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China: Go easy on the human rights outrage

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COMMENTS

5 May 2008 16:02

Rowan Callick, China Correspondent for The Australian, has unearthed an unedifying interview given by Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission President John von Doussa to Chinese state television. Judging by the quotes, von Doussa is too accommodating to China on human rights and Tibet, though as Andrew Bolt notes, the interview may have been edited that way on purpose. Still, even based just on those quotes, von Doussa deserves some defending.  

First, given recent events in Tibet and arms shipments to Zimbabwe, it may sound jarring for von Doussa to say China has 'contributed' to human rights, but as I've argued before, China's economic miracle is itself a great moral triumph, and has improved the human rights situation in that country markedly. Second, Bolt says India puts a lie to the idea that countries need to develop economically first before they can liberalise politically, but counter-examples like Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia suggests von Doussa has a point.

Callick ends his piece with a quote from a former Australian human rights commissioner:

Ozdowski, an adjunct professor at Sydney University, grew up in Poland and knows from personal experience what authoritarianism is about. He says: "I think if we were a bit franker on human rights, it wouldn't impact on our sales of minerals or education. In time, the Chinese would be grateful. And a democratic China would be an even better friend and a more predictable one."

Although a peaceful Chinese transition to democracy is greatly to be wished for, it wouldn't solve Australia's problems. Cosying up to distateful regimes is not the exclusive domain of dictatorships like that in Beijing. India, after all, was very close to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and is improving its relations with Iran.

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