Chinese Human Rights Abuses: Will something change now?
When we look back at the atrocities of the Holocaust, we cannot fathom how people could sit idly by and allow such barbarity to occur. We cannot begin to comprehend how the Holocaust was allowed to happen without intervention, especially when there were clear signs to the outside world of what was happening within the barbed-wire walls of Auschwitz. And yet, while clear reports indicate that China is committing atrocious acts upon a similar vein, the world is sitting back, aware it is happening, doing nothing.
There could be many reasons attributed to why the world seems mostly quiet on this subject, but I would contend the one reason at the forefront is the global reliance on China’s exports. International trade is a huge part of the Chinese economy, and as a result, governments across the world depend on China for millions of imports every year. More and more multinational corporations depend on cheap labour in China to create their Western products; Nike and Apple make their large and ever-increasing profit margins by exploiting the low manufacturing costs of Chinese factories, and their corporate taxes go to Western governments. As such, governments globally are reluctant to make any statements that would jeopardise their relationship and reliance on Chinese trade.Consequently, China is more or less free to do as they please, and nothing changes.
However, while 2020 has been a tumultuous year to say the least, it may have brought us at a crossroads. The slowing trade and reduced cargo being shipped due to the coronavirus outbreak has given many countries a taste of life without reliance on Chinese trade. As life slowly evolves to a new normal, I wonder if this taste may sway governments away from reverting back to a global goods market dependent on Chinese manufacturing. After an independent tribunal found that China had continued to harvest organs from members of the Falun Gong religion, nothing changed and life moved on. Governments sat back and allowed it to happen indirectly, by continuing to rely on China’s cheap industries. Global goods markets could not picture an economy without China. However, perhaps now after the world has sampled such an idea, upon learning about the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China, our governments will no longer sit back and allow it to happen for fear of economic retaliation. Rather, they could impose sanctions on the Chinese government and push for the closure of the Uyghur concentration camps.
Evidence has been mounting that these camps are of a fascist and brutal nature, violating many fundamental human rights. Uyghur women are being forcibly sterilised and receiving compulsory abortions, and Uyghur people in China have plummeted in numbers within 5 years. China is trying to eliminate these people from their country; it is an ethnic cleansing. Drone footage from 2018 shows striking similarities to concentration camps seen before, but only recently has the UK government spoken out about it. Dominic Raab openly condemned these acts, implicitly making the same apt comparison as I, as China takes part in ‘egregious human rights abuses’ against the Uyghur population.
I wonder why it is now that the government has spoken out on this subject; it could very well be the mounting pressure from global institutions against China, or the spotlight that the Coronavirus has placed on the country. One hopes that these condemnations are not empty words. While the Chinese government vehemently denies the camps’ existence, the population of Uyghur people is slowly dwindling, and time is running out. The coronavirus pandemic slowed down the global trade relationships that China collected, but could the increasing awareness of China’s human rights abuses prevent them from starting back up again? Could sanctions now be imposed without a fear that our goods market will suffer as a direct result, since we now know exactly how the economy will respond? These are questions I hope to see answered in the coming months.
Footage of the liberation in 1945 is not hard to come by in our society. Images of Holocaust survivors are shown in thousands of documentaries, hundreds of museums, and at many memorials. We know exactly what the consequences of genocide are upon generations, but we do not know what the world might have been like if it had been avoided. If sanctions are imposed on the Chinese government, and the camps are forcibly closed, perhaps we might be able to learn.