Currently China’s president Xi Jinping is the most powerful leader in the world. But in going to war with China’s 100 million strong Christians, he is now likely to have bitten off more than he can chew.
The Achilles’ heel of China’s dictators is economic growth. They desperately need it to be able to maintain and expand their machinery of repression over the population. For example, they have a riot police force that numbers 1.5 million, on the top of the ordinary police and an army of two million. They need them to intimidate the population and to stop the daily riots from spreading like a wildfire through the country. With forced labour camps expanding – see the 1 million Uyghurs in camps – the security costs are ever higher.
(Uyghurs, also spelled Uighurs, are a Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group that live in the Chinese province on Xinjiang, and are frequently accused by the Chinese Communist Party of being terrorists.)
The regime’s sweetener to the population is: we give you high economic growth in return for your tolerating the monopoly power of the party, the absence of freedom of expression and of the rule of law. But if the economic growth plummets, the regime’s survival is endangered.
Money is God and the religion is rampant consumerism. Undermine these and the regime crumbles.
Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China’. His ‘reward’ from China’s Communist regime was his imprisonment, his destruction in jail and the systematic harassment of his family. Before his imprisonment, Liu summed up the situation in China with chilling accuracy to the 4 Corners program in 2008: “People like me live in two prisons in China. You come out of the small, fenced-in prison only to enter the bigger fenceless prison of society. My phone, my computer, my whereabouts and so on are all monitored by the Chinese Security Bureau”.
In 2009 Liu Xiaobo was convicted for ‘subverting the state’ and was sentenced to 11 years in jail, where he died. His wife was kept under house arrest without any charge, her brother was harassed by the secret police. She said: “If I can’t leave, I’ll die in my home … It would be easier to die than to live”.
One year after her husband’s death she was allowed to leave the country on medical grounds, after a long campaign by Amnesty International and the German government on her behalf.
Since President Xi took office in 2013, China’s government has tightened its control over society further and stepped up its campaign against independent activists, lawyers and others deemed a threat to the Chinese Communist Party. Authorities have arbitrarily detained countless people for their peaceful work or views. Several human rights defenders have either died in detention or shortly after being released. China’s deteriorating rights record is also being felt beyond its borders as it seeks to undermine international human rights institutions.
Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The release of Liu Xia shows that when concerned governments push hard enough, Beijing will back down. Pressure is still needed so that Chinese authorities won’t harass Liu Xia’s family members in China”.
However, what was done to the Nobel prize winner and his family is just a micro-sample of China’s rulers’ systematic destruction of Tibet’s identity, the Falun Gong and now the Uyghurs. Even all these horrors are still much less than what is unfolding against China’s 100-million-plus Christians; a number that exceeds the size of the Chinese Communist Party by more than 10 million.
Xi Jinping declared war on China’s underground churches, which most of China’s Christians attend. They destroyed or ransacked churches, tore down crosses, arrested the pastors and followers, and many of them already vanished, thought to have been sent to labour camps. But the Christian congregations refuse to be cowed by the regime’s usual tactics of carrot and stick policy for getting their way. More than 400 leading pastors in China declared to the government last year that they would rather die than stop preaching the gospel.
By 2030 China is predicted to have 300 million Christians — the largest in the world. If they take 10 per cent of these into forced labor concentration camps, China will have more than 30 million in its slave labor force to produce the cheapest goods in the world.
As no product from China can be guaranteed not to have been tainted or manufactured by slave labor, and given China’s war on human rights all over the world, all democratic countries should boycott buying any Chinese goods and transfer their capital investment from China to democracies.
Every dollar spent on China-made goods contributes tax income to the Chinese regime and gives it more finance to maintain and increase its oppressive apparatus over people. The only language China’s dictators understand is economic downturn because it loosens their grip on power. Hence the moral imperative for anyone who cares for peace with justice is to campaign for the boycotting of Chinese products until the rule of law, that is legal justice is established in China.
This is possible but it requires fearlessness on the part of democracies, a willingness for short-term tightening of belts economically and international solidarity for peace and justice.
I performed Ai Weiwie’s Tightrope Act, a play that sets out to demonstrate the illegal imprisonment and interrogation used by China’s rulers against the contemporary artist and activist. How we all collude with this regime out of fear and greed and how this is leading to the undermining of our democracies is also explored.
Since the performance at the University of Technology Sydney, repression has worsened dramatically in China and the country’s ‘silent invasion’ of Australia and the rest of the world has gone a long way. If people in democracies were asked if they would have accepted trading with Nazi Germany if economical benefit would have been derived from it or would they have accepted less prosperity in order to boycott trade with that regime, I feel most would have chosen the latter option.
Yet I feel China is a regime far more powerful than that of Hitler, and one that is hell-bent on ruling the world. However, they are Australia’s number-one trading partner and are the factory of the world. Surely if we continue in our delusion that we can profit from maintaining massive trade with China without our becoming their vassal state there will be a rude shock awaiting us.
The Chinese dictators euphemistically call their labour camps where they work one million Uyghurs ‘vocational training’ centres, but they are in truth an attempt to wipe out the Uyghurs’ identities and mould them into obedient slaves. The children of these hapless slaves are herded into orphanages, where they are prevented from speaking their own languages and from practising their outlawed religions; indoctrinated to ensure that they will not grow up to be a next generation of Uyghurs.
Will the members of the largest religion in the world, Christianity, just stand by, while their fellow Christians are being destroyed in China? Or will there be a will, like it emerged among the record nearly two million Hong Kong protestors, to stand against tyrants and demand the restoration of human rights, freedom of religion and the rule of law in China?