August 03, 2007

Chinese Justice: The Death Bus

It was once assumed that China’s advance toward economic, and perhaps military, super-power status would proceed hand in hand with the liberalisation of the Chinese state. Unfortunately, this has not been the case and instead the West has slid toward legitimating authoritarianism and police state tactics as a solution to its own problems, taking a leaf from China’s books rather than the other way around.

This video from Sky News, showing the use of hight tech ‘death buses’ to execute people without anything like what democratic countries would call a fair trial, then harvesting their organs, is as disturbing as it is enlightening about the nature of the dragon that Western greed for cheap consumer goods is so happy to feed with investment and unwarranted free trade.

Yes, the USA also executes prisoners, and while I cannot support the death penalty in principle, at least in the USA there is an assemblence of a fair trial, there is a chance of being found not guilty if the state lacks evidence or has tortured confessions out of its prisoners, and lawyers are not disappeared by the state when they contradict its prosecutions.

The Chinese state, and for that matter the Chinese elite, rely a great deal on the phrase ‘social stability’ to excuse all manner of oppression, suppression and abuse of fundamental human rights. What is perhaps most frightening is that this line is not simply the empty rhetoric of the Chinese state, but is evidenced in the attitudes of the elite of Chinese civil society, who have been indoctrinated with what is, by British and European standards, an anachronistic form of extreme chauvinist nationalism. It was less than two years ago since the Warwick University newspaper, the Warwick Boar, came under ferocious criticism from a significant number of Chinese students for publishing a negative article on China, with calls for the student who wrote the article to be disciplined.

It is perhaps too late to check China’s advance, or even the independent erosion of liberty and respect for human rights in the West. Human rights has become as dirty a word in the British press as it is in China – a barrier that protects bad people from the righteous justice of the people as represented by the state.

It is perhaps an apt time to reflect on just how far we have fallen, as national and global societies, in terms of our ideals and our practices, since the heady days of the early post-coldwar period.

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