In the lead up to the Second World War, the elite British foreign policy establishment hoped to contain the rise of fascism with a policy of appeasement. History records how that worked out for us all. Nazi Germany‘s furious assault on humanity and civilisation tore Europe’s moral universe apart, leaving tens of millions dead. It was a disaster made all the more morally catastrophic by its foreseeability. Winston Churchill famously mocked the strategy of those early capitulationists: ‘’Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last.’’ In the end, the crocodile still gets its feed.
Distressingly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems to be employing a similar strategy of appeasement in the face of an increasingly aggressive, genocidal and tyrannical China. He has refused to be drawn into expressing anything approximating support for the people of Hong Kong as democratic protests there enter a fifth month. Recent footage coming out of the city shows armed riot police bashing protesting school children, slamming their skulls into the pavement. Against this imagery, Scott has called on the protesters to be ”peaceful’’ and urged a ”de-escalation of the situation.’’ Such fighting words!
As Chinese state media threaten military intervention and tanks mass at the border in Shenzen, he has rejected Richard Di Natale’s call that the government offer permanent shelter to the 18,839 Hong Kong residents of Australia, calling such a measure ”premature.” It is lucky that Hong-Kong Australians have nothing to fear. They can be comforted by the fact Morrison will issue a bland statement expressing ‘’concerns’’ when the People’s Liberation Army inevitably rolls into the city to slaughter their families and loved ones.
Scott’s response to the mounting humanitarian catastrophe in Xinjiang is perhaps even more damning. All the conditions for a coming genocide exist in Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party operates a vast Orwellian system of surveillance in the province, where at least one million Uyghur Muslims have been interred in concentration camps based on their ethnicity. There, they are forced into slave labour and subjected to physical and psychological torture. Recent reports suggest the Chinese state has begun imposing forced abortions and sterilizations on the Uyghur people in order to prevent future births within the group. This is a clear, concerted effort to eradicate an entire people from existence. These ”re-education” camps operated by the Chinese state could be transformed into death camps at any time. We could be staring down the barrel of a new Holocaust.
Asked about the ongoing persecution of the Uyghur Muslim people in an interview with Neil Mitchell, Scott would say: ”It’s not for us to go around and tell every country how they run their show … we don’t run China.” It isn’t surprising that Morrison would display such callous disregard for the human rights of vulnerable ethnic minorities given his track record presiding over refugee torture camps on Manus and Nauru. But such moral turpitude in the face of genocide surely represents a new low and the utter abrogation of Australia’s moral leadership in the world.
Ultimately, the outlines of Scott’s strategy (or lack thereof) confronting an increasingly authoritarian and bloodthirsty China are becoming clear. He will allow Hong Kong to be crushed and he will stay silent as blood flows through its streets. He will allow the Uyghur Muslim people of Xinjiang to be exterminated in a chilling genocide the likes of which the world has not seen in decades. He will keep his mouth shut through this all and kowtow to Beijing to ensure trade flows don’t let up at a time when we face recession (can’t risk the beautiful surplus!).
He hopes the crocodile will be satiated by such bloodletting. He hopes it won’t come for him, and us, next. He is deeply mistaken. Peace was not secured by the Munich Betrayal on the eve of the Second World War. It won’t be secured now by betraying the people of Hong Kong and Xinjiang in their most desperate hour. We can only hope Morrison wakes up before it is too late.