China’s belligerent attempt to sabotage this week’s Nobel award ceremony is “a symptom of a broader global transformation,” writes the Asia Society’s Jamie Metzl.
Beijing is committed to undermining the norms, conventions and institutions that comprise the international human rights system established in the aftermath of World War II and subsequently developed through the 1975 Helsinki Accords which codified human rights in international law.
The U.N. Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the genocide convention, “which asserted that states no longer had the unlimited right to murder their own citizens,” established the principle that certain rights took precedence over national sovereignty.
The international anti-apartheid movement and the campaign to defend Kosovar Albanians against Serbia’s sovereign state reinforced the legitimacy of justifiable interference in a country’s internal affairs where fundamental human rights were being violated.
But Beijing “sees absolute national sovereignty as a key to national cohesiveness,” writes Metzl, a former State Department official and U.N. human rights officer in Cambodia.
Consequently, “[w]herever human rights are massively abused today, China is the main protector of the abusing government,” whether it’s in Sudan, Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe or Sri Lanka.
The would-be recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, has made mich the same point.
China’s Communist regime “has replaced the former Soviet Union to become “a blood transfusion machine for other dictatorships,” he writes in his essay on “The Negative Effects of the Rise of Dictatorship on World Democratization” (as translated by Human Rights in China).
This is probably one reason why Beijing’s campaign against Liu and the Nobel committee is unprecedented in its belligerence and ideological venom.
“Even the Soviets did not mount a campaign like this,” said the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
But its efforts are likely to backfire, says Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, one of the first signatories of Charter 08, and a longtime friend of Liu Xiaobo. Its action are revealing the true nature of a government that has been at pains to project the image of a benign, economically dynamic and modernizing regime.
“Outside China, many people have already forgotten what the communist system really is. After 30 years of watching China’s more open economic policy and cultural development, they forget,” he says. “So now the Chinese government’s reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize tells the world how dangerous the communist regime can be as the country becomes richer, more confident, more aggressive.”
The regime is devaluing its own huge investments in soft power, writes Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch. It’s clumsy – and, at times, farcical – efforts to undermine the Nobel ceremony are only drawing attention to the legitimacy of the award and the validity of Liu’s arguments about the anachronistic authoritarianism of China’s ruling Communist party:
Beijing may even further embarrass itself if the Chinese Embassy in Oslo goes ahead with its current plan to organize Chinese students to stage a counterdemonstration outside the ceremony venue. The irony of Chinese citizens legitimately exercising a right in Norway that the government denies them at home will not be lost on journalists and other observers.