Former prime minister David Cameron is helping China to set up up a new £750 million UK-China investment fund aimed at forging closer ties between the two countries. Are we ignoring the rights violations in the Communist country? How can a former PM of Britain ignoring the thousands killed at Tiananmen Square fighting for freedom? China for long has been pursuing a reckless economic policy at the cost of its people, fattening up the party and its chosen leaders, and of course their patrons in the industry….a special report by Prof. Hareendran Melath.
Large scale violations of human rights have over the years have become a norm; people’s welfare have been sacrificed at the altar of so-called development. Millions of people, in the past, have been forced to leave their homes, forced into labour in distant cities where they were treated worse than pariahs, surviving somehow to earn their living. These are the people who built the shining towers of Beijing and Shanghai, mega bridges and flyovers, and glittering malls and airports. Their own life has been like a hell. Now, in Beijing, the government wants to drive them out of the spanking city ruthlessly.
In a new, ruthless drive in Beijing, the state is pushing the poor migrants, its own hapless citizens, to return to poverty and poverty-stricken villages and towns which are so far from the glittering show-piece of cities like Beijing and Shanghai that they are treated worse than refugees.
This time around the excuse for this callous drive was a major fire in an apartment recently. The Chinese government decided it was time to throw out the migrants who had come from distant towns and villages to build Beijing. Several thousands live in and around the capital city, and all of them are now the target of hammers and guns. In Daxing, for instance, where the deadly fire took place which killed 19 people, there are over 120,000 migrants. Most of them are either on their way out or already bereft of a roof in the bitter cold.
The heartless drive, a typical Chinese community party move, gave only less than a day’s notice to these hapless citizens. On November 25, a small notice was pasted on apartments, factories and warehouse: “Tenants: Please clean out before November 26, 2017, at 5 p.m. or there will be consequences.” The next day, the state came in the form of machines and men determined to carry out the diktat. Those who had not cleared by then lost their belongings and had them tossed into the streets, leaving them shivering in Beijing’s frigid temperatures.
In a surprise and rare gesture, a group of Chinese intellectuals published an open letter to the government criticising the move. The letter said the crackdown would affect more than three million migrants who live in and around Beijing. “In our view, this is a vicious incident that breaks the law and tramples on human rights and should be resolutely stopped and rectified,” the group wrote.
Not many who lost their homes were aware that the demolitions were part of the Chinese government’s plans to cut down Beijing’s population by two million, capping the total population at 23 million by 2020. The apartment fire was incidental. The Chinese state found it easier to achieve the goal by targeting the poorest of the poor, the migrants who have little money, no clout and nowhere else to go but to go back to their poverty-stricken villages and shanty towns, far away from the glitter and glamour of Beijing and other big towns.
For the Chinese government, the poor are the ‘low end’—this is the term used for poor migrants in government documents which accidentally became public early this year, obviously inviting a backlash from the social media users. One user had this say: “What qualifies as high-end then? A great number of people have contributed their youth and dreams to the great city of Beijing. They should be remembered and respected! But not to be left homeless!”
But these protests have had no impact on the state which is going about demolishing the houses of migrant works in the suburbs of Beijing. In Feijia, for instance, hundreds of migrant families are thrown out into the street in the bitterest of winters. Western journalists reported finding leaflets strewn across the Feijia’s main street carrying photos of masked thugs armed with clubs, pushing, threatening and forcing residents to leave. One of the protesters, a migrant who came from another province to work in Feijia, facing the batons of public security officials, asked: ““How can these people be considered human? To think that our country and the party have come to these sorts of methods to scare people.”
Poor migrants are not the only ones facing the brunt of the callous state. There is a growing fear among the middle class about the state’s omnipresent stranglehold over their lives. For instance, many, otherwise well-to-do and influential people are finding to their chagrin that the state can turn off their lives with a few clicks. An apt illustration is the case of lawyer Li Xiaolinreported in a western newspapers. In 2016, when Xiaolin tried to use his national identity card to buy a plane ticket, he could not: the online booking system said he had been barred by the court. His crime that there was a court matter which he had failed to settle in 2015.
Welcome to China’s `social credit system`. Launched in 2012, the programme aims to “make trustworthy people benefit everywhere and untrustworthy people restricted everywhere” by 2020 when the programme is scheduled to be fully functional. The programme rates citizens on a range of behaviours from shopping habits and online speech and are punished or rewarded accordingly. It is not known how the government `rates` the citizens. But the programme will make sure that those getting low marks would face stumbling blocks in their daily life—from getting admission for their children in schools to finding suitable jobs.
The Supreme People’s Court has already published lists of people who have failed to carry out local court orders since 2013. These“chronic cheats” are barred from booking tickets for trains and flights. Some local governments have even posted their pictures, full names and addresses on billboards. By 2017, the number of such punishments crossed the figure seven million.
In yet another instance of China’s dehumanising policies, the government is collecting DNA samples of Muslims in the troubled Xinjiang province. The Uighurs, the ethnic Muslim community, have been fighting the state for imposing restrictions on their religious practices, traditions and customs. In fact, the state has been ruthlessly punishing the Muslim community for refusing to give up their religious practices. Several hundred Uighurs have been killed in the recent past in clashes with the state security forces.
As part of the sweeping crackdown on the population, the police are now forcibly collecting DNA samples, besides other information, in the Muslim-dominant province, which is incidentally the all-important gateway to the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The international human rights organisation, the Human Rights Watch said: “The mandatory data banking of a whole population’s biodata, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms and it’s even more disturbing if it is done surreptitiously, under the guise of a free health care programme.”
These are but few of the recent instances initiated by the Chinese government to keep their citizens under check by means most foul and brutal.