Ian 'Magic' Hughes
Monday, 23 April 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
I wonder how many of us in Antigua & Barbuda thought that Chinese First Secretary and Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy Madam Zhaofeng Wang’s statement on the lone wolf protesters was out of order.
Speaking to Observer Radio, Wang said: "We do not think the protest is in any connection with the power plant at all. It is just anti-China … and it is really outside of the political (situation) of Antigua & Barbuda … They are interfering in the internal affairs of China. We strongly oppose that.”
She went on to state:
“We know this is only a small number of people protesting outside the embassy, and some of them are taking the position, seemingly, they are protecting the rights in connection with the Wadadli Power plant.
“But what they are asking for is not really in the interest of Antigua & Barbuda, because they are shouting anti-China words, because they are opposing the relationship between China and Antigua & Barbuda. We do not believe this is the position of the majority of Antiguans & Barbudans."
I called on Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to denounce the official’s statement, but never really expect the PM to do such a thing because of the relationship between these two nations.
Remember in the past Spencer called protesters unpatriotic, suggesting that anyone who questioned the China/Antigua & Barbuda relationship did not love this country.
The prime minister is clearly out of touch with the reality of the concerns by many people in this country who question China’s influence, not just in this country, but the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
For those of us who remember the Tiananmen Square executions any relationship with any nation that embraces the suppression of its own citizens is of grave concerns.
The relationship between China and Antigua & Barbuda is a 30-year deal which has been embraced by the two main political parties, the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and the United Progressive Party (ALP).
In researching for this piece, I came upon an article in Forbes by Dr Doug Guthrie, dean, professor of International Business and Professor of Management at the George Washington University School of Business.
Guthrie is an expert in the fields of economic reform in China, leadership and corporate governance, and corporate social responsibility.
In his article, entitled "The United States, China and Human Rights," Guthrie states:
“All of us have read in horror of the recent wave of self-immolations by young people in Tibet as they protest the heavy hand of Chinese rule there.
“These acts of conscience and desperation implore Western leaders to intervene and halt China’s brutal efforts to erase its opposition by systemically eliminating Tibetan culture and language."
Whether it is self-immolations in Tibet or suicides at Foxconn, these events are daily reminders that China, for all its words to the contrary, is still reluctant to take on the mantle of global leadership.
“While it demands a greater role internationally in economic and security deliberations, its current policies often reflect those of a developing nation, more concerned with imposing its top-down worldview than respecting the individual rights of its citizens," Guthrie said. “Most developed nations have blood on their hands; they have histories that are replete with atrocities of one kind or another against their own citizens or those of other states.
“Yet as these nations sought a role on the international stage, they were forced to adopt policies that allowed for dissent and the respect of civil liberties.
“This is where China finds itself today. It must decide whether it will continue to cleave to the narrow policies of a developing nation, too weak and fearful to claim the higher ideals of human rights, or will it evolve to be a global leader that respects civil liberties and disavows the thuggish tactics of a less advanced nation.”
While I respect the government’s rights to associate and forge relationships with nations it deems fit, as a citizen of this fair state, I have rights that should be respected by all foreign entities, no matter its relationship to government.
As a matter of fact, any relationship with all other nations should be based on those nations’ respect of the rule of law that governs Antiguans & Barbudans.
We deserve to be respected by those officials, both local and foreign.
That the ambassador of China believes she has the right to denounce Antiguans & Barbudans right to peacefully protest is extremely troubling.
In addition, that the prime minister also sees fit to label these protesters unpatriotic is even more problematic.
Also, the prime minister appears unwilling or unable to denounce the Chinese ambassador, who believes that she knows what’s better for us than we do, speaks volumes.
Incredibly, Wang, while denouncing the protesters' right to display Tibet and Taiwan flags, sees no problem in becoming embroiled in local affairs.
She is satisfied that all questions were answered on the Chinese Power Plant during the "blood" conference.
So, is Spencer’s relationship with China clouding or influencing his judgment so much that he is willing to take on China’s policies of suppressing his own people?
That’s the real problem.
Since coming into office in 2004, Spencer has been accused of acting like a dictator.
True or false, to adopt any type of China policies as it relates to human rights or rights of Antiguans & Barbudans should never be tolerated in this democracy.
Spencer has a commitment to China, and that should be respected.
That said though, the prime minister’s primary responsibility has to be the rights of Antiguans & Barbudans, as protected by the constitution of Antigua & Barbuda, and not the constitution of China.
Governments may be free to forge relationships with foreign entities, but these alliances should not be entered into to the detriment of its citizens.
That, I conclude, was the wrong thing for Wang to say.
What do you say?