By Lan Wuyou, published: October 29, 2014
Affirmation in words, negation in actions
In today’s world, mankind has developed a common understanding of values like freedom and democracy, even dictatorships feel compelled to make claims of being free and democratic, except that they make up a different set of interpretations to suit themselves. This is also true in the way they treat international law. Such regimes treat both freedom and democracy as well as international law in this way. The world has witnessed the conduct of the Chinese Communist Party, which has neither fulfilled its commitments and responsibilities to the international community, nor has it utilized international rules to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the country, let alone safeguarding the world peace and improving human rights. The CCP’s reference to international law at every turn of speech is an insult to the term and a humiliation to the people of China.
On February 17, 2014, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the 372-page “Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” detailing the atrocities suffered by the North Korean people, raising allegations of Pyongyang’s crimes against humanity, and proposing that the International Criminal Court investigate and indict Kim Jong-un and other high level officials. Such actions represent rightful international intervention in North Korea’s human rights situation. However, China stated that bringing one country’s human rights problems to the International Criminal Court is not helpful in improving the human rights situation, and that “disputes within the sphere of human rights should be managed by means of constructive dialogue and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect .” Such clichéd language manifests China’s protection of North Korea. North Korea is not a signatory of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, meaning that a criminal investigation into Kim Jong-eun and others like him would require the support of the U.N. Security Council. Without a doubt, the CCP would thwart such an investigation.
China’s special status as a U.N. Security Council permanent member state, joining the ranks of the five greatest countries, is a result of the bloody battle fought by the army and the people of the Republic of China and their achievements in World War II. CCP armies were passive throughout the war, but took the UN Security Council seat after it won the civil war and took over China. A permanent member state’s power to veto on important affairs of the world is a privilege in terms of international law, but even more, it is a responsibility. With this veto power, CCP has hardly made any contribution to the global family. Instead, it often uses it to aid evil-doers, letting humanitarian crises unfold without doing anything in the name of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. If not sheltered by the Chinese government, the Kim dynasty in North Korea would have long collapsed. The CCP protection of this rogue regime has resulted in the hellish suffering of countless North Koreans, for which the Chinese people should feel guilty and ashamed. Tens of thousands of innocent people have been sacrificed because China and Russia vetoed sanctions imposed on Syria by the U.N. Security Council. When Russia flagrantly invaded Crimea, China turned a blind eye. The CCP has emblazoned many infamous dictators as “old friends,” while making enemies of civilized nations.
Hiding Dishonorable Behaviors behind Opportunism
The CCP’s so-called respect for national sovereignty and noninterference in others’ internal affairs is a sham.
Modern international law has long shifted from emphasizing national sovereignty above all else in the past to honoring and protecting human rights on a global scale. Human rights law is an important component of international law. The “International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” (ICESCR) and the “International Convention on Civil and Political Rights,” passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1966, comprise the backbone of international human rights law. In 1998, China’s State Council signed the ICCPR; however, to this day, it has not been ratified by the National People’s Congress, effectively stalling implementation of the Convention. Even though the ICESCR has completed the ratification process, its implementation has fallen far short of the requirements of the Convention.
Taking part as a member state in U.N. Human Rights Council’s “universal periodic review” system, China on the one hand produces falsified, vacuous national human rights reports to fool the international community, and on the other, suppresses activists who are truly working to defend human rights. This is an important indication of how China fails to abide by international law and fulfill its commitments.
For one to profess to be law abiding, yet to refuse to abide legal jurisdiction in favor of one’s own judgment and operate solely based on one’s own “interpretations” – can we really concede that such an individual is law abiding? But this is exactly how the CCP operates. Deep down, the CCP never trusts international law, and rejects the enforcement of international judicial institutions with the excuse that “negotiation and consultation as a means of settling international disputes” is better. To date, the CCP has yet to submit a single dispute to the international court. China signed the “U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea” (UNCLOS), yet refused to accept judicial and arbitration jurisdiction regarding maritime boundary and territorial disputes. When the Philippines filed a complaint against China in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, China ducked its head and refuses to get involved. Though China participated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, it voted against the “International Criminal Court Rome Statute” and refused to become a signatory because it is leery of universal jurisdiction, crimes committed during civil wars, peacetime crimes against humanity, and the prosecutors’ rights to conduct independent investigations.
All for the Need to Maintain a Grip on Power
Why does the CCP reject universal jurisdiction? Universal jurisdiction is an important principle of international law, under which any country has the right to exercise criminal jurisdiction over serious offenses that harm the common interests of mankind, including genocide, torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity, regardless of the location of the offense or nationality of the offender. Countries may also establish special international mechanisms to prosecute and try such offenders. Universal jurisdiction prohibits offenders from using sovereignty as an excuse to avoid persecution. In recent years, Chinese officials have been tried outside of China for crimes such as persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and ethnic minorities. On February 10, Spain’s National Court issued an international order of arrest for Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, among others.
Although this kind of investigation is unlikely to result in punishment for the offender due to CCP interference, it still confronts the arrogance of these evil-doers and serves as a kind of deterrent.
In the face of international conflict or events that have been internationalized, the CCP will not utilize international rules and regulations to fight for fair rights and benefits of China as a country, will not directly face problems, and will only act of its own accord. The South China Sea issue has undoubtedly become internationalized since early on, but the CCP insisted on self-deception while deceiving others, putting China in a difficult position. This illustrates how the CCP doesn’t really have the interest of the country in mind. Whether it’s the “setting aside of territorial disputes for the time being” of Deng’s era, or Xi Jinping’s extremely provocative posturing, neither is out of consideration for China’s national interest. Rather, they serve the political needs of the party, and the needs to protect its reign. The CCP’s refusal to act in accordance with international norms in favor of reckless abandon not only gives the international community a vile impression of China that could lead to further isolation, but also causes China to forfeit sovereignty and humiliate itself at the same time. In the Party’s view, international law is nothing more than a tool for publicizing and demonstrating the official position. The Party does not permit the existence of other points of view, scholars hardly have any independence, and the public is hard pressed to find complete and neutral analysis from the perspective of international law to understand what the crux of the issue is.
Some believe that today’s China is similar to Germany 100 years ago, and there is some truth in this assessment. In January of this year, China and Japan cursed each other as “Lord Voldemort.” It seems to me that, though Japan’s militarism once inflicted catastrophes on its neighbors, its post-war constitutional system sealed it away and prevents it from reoccurring. But the Chinese Communist Party, ruler of the present-day China, is a current criminal which is not checked domestically by the will of the Chinese people and which does not honor the rules of the international law. Still short on real strength, it has not been engaging in aggressive expansion, but throughout, dictatorship not only harms the Chinese people, it is also a threat to the region and the world.
International law is “soft” on strength, and the job of defeating “Voldemort” will have to rely on the people of China. But international society cannot continue to subscribe to the policy of appeasement. The UN has to be reformed to really play its role in promoting peace and development in the world without being manipulated by a few rouge states. China will not be an accountable and respected country in the world until it becomes a free and democratic country.
Lan Wuyou (蓝无忧) is a legal professional living in Zhengzhou.
Understanding China’s Diplomatic Discourse, by Zhao Chu
(Translated by Lauren G.)