Saturday, 2 June 2012

The company you keep

This week's news that China is stepping up its security ties with Israel is a worrying development for anyone concerned with the human rights of ethnic minorities in China. The visit of a People's Armed Police delegation to Israel, in particular, is troubling news. If the P.A.P delegation is seeking to learn from Israel about how best to deal with security problems, it is unclear quite what knowledge Israel could have to impart, apart from how to best inflame ethno-religious tensions and trample over human rights (something which China arguably already has a great deal of experience in).

Indeed it is difficult to ascertain which policies Israel could recommend which China does not already implement. Whether it is the use of 'administrative detention' (i.e. detention without trial), grossly excessive use of force or forced evictions and land grabs, there are already disturbing parallels between China's policies towards Uyghurs and Tibetans and Israel's policies towards Palestinians. The phrase about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks seems to have profound resonance in this case, and therefore one would hazard a guess that these security link-ups are more of a note-sharing exercise; "show me your best way of exacerbating tensions and conflict and I'll show you mine."

This in itself is disquieting though. If China is to find ways of solving the dissatisfaction and discontent that exists among minorities like Uyghurs then it would be hoped that they would pick their friends more carefully; preferably ones who could provide sound and practical advice and support which shows a respect for fundamental human rights rather than ones who themselves are guilty of flagrant human rights abuses.

Whilst no-one could reasonably claim that the two countries are yet key allies, and whilst their relationship is still a relatively new and developing one, the fact that they are so keen to compare notes on security matters should be regarded with extreme discomfort by the international community.