It’s not only the South China Sea that is witnessing China’s differing interpretation of international law and its commitments under various treaties. With its draft Foreign NGO Management Law, China is also turning up its nose to various international human rights treaties and bodies. But while the United States sends surveillance planes to bait the Chinese into a skirmish over islands that are not clearly China’s and not clearly the Philippines or Vietnam’s, it remains noticeably silent on the draft Foreign NGO Management Law. (For an interesting take on how to solve the South China Seas issue without resorting to a U.S.-China conflict, see Prof. Jerome Cohen’s analysis here).
As Human Rights in China (HRIC) pointed out in a recent analysis, ignoring the draft Foreign NGO Law’s impact on China’s international human rights commitments comes at a dangerous cost. China is a sitting member of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, a Council that less than a year ago issued a resolution calling on its members to create an environment where civil society can flourish and admonishing those state’s that passed laws similar to what China has proposed in the current legislation. China’s draft law will do precisely the opposite of creating a flourishing domestic NGO sphere; it will create a vacuum in funding and in knowledge for China’s smaller domestic NGOs that do important work benefiting some of China’s most vulnerable – those left behind by the country’s economic development. The Chinese government has yet to state whether it intends to fill that void with money from its own coffers. But probably not.
In its analysis, HRIC goes on to highlight China’s other violations of various human rights treaties. But its most important impact is noting that these transgressions cannot be ignored. China is not some poor player that struts and frets its hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is the world’s second largest economy with influential positions in the United Nations. What it does, and how it interprets its human rights commitments, will inevitably impact the rest of the world. Countries that might not have clamped down on their own civil society for fear of international reprisals, now have cover to do so. With the world’s silence, it becomes all the more apparent that international human rights treaties play second fiddle – if even that – to military interests over a bunch of rocks that might or might not contain large oil and natural gas reserves.
To read HRIC’s analysis – which is a must read – pleas click here.