People in glass houses should be careful about throwing stones

Feb 18, 2021

A group of Australian journalists in their never-ending hostility to China keep throwing stones at China for human rights breaches in Xinjiang, but largely ignore Australian and other breaches. Their ignorance of China explains a lot.

Echoing Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo, they point regularly to the human rights abuses and possible genocide of the Chinese Communist Party, not the Chinese Government, against the Uighur people in Xinjiang.

Chinese actions in Xinjiang need close international examination for likely human rights breaches. We should be part of that examination.

But as Professor Colin Mackerras has pointed out, we need to look carefully at the full story in Xinjiang where the Uighur population has increased substantially.

Pompeo and Blinken are wrong: China is not committing genocide in Xinjiang

We must also look at the wider context of human rights abuses not only by China but also by ourselves, our allies and our neighbours.

Let’s start with our Frontier Wars that really were genocide. More than 50,000 of our Indigenous people were murdered by settlers and police on our frontier for more than a century. Our First Nations people were hunted, killed, poisoned, forced from their land and separated from their children. The policy then and in subsequent decades was to eliminate our Indigenous people. We don’t want to acknowledge or remember what early European Australians did.

With a population of only 1 to 2 million in Australia at the time, this was genocide and human rights abuse on a vast scale. And the legacy of that genocide is still with us – in the much lower life expectancy of Indigenous people and a much higher incarceration rate. Australian history is grounded in genocide. We hardly have clean hands in throwing stones at others. Any mention by the anti-China brigade?

We have treated refugees and asylum seekers cruelly since the days of John Howard. We have breached human rights and refugee conventions, but scarcely a whisper about this from out anti China brigade.

Again and again, we turn our back on the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the dispossession, cruelty and human rights abuses to which the Palestinian people have been subjected.

Along with six other countries, as a member of the International Criminal Court, we have just intervened to argue that the ICC does not have jurisdiction to investigate war crimes and breaches of humanity in Palestine. But once again, our anti-Chinese hawks show little interest in Australian breaches of human rights conventions. But China is always in their prejudiced minds.

And what of human rights’ abuses and likely genocide in West Papua. As Professor Stuart Rees in Pearls and Irritations wrote on 16 February 2021:

Colonial-type genocide in West Papua: living in constant fear

A citizens’ tribunal held in Sydney in 1998 reported on hundreds of Papuans murdered on Biak Island. Violence to suppress any signs of pro-independence activities was documented in a subsequent report from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University, ‘Anatomy of an Occupation: the Indonesian Military in West Papua.’

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirmed the Sydney findings and a corresponding conclusion from Griffith University researchers that in the previous 50 years, the killing of half a million West Papuans amounted to ‘a slow-moving genocide’.

But what do the China critics say about this ‘slow moving’ genocide’ on our doorstep?

Media hysteria is serving us very badly. All human rights abuses need urgent international action. We detract from our  role in the defence of human rights when we are so partisan on the issue.

So much of the hostility to China is ignorant, unbalanced, damaging, pointless and so unnecessary.

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