As Cameron and Osborne suck up to Xi Jinping, Amnesty International’s Allan Hogarth reminds us of that little matter called “human rights”:
As President Xi Jinping’s plane hits the tarmac he must be excited about the royal welcome that he’ll be getting in the UK – the red carpet has been rolled out, the flags raised and the banquet prepared!
I’m sure he’ll be keen to enjoy the hospitality of his hosts, whilst he and the UK Government get down to business. However, it would appear there is going to be one big elephant locked out of the room – human rights.
There has been lots of talk about China’s economic progress. People talk enthusiastically about progress made for Chinese citizens, better standards of living, economic security, and a growing middle class.
This may well be true and is indeed welcome. But when it comes to human rights we’ve witnessed a marked deterioration since President Xi came to office in 2012.
China is in the middle of its most intense crackdown on human rights for years and the human rights of ordinary Chinese citizens – including that growing middle class – must not be ignored in order to secure trade deals.
David Cameron must remember that China executed more than the rest of the world put together in 2014, often after trials that didn’t meet international standards.
The Prime Minister must ask President Xi about the nationwide operation that, in July, targeted and detained at least 248 lawyers and activists, 29 of whom still remain in police custody.
And what about the seven lawyers and five activists under ‘residential surveillance in a designated place’ – a process in which police are allowed to hold criminal suspects for up to six months outside of the formal detention system? This often amounts to enforced disappearance, a violation of international law.
As Chinese citizens are finding their economic freedom, perhaps Mr Cameron will raise concerns about other freedoms?
In Tibetan areas, there continue to be tight restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The Zhejiang provincial government is waging a campaign to demolish Christian churches and tear down crosses and crucifixes. All unauthorised forms of peaceful religious worship – including Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian house churches – can be subjected to suppression and criminal sanctions.
As President Xi will be staying with the Head of the Anglican Church, perhaps Mr Cameron would find it appropriate to raise these issues with the President?
The space for civil society in China is shrinking when it should be cherished and nurtured. Yet the Chinese authorities appear determined to clamp down on anyone that they deem a threat.
The catch all law of ‘picking quarrels and causing trouble’ allows the government to arrest, detain and silence those that question them.
Recent targets include the New Citizen Movement, a loose network of activists dedicated to the principles of constitutionalism, government transparency and civic responsibility – hardly firebrands?
Add to this that the authorities are considering introducing a ‘Foreign NGO Management Law’ that could put at risk forms of cooperation between UK and Chinese civil society. Mr Cameron must urge President Xi not to pass this law.
Of course, these are all issues that the Chinese will not want raising during the President’s visit.
The Chinese Ambassador has been quick to discourage any mentions of human rights. Any mention (of course) would be ‘embarrassing for the UK’ and offensive to China.
Well I’m sorry Mr Ambassador, but human rights activists actually find your comments offensive. I’m also sure that those brave Chinese activists who languish in your prisons, subject to harassment and restrictions would also be offended if these issues aren’t raised.
It is for these people that David Cameron should raise human rights issues with President Xi. He doesn’t have to ‘offend’ him, he’s a politician and perfectly capable of doing so with in a principled, forceful and specific way, both publicly and in private.
There may be thousands of miles between the UK and China, but the brave human rights lawyers, activists and defenders there are watching developments here.
This is Mr Cameron’s opportunity to show that the UK doesn’t put trade and prosperity above people – and that is why we stand together with the Chinese people in defence of human rights.
Follow @amnestyuk on Twitter as hundreds protest outside Buckingham Palace during President Xi Jinping’s visit
Perhaps the least prescient line from the script. pic.twitter.com/xrXZ3tsaW3
Battle of Britain commemoration, St Paul’s; outrageous disrespect:
Nelson Mandela’s funeral; highly respectful:
Above: yesterday’s Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper. The headline accompanying the picture of Cameron translates as “The slackers of Europe – they take far fewer refugees than they could.” First among the slackers, says Bild, is “Great Britain – it has so far taken 114 refugees for every one million residents, one third of the EU average. For comparison, Germany has taken 905 per million population and Hungary 3,322.”
Cameron’s increasingly xenophobic stance, as he seeks to appease the anti-EU Tory right and fend off UKIP, should be a warning to the anti-EU idiot-left: however you may wriggle and squirm, you’re giving “left” cover to some of the most reactionary forces in British politics. The forthcoming referendum is, in reality, going to be a vote on immigration, with the anti-EU forces standing for isolationism, little-Englandism and (in some cases)outright racism.
The principled left should stand for more European integration, not less. The following letter was sent to the Morning Star on 31 July, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) not published:
Dear Morning Star,
It is obvious that the only possibility of resolving the present migration crisis in a fair, humane and rational manner will involve more European co-operation, solidarity and integration.
Migrants should be allocated between EU member states on the basis of a country’s wealth, size and number of those of the same heritage already settled in a given country. This approach would involve abandoning the Dublin accord (which requires refugees to seek asylum in the first EU country they enter) and arranging any resettlement immediately after the application is made, to ensure a family or individual isn’t wrenched away from somewhere they’ve come to regard as home. It would almost certainly have to happen before an application is either approved or rejected, with all the difficulties that entails for cross-border information sharing and language barriers. It would also mean countries that have previously experienced low levels of immigration having to accept more.
As has been shown by both the deal forced on the Greeks and the unsuccessful attempt to establish such an agreement earlier this year, such solidarity is not always forthcoming: more EU integration is the only possible way forward. The main reason the British government would oppose any such arrangement is that it would mean taking in more people. For all the cost to the economy of Operation Stack and policing the tunnel, the Tories put cutting immigration figures and being seen to oppose European integration ahead of seeking a rational and humane solution. The anti-EU left need to take note.
Why can’t most of the left be as clear-cut and straightforward on the scandal of state-sponsored sectarian schools as the NSS?
Prime Minister ‘blinkered to ignore role faith schools play in segregating communities’
Statement from the National Secular Society
Despite criticising “segregated” education, Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the continuation of faith schools in a speech on counter extremism.
In a wide-ranging speech, delivered in Birmingham, Mr Cameron set out his thinking on how to confront extremism and Islamist ideology and rejected what he called the “grievance justification” for Islamist violence.
He talked about Britain as a “multi-racial, multi-faith democracy” and as a “beacon to the world”. He said no-one should be demonised but said there was a need to “confront, head on, the extreme ideology” behind Islamism.
He said that Britain needed to be bolder in asserting “liberal values”, which he called “our strongest weapon”.
The Prime Minister issued a strong challenge to “the cultish worldview” of extremists and the “conspiracy theories” that support it, and he said the UK should contrast the “bigotry, aggression and theocracy” of the Islamists with our own values.”
Mr Cameron indicated that funding would be made available for groups willing to lead reform and spread an “alternative narrative”. He also committed to do more to tackle extremism in prisons.
Turning his attention to the newly introduced “Prevent duty” for public sector bodies, Cameron said that it is “not about criminalising or spying on Muslim children” and accused some of its opponents of “paranoia in the extreme.”
However, despite warning that “the education that our young people receive” in schools in “divided communities” is “even more segregated than the neighbourhoods they live in”, David Cameron said the UK should not “dismantle faith schools.”
Instead, he said “it is right to look again more broadly at how we can move away from segregated schooling in our most divided communities.” The Prime Minister suggested that faith schools could share sites or facilities.
“It cannot be right that children can grow up and go to school and not come into contact with people of other backgrounds [and] faiths,” he said.
Research by Demos recently found that “some faith schools effectively exclude other ethnic groups” and that minority faith schools were particularly segregated.
NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans said, “Much of this speech is very welcome – and echoes what secularists have been saying for a long time. But it is blinkered to ignore the role that faith schools play in creating the segregated communities that Mr Cameron rightly criticises. The potential of faith schools to exacerbate the separation of communities is obvious for all to see.
“Children from different backgrounds need to mix with each other on a daily basis if we are to break down the barriers. They will never truly understand and trust each other if their schools are encouraging an us-and-them mentality. Tinkering round the edges with occasional visits and shared resources is not good enough – in fact it can be counterproductive, reinforcing the feeling of being from different worlds.”
The Prime Minister also said action was needed on unregulated religious ‘schools’, an issue previously raised by the NSS.
On hate preachers and Islamist speakers invited onto university campuses, the Prime Minister said: “When David Irving goes to a university to deny the Holocaust university leaders rightly come out and condemn him. They don’t deny his right to speak but they do challenge what he says.”
In contrast, Cameron argued that university leaders “look the other way through a mixture of misguided liberalism and cultural sensitivity” when Islamist speakers attend university events.
He also issued a strong rebuke to the National Union of Students.
“When you choose to ally yourselves with an organisation like CAGE, which called Jihadi John a ‘beautiful young man’ and told people to ‘support the jihad’ in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, it brings “shame” to your organisation and “your noble history of campaigning for justice.”
The Prime Minister cited the review of sharia ‘courts’ among measured to crackdown on non-violent extremism, and promised a consultation on lifetime anonymity for victims of forced marriage, in a proposal welcomed by the National Secular Society.
He spent much of the speech dealing with non-violent extremism, and argued that “if you say ‘yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior’… then you too are part of the problem.”
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “This all sounds very familiar, and we are glad that the Prime Minister is catching up with the NSS’s thinking and suggestions. All he has to do now is carry out his plans, which may be more difficult than he thinks. There is a lot of resistance not just from the Islamists but from the liberals who imagine that taking a stand against the Islamist threat is equivalent to attacking all Muslims. It is not and for all our sakes we must not be put off tackling the bad guys for fear of offending the good ones.”
The Government will publish its counter-extremism strategy in the autumn.
Back to 1975 and Wilson’s handling of the the Common Market referendum: this is what, apparently, Cameron has now backed down and agreed to:
From the school of offending almost everyone, a Jak cartoon from 1975, showing the curious array of parties supporting withdrawal from the Common Market, the precursor of the European Union. The cartoonist Jak was pretty right-wing, I understand. One could draw a cartoon showing odd bedfellows for staying in the Common Market also.
All of the main parties allowed their MPs to campaign whichever way they liked … and there were cross-party campaigns on either side, much as we saw in the recent Scottish referendum campaign. At the front of this – imaginary – march we see left-wing Labour MPs including Michael Foot, Tony Benn and Peter Shore, happily linking arms with Enoch Powell.
Note, also, that the SNP was then anti-Common Market. I think all of them had the wrong political line on this issue but I should point out that they never did march – or share a platform – with fascist opponents of the Common Market [JD adds: I think Michael Foot *did* share a platform with Enoch Powell, but I may be wrong: readers are encouraged to research this].
For an independent, left-wing campaign to stay in the EU!
Labour is lucky this global story blew up in a week already dominated by a tax avoidance row: it was a Tory blunder to put up the Monaco-dwelling head of Boots to call Labour a “catastrophe”, when his company pays a fraction of the UK tax it did before switching its base to Switzerland. Timing is important here: the HSBC revelations haven’t emerged on Labour’s watch. Both Eds have frequently – and rightly – apologised for Labour’s feeble regulation of banks pre-crash, while always reminding Cameron and Osborne that they called loudly for less banking “red tape” in those days.
Ms Toynbee isn’t always a favourite with us here at Shiraz, but the piece quoted from above is a hum-dinger, and well worth reading in full.
Left Foot Forward‘s Ruby Stockham, meanwhile, has put 4 questions to David Cameron that should be repeated ad nauseam between now and the election.
But it’s worth remembering that the crimes of HSBC under Stephen Green (aka Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint and minister for trade and investment between 2010 and 2013) were not restricted to colluding in tax fraud: they also extended to money-laundering.
In 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine for money laundering for clients that the US authorities said included Mexican drug cartels (as well as providing services to lenders in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh though to include supporters of al Qaeda).
The Daily Telegraph‘s David Hughes reported on July 17 2012:
While the Treasury select committee is giving the third degree to Mervyn King and his chums over the Libor debacle, a potentially much bigger banking scandal is breaking in the United States. The US Senate has launched a coruscating attack on HSBC for its slapdash approach to money-laundering regulations. The bank could face a $1 billion fine.
According to Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “the culture at HSBC was pervasively polluted for a long time.” Just how polluted was revealed in the Senate report into the scandal. For example, between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank’s US operations. According to the report, both Mexican and US authorities warned HSBC that the amount of money could only have reached such a level if it was tied to illegal narcotics proceeds. This is explosive stuff for the “world’s local bank”, as HSBC calls itself.
As these other, perhaps even more serious, scandals from the noughties have not been widely reported in the last few days (except by the FT‘s excellent Jonathan Guthrie), here are a couple of links to articles from July 2012:
David Hughes’s Telegraph piece (quoted from above), here
The Telegraph‘s report on the US Senate’s findings, here
Ned Simons at the Huffington Post (which mentions the alleged al Qaeda funding) here.
Above: the Europhobes’ last bogey-man
The Tory braying over Cameron’s “brave”/”principled” (etc, etc) stand against Jean-Claude Juncker is as preposterous as it is cynical. It’s quite clear that though some swivel-eyed backwoodsmen may take Cameron’s talk of “principle” at face value, the whole ridiculous charade has been a cynical exercise dreamt up by Lynton Crosby, to appease xenophobes within and without having to propose any specific policies or, indeed, actually do anything in particular other than vote against the “federalist” bogey-man.
The identification of Juncker as the embodiment of everything to be hated and despised about the EU is simply a re-run of the little-England hate-fest whipped up in the late-eighties and early-nineties by the Tories and the Murdoch press against Jacques Delores. Of course, Delores was a social democrat who really did stand for a (limited) extension of the ‘Social Europe’ agenda, including things like the Working Time Directive and the Acquired Rights Directive (aka TUPE). Juncker, on the other hand, is a mainstream centre-right politician with no interest in furthering ‘Social Europe’ or enhancing workers’ rights in any way. But for the Tories, that’s not the point: he’s a “federalist” bureaucrat and an enemy of “reform” in Europe. What exactly this “reform” that Cameron keeps banging on about, is, remains largely unspecified, but when pushed, the Tories point to the Working Time Directive – that outrageous piece of foreign interference that denies all true English people their inalienable right to work more than 48 hours per week (unless they sign a chitty saying they want to).
So you don’t need psychic powers to know what the Tories mean when they talk about “reform” in Europe: dismantling the Social Europe agenda, removing the limited rights and protections that workers have achieved in Europe and – of course – restricting the free movement of labour within Europe. In other words, a thoroughly reactionary anti-working class agenda, spiced up with xenophobia and outright racism.
Junker is no friend of the working class, even to the extent that Delores was. But what the hell was Labour doing joining in with the Tories in demonising him? It’s also disappointing to see some usually thoughtful leftists and internationalists making concessions to this nonsense.
For once, the Graun‘s Polly Toynbee, not often someone we quote with approval here at Shiraz, has got it right (apart from her softness on the Lib Dems):
There is no middle way on this one. Its [ie Labour’s] stand must be: “This is the moment to choose: Vote Ukip or Tory if you want Out; vote Labour (or Lib Dem) for In to save British jobs.” Immigration drives much popular anti-Europeanism, so Labour has no choice but to say immigration is the price for prosperity. Time for gloves off with Ukip voters. Stop pretending a Ukip vote is respectable and call Faragists out as job-destroying racists and xenophobes. Explaining the decision to deny a referendum requires a bolder pro-EU message, and a more abrasive anti-Ukip and anti-Tory warning.
Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski sums up Cameron’s attempts to undo European integration:
“It’s either a very badly thought-through move or, not for the first time, a kind of incompetence in European affairs. Remember? He fucked up the fiscal pact. He fucked it up – simple as that. He is not interested. He does not get it. He believes in stupid propaganda. He stupidly tries to play the system …
“His whole strategy of feeding [the Eurosceptics] scraps to satisfy them is, just as I predicted, turning against him; he should have said fuck off … But he ceded the field to them that are now embarrassing him.”
Sikorski is, believe it or not, considered a political ally of Cameron’s and (like the Tories’ bête noir, Jean-Claude Junker) a thoroughgoing reactionary. But, of course, that’s not the reason for the rift between Cameron and the Euro-Tories of the centre-right EPP. They agree on most aspects of economic policy.
Nor is it – despite Tory demagogy – anything to do with the elitism, bureaucratism and lack of democracy of EU institutions.
In fact David Cameron’s attempt to veto the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission is no stance against elitism, nor an attempt to make EU institutions more democratic. Within the highly-limited standards of EU democracy it is the exact opposite.
Juncker is the preferred candidate of the conservative political bloc which won the largest chunk of popular votes in May’s European election. But Cameron isn’t bothered by the tally of the popular vote. He prefers bureaucratic manoeuvring and nationalistic special pleading. Cameron, with an eye on his UKIP rivals, wants to be seen to be “fighting for Britain”. No matter that there is no great difference on economic policies between Juncker and the British Tory party.
It would be a whole lot better if the political semi-union of Europe, which Cameron choses out of political expediency to object to, were more democratic, more transparent and were not tied to a drive to make workers pay for the crisis.
But it is still a big step forward for working-class people around Europe that barriers between nations have been drastically reduced.
At a time when migrants are being scapegoated we need those barriers to stay down.
The semi-dissolution of the barriers has made it easier to fight the class struggle across Europe. If the labour movement leaders of Europe had any imagination they could run powerful Europe-wide campaigns. For instance they could organise a Europe-wide struggle for a decent Living Wage, one which would could generalise much needed solidarity to existing struggles of low-paid workers.
Unfortunately there are a few on the left in Europe (but notably not the Greek radical-left party Syriza) who oppose the existence of the political union of the EU: in the UK it is the No2EU campaign. The logic of their campaign is to advocate the resurrection of national barriers. In this way they add to the increasing toxic nationalism of UKIP and Cameron. But No2EU are, in the main, a bunch of brain-dead Stalinists whose fanatical little-Englandism stems from a visceral hatred of Germany and a bizarre, anachronistic perception of the EU as a threat to the USSR (by means of a time-warp, presumably). The derisory number of votes they picked up in the last Euro-elections means we don’t have to take them seriously – though RMT members may well be wondering what the hell their leadership was doing throwing away the union’s money on this reactionary irrelevance.
Much more serious – and worrying – is the present stance of the Labour Party. That pompous prat of a shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, has instructed Labour MEPs not to support Junker. If that was because Junker is an anti-working class, pro-austerity right-winger, then we’d agree. But no; the wretched Alexander has made it clear that the Labour leadership supports Cameron’s quest for a less “federalist” (ie: more right-wing) candidate: “There can be no excuses. David Cameron has a clear mandate from political parties here in the UK – including Labour – to build consensus across Europe for an alternative candidate for president of the commission.”
What a disgrace! Or, as Mr Sikorski might say, what an incompetent, badly thought-through, fucking fuck-up.
Above: Ben Jennings cartoon in the Guardian
“My government has a sense of evangelism…
Jesus invented the big society 2,000 years ago”
-David Cameron, April 2014
As Polly Toynbee (not generally one of our preferred columnists) pointed out in Friday’s Graun, Cameron’s Easter Message is “mostly toe-curling stuff”. This sanctimonious outburst is all the more annoying because he has left no previous evidence of being a particularly strong Christian, telling the Graun on 2008, that his faith was “like reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes.”
Toynbee comments, “Alistair Campbell never gave better advice than in warning politicians off doing God: it’s horrible to behold. Sincere or not, they become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, as did Cameron talking of ‘our saviour'”…
What a pity that most of the so-called “left” organisations in the UK (with just one notable exception) fail to denounce the encroachment of religion into British politics, and the consequent erosion of secularism. It’s largely been left up to the apolitical National Secular Society to take up a principled defence of enlightenment values in the UK. Here’s their comment on Cameron’s Easter Message:
In his most recent effort to highlight his strong Christian faith and the importance of Christianity within the UK, David Cameron has called for Christians to be more “evangelical”.
Mr Cameron criticised those promoting state neutrality on religion, saying they failed to grasp the role that religion can have in “helping people to have a moral code”. He contrasted “secular neutrality” with “the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, and love”.
He also expressed the hope that “we can […] infuse politics with a greater sense of evangelism about some of the things we are trying to change. We see our churches as vital partners. If we pull together, we can change the world and make it a better place.”
The Prime Minister’s comments were made in an article authored by him, “My faith in the Church of England” and published in the Church Times.
He also announced that the government would be giving £8 million to a Church urban fund, Near Neighbours, which brings together people in religiously and ethnically diverse communities.
His article follows a video Easter message, in which he noted “countless acts of kindness carried out by those who believe in and follow Christ”, and an Easter reception at Downing Street in which he called for an expansion in the role of faith and faith organisations in the UK.
His most recent comments come after church leaders have, for the second time in two months, made the headlines by publicly urging the government to take action on food poverty.
As part of a campaign organised by the End Hunger Fast, 47 bishops and over 600 non-conformist leaders and clergy from across all the major Christian denominations in Britain have co-signed a new letter calling for urgent Government action on food poverty
And in February, 27 bishops wrote to the Daily Mirror saying that Cameron had a moral duty to act on the growing number going hungry.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “The Prime Minister’s description of Britain as a “Christian country” is one most people simply won’t recognise.
“Around half the population don’t belong to any religion and the religious among us follow an increasingly diverse range of faiths. They should not be made to feel like less than equal citizens by the prime minister asserting the moral superiority of Christianity.
“Mr Cameron is of course entitled to his personal beliefs but he must realise that as the Prime Minister of a democratic and diverse nation his remarks are wholly inappropriate.
“Non-Christians may feel particularly aggrieved by Mr Cameron’s divisive assertion that we are a “Christian country”, but everyone should be concerned at his suggestion that essential state functions such as education and welfare should be handed over to religious organisations.”