China decided against using an armed drone in Myanmar to kill a drug lord who was wanted for the murder of 13 Chinese sailors. Instead, they captured him alive, and brought him to trial in China. To most of the world, this move was laudable. Compared with the United States of America, China seems to have gotten its respect for sovereignty and territoriality down pat, not to forget its understanding of the need to fair trial.
While it is appreciable in comparison with the US approach of drone attacks and targeting terrorists in pursuit of justice and self-defence, China is still far away from the position it should be in, vis-a-vis international human rights. A country that continues to impose heavy curbs on the freedoms of expression, association and religion, opposing the independence of judiciary and freedom of the press, while all the time suppressing human rights defenders and organizations, through extrajudicial measures. China’s history is fraught with human rights violations – the country with an authoritarian rule presently has blood on its hands and incidents like Tiananmen Square, Tibet and Xinjiang in its history books.
On the domestic front, China has heavy limits on the enjoyment of rights, and also allows the continued thriving of a system of forced confessions under torture. And yet, on the international front, China projects itself as one that adheres to international law and respects the core values it is built on, namely, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Perhaps a clever policy to follow in that China can assert that what it does within its own country is nobody’s business, China is forgetting that the birth of the individual as a subject of international law is a sign that the globalization of human rights has indeed occurred.
The people of China for their part are raising flags in pursuit of their concerns, as plenty of protests are mushrooming across the country.
It doesn’t take much of an expert to see the logic behind China’s stand on global political events: as China is deciding coldly against any military intervention in the Middle East, it isn’t projecting a moralist stance in international law, but is preventing its positive role in the creation of a precedent that can be used against itself.