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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 17)

2017/07/17 07:03

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Death of China's conscience

World should tell Beijing to stop rule by bullying

The death of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in the government's custody should force the world to confront what this industrial behemoth under control of a single party is all about. It is a brutal regime that pays little attention to human rights and cannot be trusted as a world leader.

So far the world has looked away for fear of retaliation. In 2010 the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the prize to the imprisoned Liu and conducted an award ceremony with his seat vacant because Beijing did not let him attend. In return, then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao slapped a virtual ban on salmon imports from the Scandinavian country.

Few have spoken up, although within two days of his death, Liu's body was cremated and his ashes scattered into the Chinese side of the West Sea. The U.S. White House observed Liu's death with sadness but fell short of noting Beijing's inhumane treatment of the political prisoner. Europe also moderated its criticism, while Japan used kid gloves in mentioning China's dismal human rights record.

The Korean government was silent about its biggest trading partner's behavior, despite President Moon Jae-in being a former human rights lawyer and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha previously leading the United Nations' related organization.

China's foreign ministry was adamant about refusing to grant Liu's request to seek overseas treatment for his late-stage liver cancer. China said Liu was a Chinese national and how he was treated was an internal affair and not other countries' business.

But Beijing is wrong and Liu's maltreatment is in every way the world's business.

First, China has become the world's second-biggest economy and is still growing. So is its global reach and influence. Therefore, Beijing's shabby practices such as human rights abuses, if unchecked and unpunished, could encourage other potential and current abusers to follow suit. The result would be a major deterioration of rights guaranteed to people in the free world.

Second, the greater fear is that China may take the world's silence as being tacit approval for bullying its neighbors into submitting to its will and doing whatever it can to punish any detractors.

Third, China could have shown the world it has a heart and can be compassionate by allowing Liu to leave. Ironically, Beijing has shown its fears that opening up would encourage its people to demand the same rights as people in other countries enjoy. That is what Liu stands for _ coming back from the U.S. to lead the 1989 Tiananmen protests to stay on despite the certain prospect of persecution. Just as it was 27 years ago, Beijing _ now under Xi Jinping _ is still fearful. It did not allow Liu's remains to be buried because they might have become a sacred rallying point for future democracy movements.

If Xi continues to ignore basic human rights, he risks Liu's death turning into one of the first cracks that may bring down the big dam called China. The world should never stop reminding Xi about this.

(END)

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