Dissidence, relevance, and noninterventionism by mattsteinglass
May 11, 2009, 2:39 pm
Filed under: China, democracy, Human Rights and Torture

Read David Chen’s heart-wrenching NYT piece on how dissident Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s wife Geng escaped from China with their two kids.

The Vietnamese and Chinese situations are closely parallel with regards to the questions of political dissidence and human rights. To wit: There are many good things about China’s government, and many good people in it. There is little to be gained from raising tensions between the US and China, and much to be lost. It is unlikely that the road to political reform in China leads through open confrontation with the regime by a few piercingly honest but politically isolated and seemingly naive dissidents. Nevertheless, these dissidents are not actually doing anything wrong, or bad, or self-interested. They are altruistic, patriotic people who have made the mistake of taking their country’s commitments under the UN Declaration of Human Rights seriously. It is rather uninteresting to note that it is wrong to arrest people and threaten their children’s educational prospects in retaliation for their temerity in voicing their political opinions, and one resents such regimes for forcing one to say things that are so obvious.

Perhaps the most irritating thing about these cases (to touch again on Daniel Larison’s latest point on Star Trek’s Prime Directive) is that they press one to make an exception to the general rule that intensive unfriendly interventions in other countries’ internal politics are generally a bad idea. I don’t think it is generally useful for the US to use threats or bombastic confrontational diplomacy to influence other countries or societies, in areas which don’t directly concern American interests or involve crimes against humanity. But Gao Zhisheng has been missing since February 4, and under the circumstances it’s hard to countenance the idea of US public officials meeting with Chinese ones and not stating in urgent terms that the Chinese regime has to explain where he is and what’s happened to him immediately, because his daughter in Queens Park, NY misses him, and her claims in this situation trump those of the Chinese government or anyone else.


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Politically-savvy Western imperialists – many of them “NGO’s” – routinely use extreme examples of human-rights violations to impose their supposed superior values on the rest of the world.

They need that hook because otherwise most people would reject their imperialism out of hand.

And regarding your “crimes against humanity” comment. The UN needs to be the judge as to whether or not they have occurred and whether they justify military intervention – not NATO or the US congress.

Comment by Frank

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