A Chinese female manager of a clothing factory in Cambodia has recently been fined and sentenced to one year imprisonment by the courts for tearing apart a photograph of the late king Norodom Sihanouk, and is to be deported from the country. This piece of news gained quick interest and is the centre of controversy. The argument is about the fact that, though the female manager had already sincerely apologised and claimed that she did not know the identity of the person in the portrait, she was forced to kneel down before the picture in front of thousands of people in Cambodia. And the attitude from the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson was, “Sihanouk is a great friend of the Chinese people, and is deeply loved by the citizens of Cambodia. It is extremely wrong for individuals to display this sort of behaviour, and it will be dealt with according to the Cambodian laws.”
Who should a country’s government protect?
A person who made a mistake overseas would undoubtedly wish in their hearts that their country would extend a hand, and not push them into a bottomless pit. You can imagine at this very moment how helpless she is feeling- even with begging and praying, she has not received forgiveness. Merely because she had torn a portrait, she was taken to the courts with handcuffs and was forced to worship the portrait of Norodom Sihanouk under the eyes and threats of thousands of the Cambodian public! This sort of ‘let anyone insult’ overseas Chinese nationals is a frightening phenomenon. Back in 1993, when an American student McAfee was sentenced to canning for unauthorised graffiti, Clinton personally interceded for him. In comparison, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry cold-hearted sentence, “It is extremely wrong for individuals to display this sort of behaviour, and it will be dealt with according to the Cambodian law”, does really send chills down one’s spine. And this is not only chilling for overseas Chinese, but also for those living in China.
According to the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, tearing the images of politicians falls within the scope of freedom of expression, but forcing a person to kneel down can a serious violation of human rights, it is a crime! So who does the Chinese government protect? What’s more, as it is a government’s responsibility to protect its citizens, when nationals commit crimes overseas, should that be handled, and how? This should be decided by the justice of that country. This is a legal outcome appropriate for the citizens of that country. But look how foreign governments interceded for their nationals who were convicted of a crime! When Akmal, a British citizen of Pakistani background, was sentenced to death for carrying heroin, the UK government entered in negotiations with China ten times over six months. In 2005, Vietnamese-Australian Ruanxiang Wen was sentenced to death by hanging in Singapore for trafficking heroin, and the Australian Prime Minister put forward requests five times. In 2009, Clinton visited North Korea to rescue two American reporters. In 2010, Carter rescued American citizen Gomes.
How do America and Israel protect the interests of their citizens abroad?
How do the US protect their citizens overseas? Any country where a US citizen suffers harm is likely to receive strong political, diplomatic and even military reactions from the US government. And this protection will come no matter your race or political affiliation. This is the case of American citizen Lori Berenson, who had even joined the communist party of Peru. In 1996, she was arrested in Peru and sentenced to life imprisonment: Clinton, Bush and Obama in turn have put pressure on Peru for her release. In 2011, she finally returned to the US, fifteen years since her last Christmas there. The US Embassy in Peru told the media: we do not care what party she’s from, we only care that she is a US citizen.
On the FBI website, the steps to be taken by US citizens overseas in case of issue are clearly articulated. First of all when a US citizen encounters a problem overseas, they should immediately go to the Embassy for support. Although US embassies are a bit lofty in the eyes of some foreigners, for Americans, they are a government service to the taxpayers, and their role is to support the taxpayers. US citizens can simply stroll into their embassies anywhere, and Americans living abroad can even call the consulate on the phone, simply to listen to the agents’ accent and chat for a while: this shows the value they give to their citizens!
Israel has adopted an ‘ethnic’ model for protection. The Israeli government considers that it has the responsibility to protect Jews all over the world, and whenever a Jew suffers overseas, no matter what nationality they are, and no matter what the costs will be, the Israeli government will strive to protect them. The most typical case occurred in 1984 and 1985, when the Israeli government organised the odd ‘Moses action’: they secretly airlifted 10,000 ‘Black Jews’ who were suffering form civil war and starvation in Ehtiopia. This extreme importance placed on national safety can be seen from the fact that Israel trades one of their soldiers against one thousand Palestinians, considering this an equal value exchange. This is a point our country should learn from.
What model should China use to protect the interests of its citizens overseas?
In contrast, Chinese people overseas constitute a ‘vulnerable group’. They never have a strong backing from the motherland. But hasn’t the motherland told then that they should ‘stand up’? How can they then be forced to kneel down? Especially to a portrait. When the foreign minister issued a statement, couldn’t they articulate something like ‘we hope that Cambodia may show leniency’? After all, there are many years of friendship between China and Cambodia, and maybe Cambodia could agree to see this as a small matter. 但是最应该灵活处理事情的外交部却丢下句冷冰冰的话“交给你们处理了”，连个双方都能下的台阶都不给。毕竟西哈努克再亲也是外国人，中国公民再错也是中国人，is the intention of the Foreign Minister to just sit down and watched the interests of its citizens being slighted? Has the Foreign Minister never considered the feelings of Chinese people then?
Not long ago, the Mekong murder sparked the attention of everyone in the country, and many people are still reflecting on it: with increasing numbers of Chinese people getting out of the country, how should their persons and property be protected overseas? And how should China as a fast rising great power react to similar violations of the rights and interests of its citizens abroad, how can the country live up to its responsibility and protect its citizens overseas? Perhaps, the American model for protecting overseas citizens is something that we can learn from. As it reads in American passports: “No matter where you are, the United States government is always behind you”. The Chinese passport says: “please strictly abide by local laws, and respect the local customs.” If we translate what Uncle Sam is saying, when Americans go abroad, if someone bullies them, the country will be there; what China says is: when you go abroad, don’t stir trouble.
Source: 1510, 4th Nov 2012
Source : my1510, 16 November