Showing posts with label forced labor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forced labor. Show all posts

Friday 4 February 2022

"Weaponizing Human Rights"?

Say Goodbye to Walmart!

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is now law in the USA.  Beginning June 2022, the Act requires the US Customs and Border Protection Agency to block all imports from China, unless the Agency has "clear and convincing" evidence that the goods were not produced with forced labour.  Say goodbye to Walmart, the largest employer in the USA which imports 70 to 80% of its merchandise from China.

"Weaponizing Human Rights" 

 I first encountered the expression "weaponizing human rights" in an interview with former British diplomat and MI6 officer, Alastair Crooke (Going Underground:  RT  Russia Today).  The expression crystalized my vague notions that claims of human rights abuses were being promoted for various realpolitik agendas quite apart from concern for the victims. 

Alfred de Zayas, a Cuban-American professor of law and senior lawyer with the office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, argues that:

The weaponization of human rights has transformed the individual and collective entitlement to assistance, protection, respect and solidarity — based on our common human dignity and equality — into a hostile arsenal to target competitors and political adversaries.

De Sayas aptly and succinctly outlines so much of what is wrong with the weaponization of human rights:

Experience shows [. . .] that naming and shaming fails to alleviate the suffering of victims and only satisfies the strategic aims of certain governments, politicized non-governmental organizations and of a burgeoning human rights industry that instrumentalize human rights for the purpose of destabilizing others and often enough to facilitate “regime change”, regardless how undemocratic [ . . . .]

 The Challenges to logic

 In Red China Blues, Jan Wong self-mockingly described herself as a "Montreal Maoist" and confessed that in "the naive logic of the young" she reasoned that if Western governments were lying to us, then China must be telling the truth. There is a propaganda war going on between the USA and China.  Reading today requires avoiding the pitfall of the false dilemma, the logical fallacy of "either this or that" must be true especially when it is obvious that both sides have good reason to lie--and every good lie contains some degree of truth.

We are also challenged to avoid "truth by assertion," the feeling that something must be true because we have heard it so many times--which is more colloquially referred to as "brainwashing."

A further problem with the "weaponizing of human rights," which I am particularly sensitive to, is that it makes the issues more difficult to discuss, especially when "weaponizing" invokes a "genocide."  Ostensibly, I have written two posts on genocide:  On Reading "The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China's Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention" and On Reading "The National Inquiry Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls." I would hasten to point out that I have analyzed and written about two published reports of genocide--not the genocide itself.  In both cases, I questioned whether the reports had reasonably proven their conclusions of genocide.  At the same time, I noted that the presumptive creators of the reports, despite widespread claims of "independence," had an obvious interest in reaching a conclusion of genocide--a fact that further aroused my skepticism.

The Uyghur Tribunal 

In December 2021, a panel of lawyers and advocates in the UK, self-identifying as The Uyghur Tribunal, delivered its judgment on "China’s alleged Genocide and crimes against Humanity against Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslim populations."  In the Judgment, the Tribunal stresses its independence, judiciously outlines a number of similar organizations, one of which has and numerous others which have not reached a conclusion of "genocide," and provides access to its budget and witness statements.

As displayed on the Tribunal's website, multiple news agencies picked up on the report with the headline "China Guilty of Genocide." What most news agencies would struggle to explain is the serpentine route by which the Tribunal arrived at this judgment.  For example, according to the Tribunal, "genocide" isn't what most of us think of as genocide.  The Judgment is categorical that "there is no evidence of organized mass killings."  According to the Tribunal:

191. This Judgment, with no evidence of any mass killing, may be thought to diminish the perceived status of genocide as a crime. In one way it may do that, and if so, in one way, not necessarily a bad thing. The use of superlatives – ‘world’s gravest crime’ and hyperbole – ‘crime of crimes’ – when attached to tragedy brings public attention, sometimes at a cost to other tragedies able to attract less attention despite being as serious. [ . . . .]
192. Further, in truth, genocide is not necessarily the worst of all possible crimes: [. . . .]

Adopting a framework of "sociological genocide," the Tribunal concluded "beyond reasonable doubt that the PRC, by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide."

Despite a promise that "The Tribunal will consider both inculpatory and exculpatory material on an independent and impartial basis," I could find no hint of exculpatory evidence in the report.

Adrian Zenz, a key witness for the Tribunal's judgment of genocide

The Tribunal's conclusion of genocide from the extrapolation of birthrates is significantly based on the research of Adrian Zenz, an evangelical Christian working for The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.  Zenz and his research were pilloried by The Grayzone in a 21 December 2019 report.  The Tribunal Judgment specifies that Zenz's research was peer-reviewed by "Professor James Millward and Dr David Tobin."  However, since both Millward and Tobin were outspoken critics of China's human-rights record and collaborators with Zenz, the objectivity of their peer review appears dubious.

Zenz's research was presented as axiomatic in the Newsline Institute's report entitled The Uyghur Genocide.  According to The Grayzone, "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last-minute accusation of 'genocide'" was also based on Zenz's data.

Uyghur Tribunal Judgment vs Newsline Institute's The Uyghur Genocide

In my review of Newsline Institute's The Uyghur Genocide, I asked the seemingly absurd question, "Who wrote this report?"  In the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment, I found the answer:

Professor Packer and Jonah Diamond, principal authors of the Newlines Report, came to London to give evidence in person and the Tribunal was and is very grateful to them in that regard.

The identification of Packer and Diamond, names I had never noticed, as the "principal authors" of the report I had analyzed sent me back to the original online document.  Sure enough, in the appendix containing the biographies of the thirty-two signatories of the report, Yonah Diamond is identified as "an international human rights lawyer [. . .] at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre [. . . .]  And,  "Yonah Diamond served this project as principal author."  John Packer is identified in the same appendix as a Law Professor at the University of Ottawa who "served this project as principal advisor" (but not the author).

In my post on The Uyghur Genocide, I questioned its provenance (as did The Grayzone) because Newsline Institute was a division of Fairfax University, an alleged visa mill, allegedly sponsored by the Turkish Islamic scholar,  Muhammed Fethullah Gülen.  I was somewhat taken aback when reading The Two Michaels, that what I had assessed as a Newsline Institute report was being identified as the product of the  Raoul Wallenberg Centre.   In the online version I downloaded, there is an acknowledgement of the Wallenberg Centre's contribution.   However, in more recent versions of the report, the Wallenberg Centre's logo now appears on the cover for the first time.  In the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment, The Uyghur Genocide is repeatedly and consistently described as a product of the Newsline Institute.  There is no mention of the Wallenberg Centre in the Judgment.  I am at a loss to clarify what this confusion (or is it conflict?) about the provenance of The Uyghur Genocide indicates about its credibility.

Although Packer, Diamond and Zenz were important witnesses for the Uyghur Tribunal, the Judgment attempts to distinguish itself from the earlier report and at times hints at scolding The Uyghur Genocide's soi-disant authors.

What I learned from the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment

In addition to the fact that a demographic prediction of a decline in population could be called "genocide," I encountered a number of surprises and clarifications in the Judgment.  I am always struck by the number of individuals and organizations that declare a genocide in China with absolute certainty, including the Canadian parliament, without any indication of the evidence upon which this certainty is based.  

The Tribunal's judgment draws attention to the fact--which is generally ignored in the public domain--that The Uyghur Genocide claimed a lower standard in proving genocide than is used in criminal prosecutions.  The "clear and convincing" standard of truth translates as a 60% probability.  In contrast, the Uyghur Tribunal claimed their verdict of a sociological, demographic genocide was "beyond a reasonable doubt," which translates as being a 98 or 99% probability.

The Judgment provides a substantial list of groups and organizations which have investigated human-rights abuses in Xinjiang.  Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International,  the United States Holocaust Museum, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Essex Court Chambers. the Bar Human rights Committee and the Yael Grauer Intercept Report have all studied the available evidence without reaching a conclusive judgment of genocide.  Although Mike Pompeo declared a genocide in China, twenty-four hours before leaving office, and both President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have unofficially claimed a Uyghur genocide in the press, the USA has refused to officially declare a genocide or provide evidence for the unofficial claims.

The Tribunal used evidence from the Newsline Institute's report but attempted to separate itself from The Uyghur Genocide by pointing out:

51. Professor Packer and Mr Diamond may have given encouragement to those who thought the Tribunal would only succeed if it found genocide – a wholly inaccurate understanding of the Tribunal’s function.

Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have each passed "non-binding resolutions" (the epitome of lip service) declaring a Uyghur genocide.  No Muslim, Asian or African country has labelled China's treatment of its Muslim minority a genocide.

[What's going on in this picture--the cover of "Bearing Witness"?  Yes, there is a "POLICE" presence.  Why is the bus labelled in English?  Doesn't this picture show thousands of Muslims publically practising their religion, in contradiction to widespread claims that Islam has become a crime in China?]

The United States Holocaust Museum "Bearing Witness" report

According to the executive summary of its "Bearing Witness" report, "The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is gravely concerned that the Chinese government may be committing genocide against the Uyghurs."  This report reiterates the concerns and evidence presented in other reports, publications and witness statements.  As such, the problem of a "feedback loop," which I pointed out in On Reading The Uyghur Genocide, persists.  At the risk of sounding like Judge Judy, I have to point out that much of what is presented as "evidence" is obviously hearsay.

Additionally, it is both understandable and problematic that the clear intention of the report is to arouse concern and persuade the reader of the need for action against the regime in China.  I credit the report with at least mentioning the wider context but, in each instance, the rhetorical spin invariably plays down any justification for China's actions in the region.  

For example, according to the report, "Following the September 2001 attacks on the United States, the Chinese government co-opted the language of the 'War on Terror,' [ . . . ]."  The report goes on to provide a cryptic listing of various Uyghur separatist attacks on the Chinese population, including riots, bombings, car attacks, stabbings and threats of "a chemical and biological weapons attack," yet the verb "co-opted" clearly informs the reader that these terrorist attacks should not be compared to 9/11 without explaining why.

Consider the wording of the report's description of Uyghur extremist attacks:

In 2013, a car was driven into a crowd at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, killing two tourists and three people in the car—a man, his wife, and his mother—in what appeared to be a suicide attack.32 At the time, TIP claimed it was behind the attack, though many Xinjiang experts “responded with skepticism.”33 In March 2014, the Chinese government blamed Uyghur separatists for killing more than 30 people and injuring more than 100 in a knife attack at a train station in Kunming, in Yunnan Province.34 A month later, a deadly attack occurred during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Urumqi.35 In May 2014, in Urumqi, two cars ploughed into shoppers while setting off explosives.36 Chinese authorities held Uyghur separatists responsible for the attack, which reportedly killed 31 people and injured more than 90. 37

And now the analysis:

  • "a car was driven into a crowd":  passive voice avoids telling us who drove the car
  • "appeared to be a suicide attack":  driver killed himself, but still only "appeared to be a suicide"
  • "experts 'responded with skepticism'":  terrorists' claiming responsibility isn't sufficient evidence
  • "the Chinese government blamed":  they were knife attacks!  can we doubt who did it?
  • "a deadly attack occurred":  passive voice, it just happened, no-one did it
  • "two cars ploughed into shoppers":  again the cars did it; were they driverless?
  • "Chinese authorities held Uyghur separatists responsibly":  was there any room for doubt?

The purpose of the rhetorical spin is to dissuade us from any inkling of justification for the Chinese response.   The report tells us that twenty-two Uyghur members of the East Turkestan Islamist Party (aka TIP/ ETIP), which the USA officially listed as a terrorist organization from 2002 to November 2020, were imprisoned in Guantanamo.  However, the report would have us believe that the USA's designating  TIP/ETIP a terrorist organization for almost 18 years, arresting (without trial) and torturing (aka "enhanced interrogation") its members was a matter of political expediency and the USA's submitting to pressure at the UN from China.

Despite its arguably good intentions, the report clearly goes too far when it starts getting the numbers wrong from its own sources.  The report's description of an event I had never heard of caught my attention:

In 1990, Uyghurs in the town of Baren in Xinjiang’s Kashgar prefecture rebelled against restrictions on the practice of Islam imposed by the Chinese government.14   The state responded with force, killing an estimated 1,600 Uyghurs.15

I followed footnote 15 to the East Turkestan Information Bulletin, the source of the report's claim.

On April 5, 1990 an armed uprising broke out in Baren provoked by Chinese Communists. Almost three thousand armed Eastern Turkestanis under the leadership of Zeydin Yusuf disarmed the police forces, occupied the Baren township Party and government building and declared war against the Chinese Communists in order to establish a independent Eastern Turkestan Republic. By late afternoon the uprising had spread to nine other townships in the area.
The Chinese Communist authorities dispatched armed police forces, militiamen and Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) units to Baren early on the morning of April 6. At the same time 200,000 special anti-riot forces from Lanzhou Military District were dispatched to Eastern Turkestan. Troops were flown in day and night by military transport planes and helicopters. The airports of Urumchi, Aksu, Kashgar, Yarkent and Hoten were closed.
The Eastern Turkestani people took up hunting rifles and any weapons they could find while some Chinese soldiers threw away their weapons and fled. According to the witnesses the Chinese used tanks and fighters to bomb townships in the area. Nine townships were bombed and almost one thousand Eastern Turkestanis and 600 soldiers and policemen died

According to Human Rights Watch, "A reliable tally of the casualties at Baren may never be known: according to the government, the death toll came to around twenty; but Uighur sources claimed that several hundred rebels were killed."  The point here is that the numbers are being determined by whose side you want to be on and, unfortunately, the Holocaust Museum has too obviously chosen its side.  The 1600 Uyghur casualties claimed by the Holocaust Museum report turn out to be, according to its own source, 1000 Uyghurs on one side and 600 soldiers and policemen on the other.  Other reports note that at the beginning of the uprising, Uyghur insurgents beheaded members of the local police force.

Following the Money

In stellar efforts at transparency, the Uyghur Tribunal has published its operating budget online and pointed out that most of its participants have worked pro bono.  However, in an equally transparent gesture, the Tribunal website explains that "In June 2020 Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress formally requested that Sir Geoffrey Nice QC establish and chair an independent people’s tribunal to investigate ‘ongoing atrocities and possible Genocide’ against the Uyghur people."   The World Uyghur Congress is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).  Damon Wilson, president and CEO of the NED, is a former employee of the National Security Council who is lauded for "helping to enlarge NATO" and for "playing a lead role on the Alliance’s response to 9/11 and its operations in Afghanistan [. . . ]."  The NED was established with funding under "the State Department and USIA."  The USIA (United States Information Agency) was, according to its "former Director of TV and film service," Alvin Synder, ""[t]he biggest branch of [the US] propaganda machine."  Not surprisingly, the first priority listed on the World Uyghur Congress website is "to promote democracy [. . .]."


The Holocaust Museum's "Bearing Witness" report   highlights the testimony of four key witnesses:  Bahram Sintash, Ferkat Jawdat, Eset Sulaiman, and Rushan Abbas.  All four are well-known Uyghur activists employed and/or funded by the US government.  Sintash, Jawdat and Sulaiman work for Radio Free Asia which is funded by the US Congress. Rushan Abbas is "the founder and executive director of the nonprofit, Campaign for Uyghurs."  She was also an employee of Radio Free Asia and worked as a translator for the CIA when 22 Uyghurs were being held at Guantanamo.  She is a US citizen and a business consultant with ISI Consultants where she is described as having "extensive experience working with U.S. government agencies, including Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, and various U.S. intelligence agencies."  

How 40% becomes 60% becomes 98% becomes 100% 

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act has now been passed by the US Congress and signed by the President.  The legislation prohibits "the import of all goods, wares, articles, or merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured, wholly or in part, by forced labor from the People’s Republic of China [. . . .]."  The USA typically imports over $400 billion in goods from China every year.  In a Covid year of supply chain interruptions and absentee truckers (or any year for that matter), it is difficult to imagine how US Customs and Border Protection will be able to act upon this legislation which requires that they block anything coming from China unless there is "clear and convincing evidence" [60% certainty] that the goods were not produced with forced labour.

I have already pointed to the problem of a "feedback loop," when ideologues with shared interests are talking to themselves without acknowledging their shared loop.  In their reflections, the American legislators who prepared  The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act repeatedly quoted the United States Holocaust Museum "Bearing Witness" report without ever acknowledging that in many ways they were talking to themselves.  The report they quoted as an external source was far from external to the cognitive bias and interests they all shared.

Having read numerous victim statements about the alleged Uyghur genocide, I find myself believing about 40% of what I have read.  In the statements I found most credible, there was a consistent pattern of individuals crossing the border from outside China into Xinjiang for odd reasons.  These odd reasons aroused the suspicions of Chinese authorities and the individuals were unreasonably and harshly detained.  I have no doubt that crimes and abuses of human rights have been committed.

Reading Senator Marco Rubio's comment to the CONGRESSIONAL-EXECUTIVE COMMISSION ON CHINA that the Holocaust Museum report is "a document that should leave zero doubt about the evil policies and practices of the Communist Party of China toward Uyghurs [. . .],"  I was struck by how my 40% conviction became a 60% probability of genocide in the Newsline Institute report then a 98% probability of a birthrate genocide in the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment until finally becoming 100% proof of evil in the Congressional Commission.

The Chinese Response

In December 2021, the New York Times did an expose on "How Beijing Influences the Influencers."  The gist of the article is that China is manipulating social media to create positive images of the country.  Paradoxically, despite the article's intent, Raz Gal-Or's videos (included in the online NYT article)  still manage to undermine claims that China is using forced labour in the cotton fields of Xinjian. China has also produced this youtube video:  claiming that 80% of the cotton in Xinjiang is harvested mechanically.  I have to admit that given China's past history as a boundless supply of so-called "coolie" labour and its modern history of high-powered technological development, it seems counterintuitive that China needs to depend on forced labour for its export market.

What purpose does "weaponizing of human rights" serve?

Why weaponize human rights?  Why to not weaponize seems obvious as it is the opposite of promoting human rights.   The presumed victims end up being used as pawns in a geopolitical conflict.  How will sanctions serve the interests of the Uyghur of Xinjiang?  How have American sanctions served the people of Cuba, the people of Iran, or of Venezuala? 

“When goods don’t pass international borders, soldiers will.”   In 2015, the FBI whistleblower, Sible Edmonds, predicted that Xinjiang would be the next Taiwan and that the USA would adopt a method of weaponizing human rights through the media.  Is the weaponizing of human rights a prelude to war, a new proxy or preemptive war like Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam?  Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador to the UN, is described in Haaretz Magazine as a potential Republican candidate for the presidency in 2024.  Her comments on China tell us that "the domino theory," the rationale for the Vietnam War, is once again back in fashion in the USA.

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