Nothing Benign About Chinese Authoritarianism

15 Apr

This is an article in response to John V. Whitbeck’s Personal Reflection on Hypocrisy over Tibet (published in Counterpunch website).

It appears the writer feels that the ‘West’ should stop pressurising China to accede to human rights demands because as he put it, ‘the world has enough problems as it is’.

First, any form of human rights violations, no matter what kind it is, should be of concern. He highlighted the fact that China’s human rights violations in Tibet and to a certain extent in Sudan- Darfur are less serious than those in Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine.

On the Tibetian issue, one must understand that it had self-rule before it was invaded by China. In that regard, it has as an equal right to independence or autonomy as much as the Palestinians. In addition, the monks and Tibetians are forced to denounce their spiritual leader, face environmental destruction due to economic expansion in the province and an influx of Chinese immigrants which diluted their sense of culture and community, utimately breeding ill-feelings. In what way hence, is their suffering or repression of less importance than the Palestinians? I would argue that both peoples have equal rights to self-determination.

Amnesty International (AI) has also reported that in the period between 10 to 25 March, between the period of 10 to 25 March, ‘overseas Tibetan organizations estimated that 79 to 140 have died during the crackdown across Tibet and its neighbouring areas. 1,200 to over 2000, were believed to be detained with at least 100 being disappeared.'(1) One shudders on the updated or real figures of casualties.

Second, human rights violations committed by any state should not be downplayed and in this case, Mr Whitbeck’s term of endearing reference to China, ‘a rather gentle and benign dragon’ is misleading and a gross disrespect to those who are suffering under the iron fist of China.

China is responsible for torturing, illegal detention and harassment of human rights activists and journalists. The more prominent cases of Hu Jia and Gao Zhisheng merely reflect the tip of the iceberg.

In addition, how can one forget the suppression including organ harvesting of Falungong members and the people it executed through its death penalty?

In the latest 2007 AI report on death penalty, the organisation estimated that at least 470 executions have occurred in China though ‘lack of transparency and limited access to information about the number of executions in China means that the true figure is undoubtedly much higher.’ (2)

Let us not forget that China is a main arms supplier to both Burma and Sudan. AI has reported that China is the ‘ ‘principal source of arms supplies to the Myanmar security forces’ when the Saffron Revolution occurred last year. (3). When Taiwan, a budding democracy, wanted to conduct a nation-wide referendum, it directed its missiles at what it considers its province.

There is nothing benign about the authoritarian regime in China. If we were to take Whitbeck’s logic, then perhaps Hitler would be in the same league as China. After all, under the Nazi government, he improved the economy though nationalisation and brought a economic stability to its citizens. Improving the economic security of peoples cannot be used as an excuse to justify human rights violations.

It does not help to sidetrack and paint a picture of the Chinese government as one of being on the defensive which is utterly untrue.

If we seek to be fair, then we should condemn any human rights violations perpetuated by any state, China or the US, as objectively as we can.


Note: I have sent this letter to Counterpunch for feedback/ publication on their website. Whether it gets published or not, would be on the discretion of the web editors.


1. ‘People’s Republic of China: The Olympics countdown – crackdown on Tibetan protesters’, Index Number: ASA 17/070/2008, Amnesty International, 31 March 2008

2. 2007 world death penalty statistics published, 15 April 2008,

3. ‘Myanmar: Myanmar needs a comprehensive international arms embargo’, Amnesty International, Index Number: ASA 16/014/2007, 27 September 2007


11 Responses to “Nothing Benign About Chinese Authoritarianism”

  1. cici April 15, 2008 at 3:54 pm #

    There is no country in the world can totally abort death penalty, and it is pointless to say that China executed more people than any other country in the world, since the basic population should be considered. Anyway, the executed people are not innocent, they are crime.

    It is imprudent to compare China to Hitler judging by it’s penalty system, the writer seems so angry and irrational that I would like to ask him/her to calm down a little 🙂

  2. joni April 15, 2008 at 4:55 pm #


    Sorry, but there are many countries in the world do not have the death penalty. And the basic premise that we hold is that the death penalty in ALL cases is wrong. It is state sanctioned murder, and can never be justified.

    The comparison to Hitler was made as a rebuff to Whitbeck’s logic that the economic improvements in China cannot be used as justification for human right abuses.

  3. Beju April 15, 2008 at 8:35 pm #

    Agree Joni. Death penalty is wrong in ALL cases. These catholic run countries such as the US are hypocrites to sentence someone to death even though the Christian Bible says, thou shall not kill. Was there a hidden clause there that I missed on that commandment?

    I don’t care if you’ve killed thousands, Australians, Americans, Israeli, Iraqi, Irani, whatever… all murder is wrong… state sanctioned or not.

    The US government are hypocrites for condemning China for human rights abuses when they too are guilty. Does this mean that China cannot be condemned by you and I? Hell no. China is the worst of the worst when it comes to human rights atrocities.

    China sentences more people to death than anyone else. China represses their people from freedom of speech with censorship. China returns refugees fleeing North Korea back to North Korea to an almost certain death. China’s one child policy has led to a massive increase in female children being abandoned because they weren’t born a male. Etc, etc.

    One thing I have learnt when trying to win arguments with people though, using Hitler in comparison to anything never wins over support and will use that one point to discredit the rest of the article no matter how good the article is.

  4. Jenna April 15, 2008 at 10:26 pm #

    This is not news. This has been going on for decades. Amnesty International has put this information out in the media for decades but nothing has changed.

    The US ranks top with four other countries in the World as a Nation having the fifth highest number of executions in the world. What does this tell you? The U.S. has had this rating for decades!

    When George W. Bush was Govenor of Texas this was also reported. Texas was then one of the States in the US with the highest numbers of executions performed on a yearly/daily basis! The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole was a Farce. And George W. Bush did nothing to bring change to this atrocity called Justice!

    Texas executed many innocent men and women through out the eighties and nineties without blinking an eye. And Govenor George W. Bush did nothing. At the time he was planning to run for the Presidency and the majority of Texans were in favour of the Death Penalty, hence he didn’t want to ruffle any feathers and thwart his chances for the Presidency!

    Now, the Bush Administration’s greatest economic friend is China. Makes one wonder how true the old adage is that states “much can be said about a person based on the friends they keep.”

  5. joni April 15, 2008 at 10:50 pm #


    We know that this has been going on for years and years. We have been active in protesting against the death penalty in Singapore and Australia.

    Have a look back over some of our other posts here, especially the post about Sunny Jacobs, who was on death row for years before being acquitted. Hearing her talk last year without any malice or ill-will was an amazing experience.

  6. LovingChina April 15, 2008 at 10:55 pm #

    “China sentences more people to death than anyone else…” So what? Death penalty is necessary to my opinion. If you are a murder, then death penalty is applied, I do not see the problem there. You can sit here to condemn China as long as you want, but China need solutions to deal with historical problems. I am not 100% happy with Chinese Government, but in the real world, you will have to find practical solutions and grow the country’s economy. People who condemn China either do not understand China or do not want to see strong China. Constructive suggestions are welcome!

  7. joni April 15, 2008 at 11:02 pm #

    Death by a person or death by the state is still murder. It should never be the answer.

    We do not single out China. This post was written in response to Whitbeck’s article on Counterpunch. Note our last sentence in the post:

    If we seek to be fair, then we should condemn any human rights violations perpetuated by any state, China or the US, as objectively as we can.

  8. Justin April 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm #

    China has a population of 1.3 billion. It is just unfair to compare its total number to countries like Singapore. If you look at death penalty ratio of its population, it is very likely some small countries will have a worse record than China.

    By the way, if death penalty is state sanctioned murder, keep people in jail will be state sanctioned kidnapping and tax will be state sanctioned extortion.

  9. Inquisitor April 16, 2008 at 2:57 pm #

    Hi Joni,

    I notice that in all your replies, you used the word “WE”.

    May I ask, are you speaking for a group of people, or are you speaking
    for yourself, as this blog seems to me your personal blog isn’t it?

    If you are speaking for a group of people, then I would presume that you have
    the other members’ consent and approval before you spoke on their behalf,

    Am I right?

  10. joke April 16, 2008 at 3:24 pm #

    two wrongs do not make a right. no doubt murder is an offense, but the motivation behind the murder/crime is a much greater offense that will not find compassion with the hypocrites less their interests be compromised.

    killing is efficient but healing is eternal.

  11. joni April 16, 2008 at 5:22 pm #


    There are a few of us who write this blog, and so yes – I am writing on their behalf and I do have their consent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: