By Olando Testimony Zeongar
LIBERIA – China has taken exception to Liberia’s involvement into a joint statement issued at the United Nations by some 43 nations, predominantly western countries, condemning the Chines government of wanton human rights abuses.
The Chinese broke silence over the issue in late November, terming same as “Liberia’s co-sponsorship of certain Western countries’ Joint Statement on Xinjiang at the UN General Assembly” – a decision multiple political pundits and diplomatic sources, who preferred remaining anonymous for this report, largely blamed on being the handiwork of Foreign Minister Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr.
Many of the pundits and diplomatic sources have since termed as a blunder on the part of Minister Kemayah, his decision to have enlisted the country among nations that condemned China, a major ally of Liberia.
China, through a Chinese embassy spokesperson, recently expressed disappointment over Liberia’s participation in what a Cross-Regional Joint Statement on the Human Rights Situation in Xinjiang, released on 21 October 2021, outlined as the PRC government being complicit in widespread human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, China.
The statement, which this writer is privy to, cites credible-based reports which point to the existence of a large network of “political re-education” camps where signatories to the declaration, including Liberia, stated that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained.
Signatories to the Joint Statement noted that they have seen an increasing number of reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children being carried out by China, adding that they are particularly concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Signees of the 21 October declaration include Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Eswatini, Finland, France, and Germany.
Others are Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, and New Zealand.
The rest are Northern Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
They accused the Chinese government of imposing severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief and the freedoms of movement, association, and expression as well as on Uyghur culture, indicating that widespread surveillance disproportionately continues to target Uyghurs and members of other minorities.
But a spokesperson at the Chinese embassy near Monrovia has termed as “unwarranted allegations against China,” the 43 nations’ assertions at the UN.
Particularly, China states categorically that it is shocked and disappointed over GoL’s involvement with the governments of the 42 other countries, with the Chinese embassy spokesperson expressing dismay over the decision of Liberia, which he referred to as a good friend and brother of the PRC.
The Chinese embassy spokesperson lamented: “China is shocked and disappointed that Liberia, a good friend, and brother of China, is among those countries that have supported this “joint statement”, and it is in fact the only African country which has diplomatic relations with China that have done so.”
The Chinese embassy spokesperson emphasized that Xinjiang-related issues are China’s internal affairs that broke no interference by external forces emphasizing that “A few Western countries fabricated lies based on false information and continued to attack and discredit China on Xinjiang-related issues, interfering in China’s internal affairs under the guise of human rights so as to contain China’s development. China firmly opposes this.”
The spokesperson was quick to reveal that justice always prevails, adding that also on October 21, 62 developing and friendly countries, including many African countries, made a joint statement at the Third Committee by reiterating that issues related to Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet are internal affairs of China, and opposing politically motivated, unreasonable accusations against China based on false information, and interference in China’s internal affairs, using human rights as an excuse.
In addition, the spokesperson stated that unlike Liberia and the 42 other nations that signed the joint statement against China, around 30 countries have supported China through individual speeches or joint letters.
“This fully demonstrates that it is unpopular to politicize human rights issues. We trust more and more countries will choose to stand on the side of justice,” the Chinese embassy spokesperson said.
The spokesperson expressed the hope that Liberia will look at the bigger picture and not be deceived by those he said have ulterior motives.
He also wants Liberia to stand on the side of what he called correctness, and justice with concrete actions.
“We sincerely hope that Liberia can keep her eyes open, discern the truth, not be deceived by those with ulterior motives, and stand on the side of correctness and justice with concrete actions,” he said.
It is not clear what this would mean for Liberia/China relations, as the latter has threatened retaliation against countries that make public their views concerning Chinese government violations.
Diplomatic sources have divulged that Beijing is peeved with Monrovia over the GoL’s decision to have along with several Western nations slammed China, over what the PRC views entirely as domestic matters.
The sources intimated that if the GoL cannot rescind its decision to being a signatory to the 21 October declaration, China will view this as jeopardizing the mutually beneficial and friendly cooperation between both countries, and the PRC may place a hold on the ushering in of new development opportunities for Liberia, which should have materialized at the end of the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), this year.
China, according to the Chinese embassy spokesperson, has always adhered to the concept of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith in its relations with Liberia, noting that the PRC expects nothing less of Liberia, but that the tiny West African nation would demonstrate wisdom and ability to meet China halfway and make joint efforts to promote the steady and healthy development of the bilateral comprehensive cooperative partnership on the basis of mutual respect for both nation’s core interests.
Relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Liberia have been broken and reestablished several times since February 17, 1977, when diplomatic relations between the PRC and Liberia were first formed.
It can be recalled, on October 10, 1989, in response to Liberia’s recognition of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the PRC severed ties with Liberia. Since the resumption of diplomatic relations in October 2003, the PRC has provided strong support to Liberia’s post-war reconstruction and economic and social development.
Currently, both countries have a somewhat burgeoning relationship, with Liberia benefitting from several PRC government projects in recent years.
Meanwhile, a request for response sent to Kemayah’s Special Assistant, Assistant Minister Robert Sammie and Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister for Press and Public Affairs, Sylvester Pewee, is yet to be replied.