“Deeply Concerned” Hypocrites


Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Marise Payne, added Canberra’s voice to a letter to the UN regarding China’s human rights record in Xinjiang. For a few years now, attention has been brought to the over 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim groups being held in what have been described as detention centres by human rights bodies and ‘re-education centres’ by the Chinese government. Payne’s signing of the letter might’ve been worth looking favourably on, if Australia didn’t have its own detention centres.

I cannot remember where I first read it (probably Noam Chomsky’s work, if I’m honest), but there is a simple conclusion that can be drawn when comparing the policies of certain governments. When we, or one of our allies, do something, the motives and morality are unquestionable – it is right because we are doing it. When those same policies are enacted by our ‘enemies’, even if the motives are the exact same, outrage is generated – how dare they carry out such blatant abuses, this only proves their evil nature.

In both of these scenarios, perspective is everything. Someone who consumes a lot of US media probably believes that Russia and China are the global antagonists, and to combat their dominance the US is justified in its role of global police. The US is ‘right’ to retaliate, no matter how viciously, in the name of ‘freedom’. On the other end, the propaganda undoubtedly presents the US and the West as antagonistic, while events like the Russian invasion of Afghanistan or China’s self-imposed control over Tibet and Taiwan (also, to an extent which is being tested recently, Hong Kong) are the justified ones.

The cynical, and yet true, way to look at it is to say that there is no ‘good’ side, and that all actions carried out by any imperialist power is inherently going to be wrong. While I would rather live in the US or Australia (particularly Australia) than the alternatives, it is our role in our much more open societies to call out the wrongdoings of our governments. We can, and certainly should, criticise China’s detention of Muslim and ethnic groups – but there is a transparent veil of hypocrisy if we do so without casting that same judgement upon ourselves.

I, of course, refer to the asylum seekers, the refugees illegally denied their human rights to have a better life here in Australia. Human rights groups and the UN have all called out the dismal conditions of the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. Despite the medevac laws passed earlier this year, the government has done everything it can to make it a tedious project. Medical issues and mental health concerns have been on the rise, yet many are still denied entry to Australia. This political football, that has dropped into the quiet background of political chatter since the election concluded, is still a nightmarish reality for those at the mercy of our barbaric government.

Payne’s “deeply concerned” stance on China’s human rights violations, while commendable on its own, is simply a show of global relations rather than any real substance. If the government is so deeply concerned with the human rights abuses carried out by China, then they should lead by example and cease their own brutality against innocent refugees first. How are our pathetic attempts at justifying the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres any different than China justifying the Xinjiang ‘training centres’? (You could argue that, in pure numbers, China is the more terrifying of the two. You wouldn’t be wrong, but all you would be doing is comparing evils, one of which is being carried out by our elected officials.)


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