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03 December, 2010

Can China browbeat the world's largest democracy?

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

China has cautioned that India's participation in the 2010 Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo will have adverse effects in China's bilateral relationships with India. It is reported that the Chinese government has informed the Indian Ambassador in China, S. Jaishankar, to advice New Delhi not to attend the 10 December ceremony in Oslo or to send any representatives. China has sent similar messages to other countries.

The Chinese administration's concern for one of its human rights activists, Liu Xiaobo, being awarded the Nobel Prize is understandable. Dr. Liu who once lectured at Colombia, Oslo and Hawaii Universities and a co-author of Charter '08 is in detention in China since June 1989, branded as a criminal. Indeed advocating for legislative democracy, judicial independence, fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, expression and religion are subversive activities in China. Recognising someone who believes in basic human freedom is tantamount to "intervening in China's judicial sovereignty", to quote a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Indeed it is for China to define what the term 'judicial' implies and to determine the manner in which a civilian version of a military tribunal, that the Chinese administration refer to as 'its judiciary' function. China has no right; neither does it make any sense should it expect the rest of the world to follow the Chinese model of administration. Perhaps it is time for China to understand and also respect the fact that in some parts of the world, people are born free and citizens expect their states not to restrict freedom, but to respect, guarantee and protect it. Probably it is time for the world to advice China that its circumscribed worldview, defined by the Communist Party of China or the interpretation of rights as permitted by the People's Political Consultative Congress or the National People's Congress is not always correct. The economic prowess of China can also be its Achilles Heel, only if the states that respect fundamental human freedoms can play Paris.

As for India, it is reported that New Delhi has not yet decided whether to succumb to Beijing's diplomatic browbeating or to defy it like any mature and self-respecting state that honours what is etched into its Constitutional template. India indeed will not be 'hurt' like Pakistan or Sri Lanka should China be unhappy with New Delhi. In fact if China stay away from dumping in India, it will benefit Indian economy. The FDI inflow from China in India as of August 2010 is only a meagre 52.41 million USD, placing China 35th in the list of 128 countries having FDI stakes in India. Developing democracies like South Africa, Mauritius and Indonesia have much more investments stakes in India, with Mauritius toping the list with 50 billion USD worth FDI inflow. Investments apart, India's decision whether to participate in the December 10 event at the Oslo City Hall must be based on what India believes.

Yet another concern for New Delhi will be China's position concerning India's candidacy to have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. If the Security Council is to be expanded shattering the narrow self-interests of the Coffee Club led by Italy, like other members in the G4 India's question should also be decided on its merits. This seat is not worth occupying, should it require betraying universal respect to fundamental human freedoms and dignity.

India however has its own version of Dr. Liu. It is Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu of Manipur, also known as the iron lady of Manipur. Since the past ten years Sharmila is imprisoned in an isolated room within the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal, Manipur. The state government in Manipur, upon instructions from New Delhi has charged Sharmila under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1890 interpreting her indefinite fast demanding an end to the existing culture of impunity in Manipur as an attempt to commit suicide and thus a crime. The judiciary in India, concerning this case in particular and Manipur generally, has behaved like their Chinese counterparts, subjugated and biased.

India is hardly any different from China in smothering dissent and negating democratic freedoms concerning Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur. India enacts its June 4 and October 19 in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir, as often it is required. Indian media emulating their Chinese counterparts avoid impartial and continuous reporting of human rights violations and brutalities committed by the state and non-state actors in these two high intensity internal domestic conflict zones.

India also has its own historical and cultural nemesis to its proclaimed belief in equality. It is the 3000-year-old caste system, a brutal discriminatory practice that has helped survive political, religious and administrative bigotry that continues to force an estimated 200 million Indians to live within the fringes of the society. It is the poverty, starvation and malnutrition among this 200 million and an additional and substantially large tribal community who are increasingly driven out of their habitats on the excuse of development that places India worse than 26 poor African states put together in terms of poverty. Concerning all these issues, India is hand in glove with China in its resentment to international condemnation. Like China, these are all 'internal issues' for India, conveniently to be swept under the carpet.

So the question to be asked is, will India loose anything and will it paint a different picture of itself if it fails to participate in the Nobel Award Ceremony? Not quite!

The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


Vindys said...

But I really doubt whether India will really plan to stand for human rights and all again.
This was news when prize was announced.
"The decolonized world has learnt not to interfere in the internal affairs of each other," an Indian official said. India has paid a high price in terms of weakening of bilateral relationship with Myanmar after it hailed Aung San Suu Kyi for being awarded the 1991 Nobel prize for peace. It has since been losing out on lucrative oil, gas and other business contracts from Myanmar. "

We looks more concerned about money or more power. And lot of times we just keep things for business bargains. If China is talking more about Arunachal we will talk about Tibet.. I doubt whether our national leaders really think Gandhiji was born in this country itself.

“I am saddened with India. I would like to have thought that India would be standing behind us. That it would have followed in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru,” said Suu Kyi."

I think we are becoming big power and on our way we can be less concerned about human :) Its all business as usual :(

onlooker said...

I think in this special situation, India will opt for abstaining from the Oslo meeting. However, will such a move would strengthen India's chances of getting into the UN security council with Chinese support remains a puzzling question!