Turning a blind eye

Written By: - Date published: 4:25 pm, April 18th, 2009 - 16 comments
Categories: human rights, International, john key - Tags: ,

Unlike some of the other Standard writers, I don’t usually find Fran O-Sullivan too bad but her reporting of Key’s trip to China has been disappointing. Here’s how she describes Key’s failure to stand up for human rights:

“Key is also quite pragmatic on human rights. He did not seem bothered enough on China’s record to make ritualistic forays on this score.”

“Pragmatic on human rights” – there’s a cop-out if ever I’ve heard one. If the leaders of democratic countries won’t speak against human rights abuses, who will?

But who can be “bothered” with “ritualistic” defences of the right to life and basic freedoms? After all, they’re only the human rights of Chinese and Tibetans, eh Fran, not real people and there’s money to be made by turning a blind eye.

Let’s hope Key doesn’t bring that same ‘pragmatism’ to our human rights. Oh wait, he has with three strikes and DNA sampling.

No wonder the second in command of China’s dictatorship, Wen Jaibao, “was almost languid as he smiled while he waited on Key to arrive at the Great Hall of the People then grinned delightedly” when Key arrived. Like him, Key is fine with ignoring human rights abuses when there’s money to be made.

That an unelected head of a gang of mass murderers was tickled pink with Key shouldn’t have us clapping. It should turn our stomachs and break our hearts.

16 comments on “Turning a blind eye”

  1. ak 1

    …an unelected head of a gang of mass murderers…

    FFS Ed, turn off Fox News now

    Face the facts: we’re tiny and at the mercy of the giants. Hels brilliantly paved the way with respect in better times, and a gushing puppyish demeanour is entirely appropriate now that we’re cap-in-hand. (I just hope that “biggest dick in the room” flaw doesn’t surface and he blows us back to square one…..)

    • ak: The same logic would have applied to NZ’s relationship with Japan or Germany in the 1930s. They were giants and we were nothing. Cap in hand you would have us tendering to build the gas ovens…and been glad of the work.

      If not, then why not? Exactly where do you draw the line?

      Trade with China isn’t free now and won’t be any time soon. I’d rather see reciprocal tariffs and a more independent NZ that can stand up for itself than the mealy-mouthed moral vacuum you appear to advocate.

      To the extent the globalisation costs us our sovereignty and removes our ability to live our values, I’m agin it.

      • ak 1.1.1

        Exactly where do you draw the line?

        Well….somewhere below eugenics and a desire to invade and dominate the entire world….(which I hope would negate your analogy)

  2. ghostwhowalks 2

    Can we assume the Dalai Lama will only get to meet Richard Worth , as a payback for all this kow towing by the Minister of Tourism

  3. From September 2008

    “The support of both Labour and the CTU for the preceding Chinese Free Trade deal with the Butchers of Tienanmen Square has already resulted in disaster for Chinese workers. Fonterra gained a 43% stakehold in the corrupt Sanlu corporation, whose Managing directors are also provincial leaders of the murderous Communist Party. Sanlu ensured that the poisoning of Fonterra’s dairy products were covered up during the “scandal free’ Olympics, which also saw the imprisonment of leading activists and the oppression of Tibetan and Uighur independence movements. For Fonterra, Labour and the CTU, human rights and democracy were not more important than making money with a Stalinist regime so ruthless, it would cover up the poisoning of its own children.

    In contrast, socialists were on the streets championing Chinese workers rights and the right of Tibetans to independence.’

    Continued at-

    [lprent: I’d strongly prefer if you actually wrote a comment explaining the link and its relevance. Rather than a cut’n’paste teaser + link, which automatically gets popped into moderation because it is a classic trolling system to do cut’n’paste link-whoring. I have to clean it out which makes me irritated for excess work even if it is on topic. When I get irritated I tend to ban for link-whoring.. ]

  4. Concerned of Tawa 4

    Fortunately for Key, Dr Cullen set the very low standard in ’07 by booting out journalist Nick Wang from a conference at the request of the Chinese Government, then claiming he was “creating a disturbance” (a video showed he was not…)

    Talking about turning a blind eye…

  5. Owners of companies in NZ want access to cheap Chinese labour so they can make cheaper stuff and be more competitive globally (in so far as almost everthing is made in China now)….and everyone ELSE can go to Australia and be paid higher wages than they will get here in NZ….if they could get a job there.

    I think we’re at or near the tipping point. Unemployment in NZ will get worse and wages generally will fall until we understand that if we make nothing here, then we will employ many fewer people here. Not everyone can work in shops, cafes and restaurants….who all – essentially – pay the mininum wage…..The only thing that will work in our favour is food shortages elsewhere that drive prices up. Of course that won’t help the average person here as they will just have to pay more for the food we make here. It’s the people who own the farms who do well….not the other 95% of us.

    Of course if they could bring in cheap labour from overseas, they would….and have been pushing for that for years.

    Bottom line: Your job can go anywhere, but you can’t. The already wealthy baby boomers are using their neighbour;s kids a cheap labour if they can’t get it done in China. This class will get richer and the of us rest will get poorer or leave the country. In case you’re wondering that means a lot of young people will be taking off….and have been. I met a woman in Melbourne three days ago. She went to Australia 3 years ago. She works in a shop. She gets overtime and is paid penal wages on weekends and holidays. She has other terms and conditions her union has preserved while workers doing the same job in NZ are paid less, work longer and have worse conditions. She isn’t interested in returning to NZ. She sees it as a lost cause……for workers.

    • George Darroch 5.1

      Steve, you’ve got it in one right there. Labour didn’t give back penalty rates, and I have no idea why.

      Well, I have a few ideas, but I don’t buy into them.

      I’m in Australia now, and as long as I don’t buy property, I’m significantly better off financially. Marginal taxes on low incomes are significantly lower, wages are significantly higher. I earn a higher hourly rate as a tutor at university than both my parents combined, and they’ve been in the workforce for decades.

      Of course I’d return for non-financial reasons, but given the way things are going in NZ (economic/environmental/social-policy clusterfucks all around), they’re going to have to be pretty serious reasons.

  6. George Darroch 6

    Let?s hope Key doesn?t bring that same ?pragmatism? to our human rights. Oh wait, he has with three strikes and DNA sampling.

    No wonder the second in command of China?s dictatorship, Wen Jaibao, ?was almost languid as he smiled while he waited on Key to arrive at the Great Hall of the People then grinned delightedly? when Key arrived. Like him, Key is fine with ignoring human rights abuses when there?s money to be made.

    And how is this any different to cold silence of Clark on China. That FTA was never at risk from posturing by the Government. Doesn’t this man look happy?

    Same too an FTA with ASEAN which means free trade with Burma.

    Or the asset forfeiture act, the detention and explusion without reason refugee bill, the numerous ‘anti-terrorisn’ acts, the tasers, the search and surveillance bill, or any one of the many laws passed by Labour that have given the state the right to arrest, seize, expel, use secret evidence, detain, without a shred of judicial review.

    • dan 6.1

      the point was that Clark did rise human rights, O’Sullivan says that was “ritualistic”, Key didn’t “bother”

  7. George Darroch 7

    If they could bring in cheap labour from overseas, they would.

    They already do that, in a number of primary industries. These industries will not or cannot pay wages that attract New Zealanders (ie. above minimum wage, particularly for piece-work), so they claim “shortage!” and are allowed to bring in migrants who face poor wages and poor conditions.

  8. Exactly how is this different from the last 37 years since the Third Labour Government granted recognition to the People’s Republic of China?

    Exactly how is this different from the last 29 years while New Zealand has retained relatively friendly and open trade with the homosexual murderers in Iran?

    Exactly how is this different from the last government opening diplomatic relations with North Korea, which imprisons entire families, including children in Stalinist style gulags (tens of thousands).

    Exactly how is this different from all previous governments on Indonesia whilst it was under Suharto?

    No New Zealand government has ever shown anything beyond peripheral courage in raising human rights issues, ever. It is common to National, Labour and given their coalition and confidence/supply agreements, the Alliance, United Future and New Zealand First (and now ACT and the Maori Party).

    A small trading nation can only do so much “thou shalt” in the world, otherwise the trading partners would be the OECD countries and a handful of others. Human rights are always mentioned, the countries concerned know it is done, then everyone moves on to issues that cross boundaries.

    While China still has a long way to go, the human rights situation there is vastly better than it was 20 years ago, and light years better than 30 years ago.

    Of course nothing stops anyone from personally boycotting Chinese products if they so wish – requires a bit more effort than moaning to the government about it though.

  9. wren 9

    “A small trading nation can only do so much “thou shalt’ in the world” – yeah and key did none.

    You’re meant to be a libertarian, libertyscott. You know, no compromise on rights, no government action should impinge on rights. And hear you are supporting turning a blind eye to abuses of rights because there’s money in it. shame

  10. Wren, I’m not – I’m simply pointing out there has been no change. You are right, no government action should impinge on rights – letting people trade with whoever they choose is not government action – it is putting the responsibility on individuals to boycott or support whoever they want.

    Of course government should raise human rights concerns, yes Key should have raised it, I agree (I’m no Nat). However, my point is that New Zealand foreign policy has a long record of doing nothing – primarily because it will have next to no effect, perhaps the only exception I know of recently is Winston Peters raised human rights with North Korea – perhaps the first time EVER any Foreign Minister did that with North Korea directly.

    Good for him, Key should have done better, but I think the difference between the main parties on this is virtually nil, and I understand why. Small trading nations can’t afford to get markets closed.

  11. ak 11

    The trouble with principles is that they run out the door when you’re in the Warehouse faced with a $19.95 disc grinder. Or a fat paypacket in White Australia. And if Tiannenmen was a butcher shop, what about the gigantic abattoirs of Iraq, Vietnam etc?
    It’s a hard road finding the perfect trading partner. But some have better intentions (and prospects) than others – warts and all.

  12. Bill 12

    The purpose of leaders in today’s world is to help companies make profits via the market. That’s the long and the short of it.

    Human rights…actually, not sure about the sense in using such a term…our much improved lot didn’t just appear like magic but came on the back of much agitation and suffering. Companies and governments were on the other side of the fence then and remain so today.

    Many of the companies indulge in abuses ranging from intimidation of workers to murder; their abuses only moderated by the county within which they are operating. E.g. Coca Cola has it’s sticky finger prints all over the murder of trade unionists in Columbia but wouldn’t do the same here. Not today at any rate.

    And when the Chinese State sought to improve the rights and conditions of Chinese workers it was the western corporations who brought pressure to bear against any such move.

    Things are not as they could be in China. Or the US. Or right here in NZ.

    If you want to jump on some human rights bandwagon you’re going to be riding it for a thousand years. Today it will be China. Tomorrow somewhere else and the next day somewhere else again…..on and on.

    Option b might be to identify the underlying primary driver that sanctions and even encourages our abuse of one another and pull it up by the roots.

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