Human Rights

Don’t Be Afraid To Listen

  “Upon my word, I think the truth is the hardest missile one can be pelted with.” — George Eliot (Middlemarch) Oxford and Cambridge Universities have an awful lot in common.  And last week was no exception.  By inviting polarising political figures from the left and the right – George Galloway and Marine Le Pen, respectively – both institutions reaffirmed what is at once perhaps the most sacred and the most imperilled of all our values: the freedom of speech. Le Pen was shuffled past protesters into the Cambridge Union last Tuesday – an organisation that prides itself on being a forum for all kinds of discussion and debate – to deliver a lengthy diatribe about the EU’s dilution of national identity.  The patina of xenophilia and inclusiveness that she wanted to solidify for the audience was derided and scoured away once the floor was opened to questioning.  In short, her politics …

Manufacturing injustice

As Apple’s website displayed a poignant tribute to the man who made technology beautiful, very few of us spared a thought for those who made his dreams a reality: people like Wang Ling, Li Rongying and Lu Xin.  They are just three of 23 workers at Foxconn, Apple’s Chinese manufacturer, who have committed suicide since 2010.  Systemic abuse of workers’ employment and, dare I say it, human rights have been obfuscated by the lure of the dancing pixels – and you and I are part of the reason why. While we wait for higher resolution, the workers seem to be planning a revolution. Only last week, between three and four thousand underpaid and underappreciated Foxconn workers staged a walkout at the Zhengzhou plant.  A few weeks earlier, a protest at the Taiyuan factory descended into the mother of all broils, leaving 40 people in need of medical treatment. This hasn’t …

Will the real Aung San Suu Kyi please stand up?

When Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her landmark acceptance speech after being awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, she made a plea on behalf of victims of persecution worldwide: “Wherever suffering is ignored,” she observed with characteristically understated defiance in her voice, “there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages”.  How right she was.  How different, though, from her non-committal response last week to whether Rohingya demands for justice in Myanmar should be satisfied: “I don’t know”.  Was it pusillanimity, hypocrisy or just a slip of the tongue? Whatever her justification, for the 800,000 Rohingya Muslims who have lived in Myanmar for centuries, “I don’t know” simply isn’t good enough.  Imagine being born country-less, with no state, no police force, no institution to represent you.  Imagine being marginalised, ostracised and ignored.  Imagine being incarcerated in your village, with no way of escape, no hope …