By WAI MOE
The Irrawaddy News
A US-based rights group called “8-8-08 for Burma” has released a report condemning the Chinese government for its support of the Burmese military junta just one month ahead of the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony.
Released on July 2, the five-page report, titled “Sinking: China’s Soft Diplomacy on Burma,” details the pitfalls of Chinese foreign policy toward Burma in recent years and slams Beijing for its response to the cyclone disaster in the Irrawaddy delta.
The report says the Chinese government has advocated a “soft approach of consultations” with the Burmese military junta, and has voiced support for the regime’s so-called “seven step roadmap to democracy,” a policy criticized by Burmese opposition groups and international observers as a sham.
The report noted that that although Beijing says there is no “special relationship” between China and the Burmese military regime, China is nonetheless Burma’s largest trading partner and is expected to sign a US $1 billion deal in 2008 for an oil and natural gas pipeline through Burma into western China.
China has also sold a $2-3 billion package of weapons and military equipment to the Burmese junta while at the same time defending the junta at the United Nations, says the report.
In response to the Chinese foreign policy that “pressure would not serve any purpose” in Burma, the report said that the Burmese regime has demonstrated that it does not respond to soft measures, except with “superficial developments meant to curb international pressure and continue repression, abuses and atrocities.”
The 8-8-08 for Burma report also notes that although Chinese officials have pledged support for the [United Nations] secretary-general’s good offices, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean’s) leading role in the Burmese issue, the reality is that the Beijing government has consistently undermined the ability of the UN and Asean to effectively address the Burma issue.
The report alleges that while thwarting attempts by the UN to address the Burmese junta’s abuses and atrocities, the Chinese government is constantly looking at increasing trade with Burma.
The report said, “China’s goals as the Olympic host are in direct conflict with Beijing’s Burma policy, promoting repression and atrocities instead of the fundamental principles of the Olympics—human dignity, peace and brotherhood.”
In the aftermath of the May 2-3 cyclone disaster, the Chinese government appealed to the international community not to “politicize” the crisis.
However, the report concluded that “in contrast to its timely and appropriate reaction to its own May 12 earthquake, China facilitated the denial of life-saving aid to the 2.4 million people affected by Cyclone Nargis in Burma.”
The rights group’s report called for China to take immediate action to help end Burma’s crisis before August 8—the 20th anniversary of the 1988 democracy uprising in Burma, and a date that also marks the commencement last year of demonstrations led by monks.
“August 8, 2008, can be a day to celebrate human achievement and perseverance—in China, in Burma, everywhere. But only if China takes action now,” the report said.
The 8-8-08 for Burma campaign is a project of Res Publica, a community of public sector professionals in the United States who say they are dedicated to promoting good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.