Talk about bad timing! Just as Thabo Mbeki had begun to attract negative attention around the world for his apologetics for Robert Mugabe after the Zimbabwean dictator had stolen the last presidential election, along come the Chinese to make the situation even worse. A ship full of armaments bound for Mugabe arrived in Durban and set off a series of protests that highlighted Mbeki’s decision to run interference for Mugabe:
A Chinese ship loaded with armaments for Zimbabwe steamed into the port of Durban this week and set off a political firefight, putting newfound pressure on South Africa — and now China — to reduce support for Zimbabwe’s government as it cracks down on its rivals after a disputed election.
Dock workers at the port, backed by South Africa’s powerful unions, refused to unload the ammunition and weapons on Friday, vowing protests and threatening violence if the government tried to do it without them.
Meanwhile, the Anglican archbishop of the province appealed to South Africa’s High Court to bar transporting the arms across South Africa, arguing that they were likely to be used to repress Zimbabweans. The court agreed, and by late Friday the ship had pulled up anchor and set sail.
The arms shipment was ordered from China before the elections, but its arrival amid Zimbabwe’s political crisis illuminated deep fissures within South Africa over how to respond, and brought new scrutiny on China at a time when its human rights record is already under fire for suppressing protesters in Tibet and supplying arms to the government of Sudan.
Wherever peoples are oppressed these days, two constants appear. One is the inevitable chorus of apologists with ready excuses for the oppressors, blaming colonialism from a century ago or Crusades from a millenium past. The other is the Chinese government.
In Iran, the Chinese refuse to meaningfully support the sanctions regime intended on both ending nuclear proliferation and the reign of the mullahcracy. In Sudan, Beijing props up the government that conducts genocides against its own people and allied with Arab Janjaweeds to conduct a parallel Islamic ethnic cleansing. They have kept Kim Jong-Il in power for decades while North Koreans starve to death. Now they want to prop up Robert Mugabe while Zimbabwe melts from a self-sufficient nation to a failed state of starving masses.
Why do the Chinese seem so insistent on subsidizing oppression? It’s not just oil. That could certainly be the reason in Iran and Sudan, but not in North Korea or Zimbabwe. Rather, it seems to be a deliberate policy to support regimes that murder, starve, and oppress people. There is a word for that — evil.
After this latest proof of Chinese policy, the International Olympic Committee has even more reason to hide their heads in shame this summer when they supply Beijing with its propaganda platform.
Update: The ship, An Yue Jiang, has headed for Angola to offload its cargo instead. The Chinese do not easily give up.