Human rights advocate or anti-democratic agent?

Liu Xiaobo, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace for his opposition to the Chinese state, died on 17 July 2017.

Since his death, Western media have been publishing the usual laudatory obituaries given to those “human rights activists” who, coincidentally, have views aligning with imperialist foreign policy.

The Irish Times wrote on 19 July: “With Liu’s death, a light goes out. But in the hearts of human rights defenders and those standing against oppression across the world, his spirit will live on.” This is the typical waffle written about those who stand against anti-Western states.

Of course there is nothing concrete or political in such a statement. One would think that in an obituary for a political activist something related to their political positions would be at least mentioned. Perhaps this is intentional.

In his article “Lessons from the Cold War” in the Guardian (London), 15 December 2010, Liu wrote that “the free world led by the US fought almost all regimes that trampled on human rights . . . The major wars that the US became involved in are all ethically defensible.”

Evidently, for this human rights advocate, the destruction by the United States of Korea and Viet Nam were defensible. The bombs dropped on those countries, and the use of chemical weapons, of massacres, extra-judicial murder and support for dictators such as Pinochet didn’t violate human rights. Neither, according to Liu, did the invasion of Grenada, or the murder of almost a million members of the Communist Party and other leftists in Indonesia in 1965.

Liu also extended his support for the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. And he placed blame on the Palestinian people, excusing Israel from its occupation of Palestinian land and its murder of Palestinian children in its neo-apartheid state.

Liu called for the Westernisation of China, and the privatisation of all enterprises and land. The human rights of the people of China—the right to housing, employment, collective bargaining, social security—must come second to the right to private property and profit. Of course this is the precise reason he is lauded in the West, and why he received payment from the National Endowment for Democracy, an agency of the US government. In this he is following in a long line of anti-communist activists who have held far-right and anti-democratic views.

One similar example, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was lauded in the West for his opposition to the Soviet state—another “humans rights activist” who supported the fascist dictator Franco in Spain, supported American wars abroad, disliked Jewish people, and defended European colonialism in Africa and elsewhere. He was also awarded a Nobel Prize.

Most people in Ireland and elsewhere would never have heard of Liu Xiaobo until his death. Most obituaries in the English-speaking world were completely uncritical. Compare the reception given to Liu and that of Fidel Castro when he died. Castro led a country through a revolution that overthrew a dictator, achieving the world’s best health system, educating doctors from other Third World countries free of charge. Cuba could not do this without the mass participation of its people, organised in the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and the local democratic assemblies.

Cuba has never invaded another country; no-one in Cuba starves, or is left waiting on a hospital waiting list, or is left without a home. This is true democracy—and all this in spite of the US blockade and decades of terrorists acting with impunity.

Fidel Castro did not receive the same treatment by journalists and “human rights organisations,” such as Amnesty International. But there is a pattern to this. Similar non-critical treatment is given to the “White Helmets” in Syria—again recipients of the Nobel Prize for Peace—despite their links to terrorist groups such as Al-Nusra; or the Venezuelan opposition, who have burned pro-government people alive; or the Maidan protesters in Ukraine, whose ranks were filled with open Neo-Nazis; or the Contras in Nicaragua . . . The list goes on.

China is being vilified not because of any supposed democratic deficiencies but because of its role as a counter to US hegemony. China has the world’s second-largest economy and the largest in the BRICS countries, which represent a challenge for a declining US empire. China is investing heavily in Africa, a major region for US imperialist interests, as well as France and Britain. One of the main US drone bases is in Djibouti in east Africa.

China is providing billions in credit for building up infrastructure and industry, as well as providing capital and loans at low interest. It is also worth noting that China’s banking system is all state-owned.

These are the reasons for US imperialism setting its sights on China. The fêting of dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo is a tactic of “soft” imperialism, as compared with the “hard” imperialist tactics such as the deploying of US naval power in the South China Sea under the so-called “Pivot to Asia,” as well as the militarisation of Japan.

To accomplish these goals, US imperialism—like all other imperialist powers—will seek to use the propaganda effort as much as possible. Up will become down, black become white; and people like Liu Xiaobo—right-wing agitators—will become peaceful, democratic activists.