Thursday, 11 November 2010

Politics trumps human rights on Ban Ki-Moon’s re-election campaign stop in China

John Metzler
UNITED NATIONS — When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon made a campaign swing (oops, official visit) through South East Asia and China, few even cynical observers assumed that the China stopover promoting a “harmonious world” would turn into a typhoon of controversy.

Though the Secretary General’s visit for the official closing of the Shanghai World Expo should have been a happy pro-forma event, it was instead shrouded in damage control for one of his senior Chinese staffers.

First, UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, a Chinese national, presented an award to Gen. Chi Haotian for his contributions in promoting peaceful relations between China and the World. Gen. Chi who was military leader of the regime’s bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, was no doubt flattered by an award from the “World Harmony Foundation.”

Gen. Chi’s award, presented in Shanghai just days before Secretary General Ban arrived for the Expo’s closing ceremonies was not likely cleared by UNhigher up’s but at the same time suggested the blessing and the high profile “face” of a very senior UN official. Sha Zukang, has long been a loose cannon on the deck of Ban Ki-moon’s ship of state. A blame game has since ricocheted round the halls of diplomacy.

Sha was recently profiled in London’s Daily Telegraph for crudely criticizing Ban Ki moon at a closed-door UN confab for ranking officials. Diplomats present were shocked at Sha’s “more than candid” personal swipe at the South Korean Secretary General and further flabbergasted by Sha’s follow-up remarks that “he does not like Americans very much either.”

Sha’s award to his “old friend” Gen. Chi would mean little if it did not carry the implied political imprimatur of the UN and offer a level of legitimacy to a military man responsible for the 1989 Beijing crackdown.

Ban’s three city stop in China produced more political sturm and drang, or actually painfully little concerning human rightsand specifically China’s new Nobel Laureate Prof Liu Xiaobo.

In meeting with Chinese President and General-Secretary of the Communist Party, and we may say Chairman of the Board of China, INC. the UN ‘s Ban soft-pedaled human rights issues and moreover curried political favor with Beijing’s Marxist Mandarins.

Then during a prominent if overlooked address at Beijing’s “Communist Party of China Central Party School” Ban described the assembled cadres as “an eminent group, the future leaders of China.” The CCP comprises fewer than five percent of all Chinese.

After the warm-up saying the “UN Charter resonates almost perfectly with the concept of a harmonious world,” and after a perfunctory tip to “respect for human rights,” the Secretary General told assembled cadres, “I know that many of you at the Central Party School in China have devoted much time and though to global governance in our changing world.” Indeed they have!

He added, “Clearly China is on the rise. Its transformation has been profound. It’s influence is increasingly global. Its power is real…I believe this rise is beneficial to the world.”

But generic human rights mentions by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are grudgingly acceptable to China as the Beijing rulers will state he is speaking about somewhere else. Only one quote came close to being candid: “we recognize that achieving the shared goal of human rights around the world is more than an aspiration, it is a foundation of peace and harmony in our modern world.”

China’s fury over upcoming Nobel Prize ceremony and Beijing’s buffo arrogance in demanding that European countries boycott the Nobel Prize presentation ceremony in Oslo, Norway underline the PRC’s political uncertainty. Such tactics may work on the Mainland but don’t play well in the mainstream European Union where Beijing’s bullying will likely backfire.

Still China has strong economic cards to play; PRC President Hu Jintao on a visit to France pledged over $20 billion in contracts for French companies. The Chinese will host a huge British trade delegation led by the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Now the UN Campaign Season commences. After having been elected in 2006 as the new UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon is coming to the end of his five year term. So presuming he will run again as the “Asian candidate,” Ban must court the political mandarins in China lest Beijing cool to his candidacy.

Ban Ki-Moon’s global charm offensive to the contrary, the Secretary General must equally remain focused on human rights as his mandate demands.

John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for

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