A stinging condemnation of the Chinese government in a report released on Wednesday on Capitol Hill in Washington received less coverage than it deserved, as hours earlier Iran had launched missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing US forces in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
The shortsightedness is understandable, given the escalating tensions between the US and Iran, but the report should be of crucial interest, especially to Taiwanese as they head to polling stations today.
The report details the dystopian reality facing all who do not embrace the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) vision of ethnic solidarity and “one China” uniting all Chinese people.
Much in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s annual human rights report is not new, given the media coverage outside China of the concentration camps in Xinjiang, and the crackdown on other religious minorities, labor and civil activists and the media, and the efforts to erode Hong Kong’s political autonomy and freedoms.
However, one key finding is crucial: The commission said it believed that Chinese authorities’ actions in Xinjiang might be considered crimes against humanity under international law.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists 11 acts that constitute crimes against humanity “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population,” and Beijing’s actions against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in four areas could support a legal case that China has committed such crimes.
They are: The arbitrary detention of Uighur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities in mass internment camps; the torture of detainees in those camps; the detention of people and suppression of religious and cultural traditions clearly targeted against specific groups; and the forced disappearances of hundreds of intellectuals.
The commission’s report called for tightening access to US capital markets for Chinese firms involved in Beijing’s crackdown in Xinjiang, restricting the purchases from US suppliers of surveillance and other equipment and technologies, and sanctions against businesses and officials involved in the mass internment and surveillance of Uighurs.
These restrictions are crucial, as Beijing is using facial recognition cameras and cellphone monitoring systems to turn the region, as the report says, into an “open-air prison.”
Today it is Xinjiang, but Xi and his CCP are unlikely to stop there, something that Hong Kongers understand well, which is why millions of them are willing to march on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. They do not want the territory to become the next open-air prison.
In a cover story, Time magazine’s Asia edition this week called Taiwan “the last free place in the Chinese-speaking world.”
Taiwanese voters today face a clear choice between those who say the nation has only one option, to engage with China, and those who believe that democracy and sovereignty are worth preserving: engage with a regime that commits crimes against humanity against its own people or say: “Hell no.”
Voters too young to remember the horrors of the White Terror era should not be fooled by people seeking to tar the Democratic Progressive Party with the same brush or paint the choice of engaging with China purely in terms of potential economic benefits.
If living with the CCP’s and Xi’s vision of a “Great China” were so wonderful, there would not be so many Chinese in concentration camps and prisons for wanting religious freedom and the rule of law promised them under the People’s Republic of China constitution.
Taiwan’s democracy gives Taiwanese something Hong Kongers and the rest of China can only dream of: the right to choose their own leaders. Use it well.
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