( November 28, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) China is waking up. Having been elected to power President Xi Xinpin has so far enjoyed a honeymoon of silence on human rights and corruption for the past one year.
He has now become serious about making his presence effectively felt. To coincide with the election of China to the United Nations Human Rights Council the Chinese leadership is saying enough is enough to the glaring human rights abuses in Sri Lanka which stand out.
Resonating with the calls from India, Britain and other powers, Qin Gang the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, reflecting the views of the general secretary of the Chinese Communist party Xi Xinpin, has told Sri Lanka to "make efforts to protect and promote human rights" and to address allegations of rights abuses against the country's minority Tamils, further stating "Due to the differences in the economic and social development of different countries, there could be differences on human rights protection." It is no coincidence that this statement came during the CHOGM, making it opportune for universal consideration. Though not a member of the Commonwealth, China provided most of its infrastructure. China's current stand is undoubtedly not the work of the LTTE rump or the Tamil Diaspora although the support and the closeness to the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese culture amongst the Tamil people during the fifties to the nineties are worthy of note.
Xi is an outstanding and resolute leader bent on action. His integrity is unquestioned and his family is also reputed for being above corruption. At a time when he is wooing the western powers especially the European Union and the US he cannot be seen flirting with Sri Lanka riddled with corruption and enmeshed in grave human rights abuses. However, unlike Europe, China also refuses to be intimidated by the US.
Unfortunately for China the matter of corruption and to a lesser extent human rights are seen as its Achilles' heal and they cannot at this juncture be seen to be hamstrung with the horrendous crimes against humanity obtaining in Sri Lanka. Qin apparently echoing the views of Xi has further stated: "I believe that on the human rights issue, dialogue and communication should be enhanced among countries." Qin has further said: "We always maintained that on the human rights issues, countries around the world should enhance mutual understanding through dialogue and communication and take constructive means to promote the development of the international human rights cause." This comes at a time when the Rajapaksas have been counting on China and Russia to bail them out from the US resolutions of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the next human rights sessions in March 2014 in Geneva.
From Xi's firm stand against corruption and his urging the Chinese administrators to respect its Constitution have encouraged the Chinese liberals. In one of his recent speeches Xi has emphasised that "all citizens are equal before the law", that "freedom should be guaranteed" and that "no one should be allowed to be above the constitution." This has been interpreted by some observers as his manifesto to usher in a new era of liberalism and the rule of law. The position of China being a secular State is the better for it.
Most recently President Rajapaksa went to the ridiculous extent of rewarding a parliamentarian, promoting him to the rank of a cabinet minister. His only claim to such elevation was that he was responsible for organising protests and blockades, during the CHOGM, against foreign human rights activists moving freely and meeting with victims of human rights abuses.
It was during the time of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike as prime minister that close relations with China came to be forged much to the mutual advantage of both countries. This relationship was not tainted with even the slightest semblance of corruption for Mrs. Bandaranike for whom enriching herself and the members of her family was the furthest in her thinking. Despite her other failings she was indeed above corruption. Today in Sri Lanka while its human record is in tatters its effective leadership concentrated in just one family has also to account for the enormous corruption also in connection with the Chinese aid and loans. More loans that the Rajapaksas ask for more commissions they are paid finding their way into their pockets.
With Xi Xinpin's warning and the serious concerns of western powers, it is becoming increasingly evident that the noose is tightening around the necks of Mahinda Rajapaksa, now taking cover under the fact that he is the Chair of the Commonwealth, his brothers and the other war criminals who are getting around with impunity.
( The writer is the editor of the Eelam Nation)