As Ireland finds itself enslaved by the draconian economic demands of the European Union and International Monetary Fund, the socially crippling cost of addressing a national debt (created in part by the very banks who now will profit from measures forced upon the good people of Eire) sees Enda Kenny’s (Prime Minister Above) Government scrambling in the dirt looking for the fabled shoots of recovery. To encourage such growth treasury officials in Dublin are anxious to secure foreign investment, and who else would they turn to but China. With 175 million Euros targeted at the creation of a China trade center in Athlone, no doubt to the delight of the Ireland-China Association, the impending visit by China’s Vice President attracts a particular significance for Ireland’s political establishment. We can be sure that every effort will be made to accommodate Mr. Xi Jinping and his entourage, far beyond the usual generosity accorded to visiting political leaders. Of course the proponents of ‘what’s good for business, is good for Ireland’ will be fully present at the edge of the aptly red carpet, who knows perhaps some have been practising some Mandarin greetings, now there’s a sound to charm the ears, the Kerry brogue grappling with the tonal nuances of Chinese! .
Beneath, however, the painted smiles, diplomatic posturing and warm words of praise expected to greet China’s Vice President is an economic real-politic and the uneasy sight of Ireland’s bankers, politicians and business kowtowing to the representative of a nation with the blood of countless numbers on its hands will, we may anticipate, be evaded, justified or ignored by the jaded argument, that constructive engagement with China will lead to improvements in terms of human rights and basic freedoms. This phony mantra, a favorite of those who care more for profits than rights, has been repeated for years by the United States and proved a singular failure, of course its proponents knew (and still do) that it was never going to bring positive change nor lessen the suffering of millions who endure China’s tyranny. It is a cynical justification, a corrosive denial that enables any element of conscience to be dropped into a very deep well.
Instead of putting on its Sunday best and offering another biscuit to that nice man from China maybe Rialtas na hÉireann (Ireland’s Government) would benefit from investing a similar interest and commitment towards the catalogue of atrocities that enables China’s regime to maintain power. If that fails to awaken the suits from Dublin they could always examine the harrowing issue of China’s coercive population control program, in which women are dragged from their homes, tied onto a medical slab and forcibly sterilized Then of course there is occupied Tibet, a land whose people have been viciously denied their national freedom, human rights since China invaded in 1950, as shown by recent reports resistance to China’s tyranny continues, including the self-immolation of 23 Tibetans, who sacrificed themselves for Tibetan independence and in support of the Dalai Lama. A brutal crackdown by Chinese paramilitary forces is now under-way, huge areas are under siege, these are days of mass arrests, trucks disappearing into the cold night, torture and oppression the psychopathic response to any dissenting voice
Ireland’s Government is acutely aware of the cultural genocide waged against the Tibetan and Uyghur people, cognisant too of the forced-labor camps where colossal numbers of people endure abuse and conditions not seen since Stalinist Russia. They are conscious equally of China’s disturbing record on executions, the torture cells and persecution of Falon Gong practitioners Yet knowledge without action can be a pernicious form of denial, particularly when fuelled by economic interest, it also a tacit endorsement of such violations, however these inconvenient facts are dismissed by the champions of commercial engagement with China. They may as well be Holocaust deniers!
It does not of course have to be this way, there exists still among the Irish, a profound sense of justice and empathy towards those suffering the odious realities of colonization and oppression, a reflection of Ireland’s experiences under British rule. We need only consider the tireless actions of Mary Robinson and Mairead Maguire, or the prominent support extended to Palestine, to realize that the values of justice, human rights and national freedom are cherished by Eire’s people. That profound sense of acknowledging a truth and representing a fundamental goodness once found poignant expression in the words of Mr. Frank Aiken, Ireland’s UN Ambassador, who during the 1959 UN General Assembly debate on Tibet noted:
“Looking around this assembly, … I think how many benches would be empty in this hall if it had always been agreed that when a small nation or a small people fall in the grip of a major power no one could ever raise their voice here; that once there was a subject nation, then must always remain a subject nation. Tibet has fallen into the hands of the Chinese People’s Republic for the last few years. For thousands of years, … it was as free and as fully in control of its own affairs as any nation in this Assembly, and a thousand times more free to look after its own affairs than many of the nations here.”
Many will be both surprised and disappointed that of all nations, Ireland, once under foreign occupation, colonized, exploited and its culture suppressed, finds itself with a political and business elite who, entranced by the spell of China’s economic allure, have abandoned the very principles from which Ireland as nation was forged. As the band of Óglagh nahÉireann (Ireland’s Defense Force) strikes into the troubling strains of China’s national anthem to greet Xi Jinping, no one possessed of integrity and normal intelligence, will be convinced by, nor comfortable with, the ethics of arguing that Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s slogan ‘Let’s Get Ireland Working’ be supported by collaborating with a totalitarian state, nor take precedence over the human rights and freedom of all those tortured and oppressed by China.