first Labour govt being on the end of spectrum more willing to stand against Mussolini and Hitler.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hitler blah blah blah…….if it was a Chinese Hitler in charge of China over the past 70 years, and not Mao and Deng and co, or even an Andrew Jackson, or Teddy Roosevelt, or the equivalent of any other white colonial ruler, the Uighurs and Tibetans and Mongolians would have almost been disappeared a few remnants on reservations (or eliminated altogether and simply have disappeared from history). Particularly if they were situated in large, strategically critical areas of the country.

      Even otherwise hostile writers admit that Chinese government policy up to quite recently was to allow minorities to have more children than Han (although of course they put a negative spin on things):
      “China, which famously limits most urban couples to just one child, has more lenient family planning policies for minorities. The government currently allows urban Uighurs to have two children and rural Uighurs to have three. Some Han Chinese resent the special treatment.”

      Whatever the case, not equivalent to Hitler’s treatment of Jews and Slavs.


      • Mark: the times are changing. What my UK ancestors did in colonial Indian, Malaya, etc pre-independence and Hitler and Stalin in the thirties cannot be accepted in a modern world with modern communications. I suspect you may be right that Mao didn’t treat minorities any worse than he treated the majority of Han Chinese however the leadership of modern China in today’s world need to be told (politiely) that some behaviours are no longer acceptable.
        Hitler is used as an example not because of his actions but because of the UK govt’s appeasement. If you want to construct a decent argument you could say why criticize China for its repression of its own people when the West doesn’t do so with Saudi Arabia and didn’t against Gaddafi’s Libya. And the answer is that however much we disagree about the morality of the Chinese Communist Party everyone will agree that it is comprised of highly educated people who are not impulsive and who are always looking at the long term advantage. Uyghur internment is an embarassment for China.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Probably not really worth debating further, but I’d happily defend a proposition that six years of Xi has been worse than the first six years of Hitler.

        As for the 70 years of the CCP, hard to compare with an evil regime that only last 12 (and I’m not trying to).

        Liked by 1 person

    • If the political class in this country hasn’t been moved by organ harvesting on an industrial scale over the last few decades, I don’t see why they would care about Xinjiang. Think of it, if the summary execution of many thousands of religious believers and dissenters for their organs hasn’t moved them I don’t see how Xinjiang will either.

      Just thinking about some of the apparent implications from the Xi/Ardern meeting:

      – NZ will say nothing further about CCP aggression in the South/East China seas

      – the innocent Canadian citizens (and others) who are rotting in Chinese jails will stay there for all we care

      – Huawei will build our 5G network, whether or not it puts our security at risk

      – there will be no justice for AM Brady. In fact Chinese agents will have the tacit approval of our politicians to do whatever they like to keep NZ Chinese residents either silent in their disapproval or vocal in their support of CCP policies. CCP political interference activities may discretely ramp up.

      – our standing among our traditional allies has fallen further. Given that the only country who could be a plausible threat to our own over the next ten years or so is the one we coddle up to now, this is a worry. It is even more of a worry that the only ones who would plausibly defend us from such a threat are these same allies who we have now let down (and who may be less inclined to stand up for us going ahead).

      – The leftist media in this country who are infatuated with our PM, will likely cooperate in ignoring egregious human rights violations of the CCP, certainly assist in spreading CCP propoganda.

      – Our trade will become more dependent on China rather than less

      – It is more likely we will waste tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on dodgy Belt and Road projects

      – This situation will not be any different under National, certainly if Bridges retains the leadership. They are hardly going to rock the boat with Xinjiang or anything else when their first instinct was to use Labour’s apparent problems with the CCP as political ammunition against them.

      Hopefully I’m wrong about some of these!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Largely agree, altho in the end I find it hard to see how the govt backs down on Huawei. Also (any growth in) trade volumes will be determined more by (lack of) market opportunities (and lack of morality) than by politics.

        On Belt and Road, I suspect they’ll go for symbolism rather than big dollars. The former probably matters more to Beijing anyway – something along the lines of NZ as a bridge between China and South America, that the China Council is touting.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The events of the last three weeks since the terrible massacre in Christchurch have shown how unanchored New Zealanders have become. In addition to an epidemic of mawkish sentimentality, faux religiosity and ludicrous virtue signalling we have seen attacks by extremist MPs and academics on people of European heritage. We have also seen an Islamic prayer delivered in Parliament, where Christian prayer is banned by the Speaker, a prayer according to Arabic scholars which employs the Koranic text Surah Al Baqarah that among other things calls for the punishment of non Muslims and jihad. Did Jacinda get the translation?

    Liked by 3 people

    • All religious texts if taken at face value and adopting a purely logical lens, which is in itself illogical, when interpreting the texts, can be made to mean whatever one wants them to mean. We can take anything through to an ultimate meaning of one’s own choosing simply by constructing a narrative from various facts and pseudo facts. I really think that Islamic prayer was harmless, under the context of what happened, but it should not be a recurring theme —after all this is a secular democracy.

      Banning Christian prayer was stupid, not necessarily because of its religious significance or lack thereof to many people, but simply because it was an unnecessary assault on something that provides continuity with the past, and one that really gave no offense to anyone in the country, regardless of their religious persuasion. The Parliamentary prayer was a noble tradition, and as these sorts of things are chipped away we end up with something that is characterless and without association to anything from the past, associated with not many, but no cultural tradition. Thus rootlessness settles in and is normalised.

      Indeed I would guess, that migrants themselves if they could have voted on it would have voted to retain the prayer, and many Asian, Pacific, and African migrants are themselves Christian. Mainland Chinese migrants tend to take to Christianity with gusto, and believe in an old style version of the faith stripped of the sort of nuances that believers in the established Christian nations have developed over the centuries, the sharper edges of the faith having being attenuated by modernity and a Western liberalism (not in its classic sense) that is utterly foreign to them.


  4. It might work if delivered by Ardern & Bridges & Shaw and they did so simultaneously with a variety of commonwealth countries that have been generally positive to China – say Sri Lanka, South Africa and Jamaica (leaders and opposition). If phrased in a respectful manner by senior leaders who have not previously criticized China then it might achieve what China’s government desperately needs – some humanity towards their Muslim minority.

    To achieve the best effect requires brisk confidential negotiation ~ the Commonwealth and the UN providing the contacts between the small range of disparate countries.

    If China can prove itself able to respond positively to fair minded international criticism then many who are nervous of China will be disarmed.


    • China’s measures against Islamist extremism are positively mild compared to how Muslim countries handle extremism. There are no reports of killings or execution, the very worst are perhaps people dying in custody (of course there will be, simply statistically speaking, if the large numbers quoted by the western media are true, which they are not). Media typically reports on the most egregious unusual things and then pretends they are the norm. So the worst reports can safely be assumed to be at the 0.01 percentile of what is happening, and the norm is vastly more humane than what Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, do when cracking down on extremisn, and the Chinese are not executing entirely innocent families through drone attacks and bombings of people who pose absolutely no threat to them and live thousands of miles away – as does the US, which also caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths through their military interventions in recent time.

      There is no moral equivalence between China and Western imperialism. Western imperialism is evil.


    • The Chinese have suffered foreign invasion and civil wars, and then turbulence and smashing of their society to smithereens over the past 150 years, some of this of course self-inflicted. This has made them averse to instability, and they need stability to ensure growth and the elimination of poverty and to become a ‘moderately wealthy’ country within a decade or so.

      The measures taken in Xinjiang, whatever they are, are not anti-religous per se —they are matters of security, and the Chinese have seen what happened in Syria, and Libya where secular rulers were toppled and the human rights catastrophes that ensued. The proof of this is the Chinese government if they were really that way inclined, like Hitler etc, would have easily eliminated religion and even these minorities physically over 70 years of communist rule, the first half virtually cut off from most of the rest of the world. But instead, the ethnic groups were exempt from the one child policy and the government made an effort to increase their numbers, as well as extensive affirmative action policies and a policy of bilingual education. Anyone visiting Tibet or Xinjiang will note that the traditional cultures and languages of the people there have been preserved to a far greater extent than for any indigenous people who have come under Anglo Saxon domination.

      It is all very well to say lets all be into free speech and everyone free to do as they like. But that only works in a society where people are reasonably educated, and have lived in a civilized way for some period of time. Would it work say in European societies, if most Europeans still thought and believed the way they did in the 16th century say? Of course not.

      Dragging a massive country of people (of all nationalities) out of a pre-modern, feudal swamp, requires a different approach from governing a small country which for a very very long time has been among the world’s wealthiest and most well educated.


      • Mark, I found your comments coherent containing much sense. From what I have read as a layman from a range of sources that have been reliable in the past, the situation in Tibet and Xinjiang are not quite as ideal as you say. Apparently many Mosques have been closed.
        You imply indigenous people under Anglo-Saxon domination have had their traditional cultures and languages destroyed. My wife disagrees and she should know; traditional values have declined since independence. I suspect Indians might disagree – their culture has infiltrated Britain. I did hear that if you want to study Chinese traditional culture such as songs and dances then go to Malaya where the Chinese who came to work in the British plantations retained traditions that have been lost in China. Similarly when I lived in the Highlands of Scotland there was more Gaelic culture in Nova Scotia than in Scotland.
        I don’t know about 16th century Europe but by the 18th Century speech was remarkably free; Tom Paine was published. Do you think George Cruikshank’s cartoons about the British establishment could be published in China today with the Price of Wales replaced by President Xi?

        Liked by 2 people

  5. The site Sinica is not available
    Google says it is trying to send me to a false url. Is this what I think it is


  6. Michael needs to accept that other people has a different moral opinion than himself, and has no obligations to be answerable to his moral standards. He also needs to accept that times have changed, and that the Britain/US no longer has a credible threat of military force to coerce China, or indeed Russia, to conform to their moral standards.

    Reactionary conservatives like himself likes to ride on top of a proverbial white horse, pretending to be heads and shoulders above other cultures in moral terms, be it the Turks, Muslims or the Chinese, and framing all of his self-interest (the global hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon culture) as some form of twisted moral good. It is like an angry old white male trying to reminisce the good old days of British colonialism, except this time without any credible force of arms to bend other races to his will.


    • Right on. That goes straight the heart of the matter.

      Head and shoulder above other cultures, these same cultures that the Anglo Saxons invaded, plundered, and committed all sorts of atrocities against these non-Western peoples, while they themselves rose to the top of the food chain.

      In 1820, China’s economy was the largest in the world, according to British economist Angus Maddison.[3] Within a decade after the end of the Second Opium War, China’s share of global GDP had fallen by half.[4] In another research paper published by Michael Cemblast of JP Morgan and updated by the World Economic Forum, similar conclusions were reached—i.e. China’s economy was the largest in the world for many centuries until the Opium Wars.[3][4]

      So what’s your view on Western imperialism in China, MIchael Reddell? You seem to fall completely silent on that elephant in the room.


      • Oh boo hoo, poor mistreated China. Here’s a tissue.

        If China isn’t answerable to anyone else’s notions of morality or justice, why should anyone else be answerable to theirs, or yours? I won’t even address the insularity and, ahem, ‘high self regard’ of the Chinese and the irony of complaining about Anglo- or Euro- centrism. The only thing you’re upset about is that it isn’t the Sino-centrism that you do desperately covet. Whose fault was the Mongol horde? Anglos? The Japanese invasion? Anglos? How’d you guys do against the Japanese, “Mark”?

        And in case you didn’t notice, the people Mr.Reddell holds answerable for their conduct are generally New Zealand politicians, though I grant there are a couple of CCP members among them so let’s score that half a point.


      • How’d you guys do against the Japanese, “Mark”?h

        Pretty good actually. The major land battles against the Japanese were fought in China well before America even became involved. Read some history dude.

        “If China isn’t answerable to anyone else’s notions of morality or justice, why should anyone else be answerable to theirs, or yours?”

        Not sure what you are talking of boy, is China pushing their version of ‘morality or justice’ onto foreign peoples.

        The vast majority of people have no problems with China’s idea of ‘morality or justice’ – including most Asians, Africans, and now China looks like it is going to get Europe on board as well. They prefer it to the Anglo American version.

        And it is so transparent that people like Reddell and yourself who are are otherwise borderline Islamophobes, who say nothing when the US bombs hundreds of thousands of Muslims to smithereens, suddenly crying crocodile tears over what is supposedly happening in Xinjiang…..of course it is really a few desparate anglos crying in their beer that they are not kings of the world anymore….boo hoo hoo hoo

        Educate yourself eh boy:


      • This is a blog mostly about NZ (including the way our politicians interact with today’s PRC), mostly about today’s issues. In other words, things people have choices about now. I’m not going down the path of debating distant history, except perhaps to note that nothing humans do (individuals, let alone govts) is without admixture of the effects of sin. I’m ambivalent even about European settlement in New Zealand.

        Btw, in various comments you assert that I favour all sorts of US intervention in the Middle East. I’m not sure where you get that idea, but few things are further from the truth. Among contemporary issues, I side with many (including many US political figures) in regarding US complicity in Yemen, supporting Saudi Arabia, as deeply wrong. A principled New Zealand government would say so.


      • I’m not going down the path of debating distant history

        And that’s the whole problem, and where all the misunderstanding comes in. To the Chinese, they live and breath that history, and that drives everything they do. To them it is not distant history, and until Westerners understand that they will never be able to understand the motivations of the Chinese.


      • All of us, all our societies, are shaped by our histories (for good and ill), although much of the modern West seems to want to disown its history.

        I’m fascinated, and informed, by a huge range of history, but I’m not running a history blog (except bits of econ history which I occasionally indulge here).

        It doesn’t take a great deal of history – perhaps some ethics, religion etc – to determine that actions like Kristallnacht, the internment of a million Uighurs, or slavery in the US – are simply wrong.


    • Not sure where the “credible threat of military force” point comes from.

      I’m pretty confident that a public opinion poll of NZers, asking if they thought it was acceptable for a government to put 1.5m people in a concentration camp would come back with at least 85% saying no. In an annoymised poll I’m 100% confident that both Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges would say no. So I’m unbothered that my views might be out of step with those of Xi Jinping and the CCP (and with the odd anonymous commenter here).

      There are real and potentially important differences between disapproving of the conduct of a foreign government and a government choosing to speak openly and critically about that conduct. But, and to bring this back to the economics focus of this blog, that tension is heightened when politicians allow themselves to carry the mantle of responsibility for foreign trade (thru things like preferential trade agreements).


      • “The draconian response of Britain’s colonial government was to detain nearly the entire Kikuyu population of one-and-a-half-million – to hold them in camps or confine them in villages ringed with barbed wire – and to portray them as sub-human savages. From 1952 until the end of the war in 1960 tens of thousands of detainees – and possibly a hundred thousand or more – died from the combined effects of exhaustion, disease, starvation and systematic physical brutality”

        Far worse than what is even claimed against the Chinese so far.

        So are the British ‘evil’ Michael?


      • A great deal that was evil was done there.

        A great deal that is evil is being done today by the PRC.

        Do note the tenses in those two sentences. One situation cannot be changed, but the other can.


  7. Hey boy,
    The vast majority of Muslim countries have no issue with what China is doing in Xinjiang:

    “The (OIC) resolution commends China’s efforts for the well-being of the Muslims. It vindicated China’s position on Xinjiang, rejecting the negative propaganda of some Western countries to this effect.”

    Funny when the Chinese make deals with Muslims, or with Africans, or Pacific Islanders, or even Italians, all these snot nosed anglos like yourself get a bee in the bonnet over it.
    Don’t worry other people are big enough and bright enough to know what’s good for them. They don’t need sneering patronizing nonentitites like you and Reddell to tell them what is good for them.

    Calm down…none of your business, eh boy!


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