The Chinese government is not notable for anything resembling respecting human rights, but it’s particularly pronounced in their persecution of the members of the Falun Gong movement. What over here would be seen as a bunch of goofy but harmless people is seen by the Chinese government as a revolutionary movement that must have its members killed and their organs harvested.
And Cisco, apparently, was all “Hey, we can totally make a buck on this!” Here’s why they’re being dragged to court, and why an iPad factory blew up.
The Chinese Government Baked Up Some Oppression! And I Helped!
First up, Cisco are allegedly very, very bad people. The Human Rights Law Foundation has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Falun Gong alleging that Cisco customized their gear to help China built the “Golden Shield”, better known as the “Great Firewall”, to prevent the Chinese people from, say, learning just how awful their government actually is, or learning anything about dangerous concepts like “democracy” and “freedom of speech.”
The suit states that not only did the equipment help China censor the Internet, it was also designed to find and track individual people, thus making Falun Gong members easy targets for the Chinese police.
If this is true, and there have been indications since 2008 that Cisco has been trying to sell their gear to the Chinese government, then it means Cisco has helped the Chinese government track down, kidnap, and murder people who just wanted to be left alone to practice their beliefs, and whose biggest offense to the Chinese government was showing up in large numbers to peacefully protest how they were being treated, which the Chinese government has spent a decade responding to by torturing and killing any member it can find.
It’s worth explaining something here: the Chinese government is freaked out by any indication that its people are coming together in large groups over anything the Chinese government doesn’t approve of, even something like Falun Gong, which is basically your standard New Age “Chinese spiritualism” movement. This is a government terrified of revolution, and for excellent reason: if the government ever falls, a lot of people who have abused their power for years, sometimes decades, will, if they’re really lucky, have a trial and be sentenced to those gulags they used to run, or, if things go really wrong, be lynched in the street by the people they’ve been oppressing.
Oh, and ever since they decided they’d rather stop pretending they were Communists and start participating in the free market, there are offensive amounts of money to be had, and any sort of problem, even a peaceful one, might screw that up. This is oversimplifying a complex and horrible situation, but that’s the sitch in China in a nutshell.
What’s really disgusting is that this is no secret: Western media have been covering the persecution of Falun Gong members for more than a decade. So if the allegations are true, Cisco knowingly aided in gross violations of human rights the government they were selling to doesn’t even bother to cover up, for money. Don’t you just feel great about humanity right now?
- Cisco are allegedly very bad people helping even worse people do even worse things. Capitalism at work! (New York Times)
- The documents on this track as far back as 2002, by the way. (NextGov)
- Hey, speaking of China and gross civil rights violations, let’s take a quick look at what happened at Foxconn. You might remember Foxconn as the electronics factory service that builds lots of Apple’s crap, and happened to have a small PR problem about the workers killing themselves over low wages, terrible working conditions, and possible abuse. Foxconn claimed they’d cleaned up their act and made things safer for the employees…but not too safe, since there’s been a massive explosion at a Foxconn facility. What we know so far is limited thanks to the Chinese controlling the media on-site, but we do know that two workers have been killed, 16 have been injured…and the vast majority of reports on this took the angle of complaining about iPad delays. Really, guys? Really? (the actually humane coverage from CNET)
- China has a population of 1.37 billion: roughly one-sixth of the world’s population. (China Today)
- Last year, suicides in the industrial areas of South China more than doubled. Cheery place, China. (Business Week)