Wednesday, June 21, 2006

De Lille aims verbal barrels at China

Donwald Pressly | Cape Town, South Africa   
21 June 2006 12:26

South African President Thabo Mbeki should take China "to task" over its weak human rights record at home and abroad, said opposition Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille.

She said on Wednesday -- coinciding with the official three-day visit of the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who is meeting Mbeki at Tuynhuys in Cape Town on Wednesday -- that while Chinese investment in Africa has taken place at a time when many of the continent's countries have achieved record growth rates, there are costs to the relationship.

The types of African governments that were the first to do business with the Chinese were in most cases "the biggest violators of human rights" and were shunned by African democracies. She charged that China has blocked the punishment of Zimbabwe's government -- led by President Robert Mugabe -- for his so-called "clean-up" campaign, which deprived an estimated 700 000 people "of their homes or jobs, or both".

De Lille, who has led campaigns against government corruption in South Africa, including in the country's arms deal, said China has little respect for human rights at home and the idea of China having a strong foothold in Africa "represents a grave threat to the African renaissance and our vision of true upliftment of all our people".

She argued that China has repeatedly protected its African business partners against punishment by the United Nations. As a member of the Security Council it had "threatened to use its veto" to prevent sanctions against Sudan, "whose government has committed genocide in Darfur and continues to supply the Sudanese Government with arms".

De Lille said China had "propped up the murderous Liberian president Charles Taylor, which drew out that country's devastating civil war", while in Angola, where the government continues to persecute journalists and ignore the poor and democracy, the Chinese Government has handed over R2-billion worth of aid in exchange for oil rights.

"Sadly, because of his refusal to meet Tibet's Dalai Lama, who was kicked out of his homeland by the Chinese in a similar manner as to how our president's own family was exiled by the National Party, President Mbeki has already lost some of the culture of human rights that was so loved by Madiba [former South African President Nelson Mandela]," said De Lille.

"In a continent where wave upon wave of colonialism and neo-colonialism has devastated our beautiful cultures and natural environment, we can simply not afford to be subjugated by another colonial power," she said.

Mbeki should deal with the South African concerns over "the massive" trade surplus China enjoys "over us", said De Lille, noting that in 2005 South Africa imported over R18-billion in goods and exported only a little over R5,5-billion, which "needs to be corrected over the next few years".

"In just two years we have already lost over 25 000 jobs in the South African textile industry. Because our clothing imports from China are directly responsible for this, we need to fix a quota of imports at a maximum of 25%," said De Lille.

China 's violations of human rights at home and its business dealings with rogue African states "should be lambasted by the South African government, using the newly established Human Rights Council, of which China is a member, as the proper platform". -- I-Net Bridge

*Original source