The DA received a lot of backlash when its leader Mmusi Maimane went on a “fact-finding mission” to Israel earlier this month. Maimane posing for a picture with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahou and the South African flag infuriated many – and understandably so.
Maimane’s actions could be interpreted as South Africa siding with Israel, an apartheid state. The South African government has increasingly been vocal over the years about its pro-Palestine stance.
Human rights abuses in any country should be condemned and fought. However, South Africans seem to be most affected by the Palestine-Israel conflict. This could be because of the religious connection to the region and the fact that South Africa was once an apartheid state which received weapons supplied by Israel.
If we’re going to look at human rights abuses in countries linked to South Africa, we have to share equal condemnation. One innocent life is not more precious or important than the other. If there is injustice and South Africa is in any way linked to that particular country, it should be condemned. Perhaps the extensive and constant media coverage about what Israel subjects Palestinians to is the reason South Africans are always vocal about it.
But let’s take a look at South Africa’s biggest trading partner: China. Most things in South Africa are imported from China and sold for cheap. This can be attributed to cheap labour as well as child labour, the latter being the most disturbing.
A news report published last year revealed how children under the age of 16 were used in factories in some parts of China to reduce costs. The report stated children were forced to work 28 days a month for more than 12 hours a day and were not paid until the end of the year. It also said the children were beaten if they misbehaved. This is child abuse.
There are many mosques, churches and temples in China. People are free to practice their faith as long as they’re not publicly preaching to anyone. But it’s slightly different in the northern Xinjiang region where most of the population are Muslim Uyghurs. The term “Uyghur” refers to the ethnic minority living in Xinjiang. Life is not always easy for them under the Chinese government. The number of passports issued to them to be able to perform the hajj is limited. Some Uyghurs apply over and over and wait for years to get passports issued to them.
In Xinjiang, Uyghur Muslims face other restrictions. Muslim students and members of the ruling Communist Party of China are forbidden from openly practising Islam or fasting during Ramadan. They face ethnic discrimination and severe religious repression all the time. The government sent more than 350 officials to Xinjiang on a three-year mission to monitor mosques and people’s religious activities.
Since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, there have been numerous human rights abuses. Not only is there cultural and religious suppression, but Tibetans face intense surveillance and security checkpoints daily. Peaceful protests are met with severe violence, with protesters facing imprisonment and torture. Some are even shot. Tibetans are detained for expressing their desire for freedom. Often relatives are not informed of the prisoners’ whereabouts. Children are also affected by the Chinese occupation and face human rights abuses.
This is a country that South Africa considers a close ally. Now, if we’re going to condemn political leaders for interacting with their Israeli counterparts, we should also condemn the government for bending over backwards for China. But perhaps we’re too busy enjoying the “fruits” of child labour to broaden our knowledge of – much less care about – human rights abuses in different parts of the world.
Originally published here.