Magazine article The Spectator

Pity the Monks of Tibet Who Dare to Hope That Anyone Will Come to Their Aid

Magazine article The Spectator

Pity the Monks of Tibet Who Dare to Hope That Anyone Will Come to Their Aid

Article excerpt

I can't remember what sort of foreign policy we have right now. When New Labour was elected we were told it would be an 'ethical foreign policy'. A year or so later, Robin Cook altered this to a 'foreign policy with an ethical dimension', which is a rather different thing.

I assume it is now something like 'a foreign policy with no ethical dimension whatsoever' or maybe, since about five years ago, 'a vigorously unethical foreign policy'. In this, I don't suppose we are very different to most other nations and one should at least be glad that the pretence otherwise has been long dropped. But watching those stolen images smuggled out of the fires of Lhasa this week, you do hope that the vestigial tail of a conscience is being tweaked somewhere within our government.

It is one thing to behave cravenly toward the appalling Saudis in order to 'protect our security interests'; it is another to suck up to the even worse Chinese simply because they are bigger than us and we want a slice of their burgeoning economy. Gordon Brown mentioned human rights, as a sort of afterthought, of course, the last time he visited Beijing -- and was told by his cheerful hosts, 'Oh, don't you worry yourself about that, everything will be fine.' This seemed to keep Gordon happy.

He did not visit opponents of the world's most long-lived totalitarian communist regime; he did not raise the plight of human rights lawyers imprisoned in China, nor the dissidents, nor the journalists. He did not so much as mention Tibet. He posed with ping-pong players and visited interesting power plants instead -- conveying, every time he grinned that weird rictus grin of his, British support for a regime which 50 years ago visited genocide upon the Tibetans and continues to oppress, torture, detain and murder those who voice the mildest objection to its policies.

It is estimated that the Chinese murdered one million Tibetans and destroyed 6,000 monasteries back in the 1950s. It would take too long to catalogue the crimes against humanity committed in every year since then by a succession of China's Communist party leaders; it would take decades worth of Spectator issues to list the names of those murdered or starved to death or imprisoned for so-called ideological crimes, for believing in a God of one kind or another, or those forcibly relocated from their homes. We are enjoined to understand that China has changed; that it is embracing, to a certain degree, a liberalism. But 'liberal' means many different things to different people, from Tariq Ali to Milton Friedman -- to the extent that it means very little at all. China is, if anything, worse today than before, combining the most oppressive aspects of state Marxism with the most brutally rapacious aspects of capitalism. In this new improved China there are still no independent trades unions, scores of Catholic clergy have been arrested for proselytising, hundreds of human rights activists bundled into the back of police vans to disappear for ever; journalists censored and detained; lawyers roughed up by police thugs. Minorities, such as the Uyghur Muslims, are persecuted and find their leaders arrested and executed.

Those beneficial, if accidental, consequences of capitalism -- improved standards of living, better health and safety and so on -- are denied to the vast majority of Chinese people. …

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