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For Chinese diplomats, attack remains the best form of defense.
Faced with a rising barrage of international condemnation over its alleged abuses in Xinjiang, China appears intent on returning fire, calling on Western nations to acknowledge their own complicated human rights records before criticizing Beijing.
On Tuesday, China urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to carry out a “thorough and impartial investigation” into Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous people, after the remains of hundreds of children were found in unmarked graves at two former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
“Simply apologizing is not enough, and Canada must take actual actions to correct its mistakes,” said Jiang Duan, minister of the Chinese mission to the UN in Geneva.
His comments have been accompanied by a concerted campaign in Chinese state media, including provocative social media comments by Hu Xijin, the editor of state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times, who over the weekend posted a cartoon of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sitting on a pile of skulls. The caption read, “We stole your land, we killed your men, we buried your child. Let’s reconcile.”
Beijing’s calls for a UN investigation come as Ottawa joined 44 countries in urging China to allow independent observers full and unfettered access to Xinjiang — a heavily surveilled and policed region in the west of the country — to investigate allegations of widespread abuses, including the imprisonment of up to 1 million citizens from Muslim minorities in a vast system of detention centers.
And Canada isn’t the first Western country to be targeted by Beijing in this way. Over the past six months, China has repeatedly attacked Australia’s ongoing mistreatment of its Indigenous population and highlighted allegations of war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Both Canada and Australia have far from spotless human rights records, especially when it comes to treatment of their Indigenous peoples. By talking publicly about these injustices, the Chinese government believes it is exposing Western hypocrisy on human rights. Experts, however, say Beijing also risks exposing its own.
After all, the only way we know about many of the abuses highlighted by Chinese officials is due to transparent — and oftentimes, ongoing — public debates and investigations carried out within those countries.
In comparison, Chinese officials remain unwilling to even acknowledge the potential for alleged abuses within China, let alone historic crimes carried out by the Communist Party throughout the 20th century.
Responding to China’s repeated calls for an investigation into Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women and children, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked why Beijing hasn’t yet taken responsibility for its own abuses. “Where is the openness that Canada has always shown and the responsibility that Canada has taken for the terrible mistakes of the past?” Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa on June 22.
By calling for more scrutiny of human rights abuses, at the exact time it is dragging out negotiations on a visit to Xinjiang by independent observers, former Canadian Ambassador to Beijing Guy Saint-Jacques said Canada and Australia should call China’s bluff.
“If China is calling for the United Nations to investigate the situation in Canada, then I would say it should agree to also have an investigation to look at the situation in Xinjiang,” he said.
But Natasha Kassam, a former Australian diplomat in China and director of the Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program at Sydney’s Lowy Institute, said the Chinese government’s tactics weren’t necessarily targeted exclusively at the West.
Kassam said while citizens in the United States, Canada and Australia might dismiss China’s criticisms of their human rights records, it might resonate with an audience in the developing world who might one day choose between the US and China.
“The Australian and American militaries have very complicated histories in, for example, the Middle East, in a way which most people wouldn’t see China as having had,” she said. “As a diversionary tactic, I do think it is quite effective.”
Photo of the Day
Turning the tide green: Blooming algae has invaded the coast of Qingdao, in China’s Shandong province. The problem occurs every summer, often suffocating the marine ecosystem, deoxygenating the water and damaging species’ health — but authorities say it’s especially bad this year, with the algae covering an area nine times greater than it did last year.
Didi shares crash as China tightens regulatory screws
Shares of popular ride-hailing app Didi plunged almost 20% Tuesday in New York as fallout continued over the company’s troubles in China — including news that Chinese regulators are dropping the hammer on companies that list overseas.
The firm’s stock closed down 19.6% on Tuesday at $12.49, well below its closing price of $15.53 on Friday. It made its United States debut just last week.
Tuesday was the first trading day in the US since Chinese regulators banned Didi from app stores in the country over the weekend. US markets were closed on Monday for the 4th of July holiday.
The Cyberspace Administration of China restricted the Didi Chuxing app from being downloaded on Sunday after saying it posed a cybersecurity risk for customers, and that the platform was “found to have severely violated the laws by illegally collecting and using personal information.”
The country’s government also announced Tuesday it will increase regulation of overseas-listed companies. That means it intends to severely punish illegal securities activities, including fraudulent share issuance, embezzlement and market manipulation. It said securities fraud was prominent in overseas markets.
All of the bad news for Didi has clearly rattled investors. Just last week, Didi went public in the biggest US initial public offering by a Chinese company since Alibaba’s debut in 2014, raising some $4.4 billion.
But only two days later, China launched a probe into Didi and suspended the registration of new users on the app.
Didi, which has 377 million active users in China alone, has said that it is complying with regulators’ demands.
The company has said that users who already downloaded the app won’t be affected, but also warned that it expects a potential hit to revenue in China.
— By Michelle Toh
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- Twitter has lost immunity in India — meaning the company can potentially be held legally liable for anything its users post on its platform, according to a court filing by the Indian government. The court has yet to weigh in on the matter.
- Cambodian authorities had seized an illegally kept pet lion from its owner last week — but returned it on Monday after a personal intervention by the country’s prime minister.
- A leaked internal memo from Thailand’s health ministry has raised concerns about the efficacy of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, which has been given to most of the country’s health workers.
- Stan Swamy, an Indian human rights activist and Jesuit priest who was arrested last year, died on Monday at age 84 after being denied bail despite his worsening health. His death sparked anger and grief nationwide, with critics decrying the government’s alleged misuse of anti-terrorism laws in his arrest.