Friday, April 21, 2006

The madness within

Sometimes people confuse me greatly. Recently it became known that Yahoo! Has been actively helping the Chinese government to persecute it's citizens who wish China to become more free and a democracy. I would have expected a huge outcry about this. Here you have a US company for profit helping a dictatorship oppress it's people. Of course Yahoo! Here just follows in line with a long range of companies through the ages who have supported dictators for a few bucks extra. But what has surprised me is how many people have jumped in to defend Yahoo! And especially the arguments used.

The most favoured argument seems to be that if you want to do business in a country you need to follow it's rules. This indeed is true. That however is not an argument that in any possible way absolves blame. The argument itself actually indicates that sometimes a company should not choose morals and common decency over financial gain. I wonder if Frans van Anraat (Dutch businessman who provided the base materials to Saddam Hussein used to murder his own people) will use the same defence and people will think this to be a solid defence? "Well, yes I know my actions caused a lot of deaths, but those where just the laws of the country and I wanted to do business".

Don't get me wrong, if businesses want to operate in China they should go for it. But operating a business and actively helping to round up activists are two different things. And if a dictatorship gives you no other option then to help them oppress their own population, perhaps it is time to pack up and go?

Other strange defences I've heard of people included that "perhaps these people where really criminals? How do we know?" and "If they had helped to arrest nazi's you would be cheering them". The first one must make any oppressive government very happy. When China has one of the worst human rights records around (mass executions of political dissidents and torture on a large scale), you want to bring in doubt that the people they arrest for wanting an democratic China without human rights violations might actually be real criminals? The other comment is just to silly for words. Yes, if somebody helps arrest really bad people who want to hurt others or who do hurt others of course that is a good thing. But that is not the issue here. If I say I don't like the colour of that green car it hardly is an argument to shut me up to say "but if it had been blue you would have liked the colour. So don't speak up!". My head can't get around such comments.

It is just a funny old world how people can start to justify a regime that tortures and murders it's own subjects and oppresses them, a regime that is systematically purging the Tibetan people from the face of the earth through slow genocide and social migrations, a regime that is nothing more then a common dictatorship can somehow be defended. All because of economic interests that may be interesting for large corporations, but irrelevant for an individual.

IRepress (cartoon regarding recent IT companies in China)

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