I hope to open a Pandora´s Box. Today´s final look at China (this blog´s first "destination exposé´) questions undertaking business in a country with a harsh human rights record.
We are business people and human beings"?¦.with consciences. There is a lot at stake: profits are pouring in from the company´s Chinese investments, expansion is imminent, promotions are being dealt out, but at what cost do we brush aside ethics? China has political protestors rotting in prison, has just completed a railway into Tibet, a country they invaded and oppressed ever since and they punish their people for joining peaceful movements such as Falungong.
It is not just its own people. Intent on bringing Taiwan to heel, Chinese Ambassador Li Zhengjun recently urged the members of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation not to entertain Taiwan’s application for membership, stating that China would give due consideration to other Pacific island countries to have them listed as tourist destinations for Chinese tourists. Taiwan´s bid was rejected.
China brims with incredible opportunities, attractions, institutions and places. It has a fascinating history, a rich heritage, astounding health modalities that people all over the world come to study. It is a vast country worth investigating.
I stood in the middle of Tiananmen Square and tried to imagine the massacre that occurred here in 1989: a series of (initially peaceful) demonstrations led by students, intellectuals and labour activists. The government brutally put the protest down by killing 3000 of it´s civilians and leaving another 10,000 injured.
CHANGE FROM WITHIN
Human rights is not a new problem and it is not just isolated to China. Many countries oppress their own people (in fact, most countries marginalize their minorities in some way) and while it doesn´t need to be an insurmountable obstacle to doing business, a preliminary study can be useful. Where should your business be based, who will be involved, where will the investments go and how will your business affect people´s lives. All these and more need to be understood and debated, if we are not to personally prop up a system of abuse.
Will money be going to the government to fund its activities or to the local people? Can your "foreign investment leverage´ be used to make small changes to the lives of the Chinese people, especially the ones who are suffering and even spark incremental internal changes within the "system.´
It has been said that the best way to initiate change is from within. Will you speak out against human rights abuse, however small, even when a deal is hanging in the balance? This is a tricky path to tread, but if we are to be able to sleep at night, we must know the consequences of our decisions.