US Justice Department official calls China a ‘foreign adversary’ that lacks commitment to rule of law

Robert Delaney
US Justice Department official calls China a ‘foreign adversary’ that lacks commitment to rule of law

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called China a “foreign adversary”, described its recent arrests of some foreign citizens as a form of political retaliation and said that the country’s placement of ethnic Uygurs into camps showed that Beijing lacks modern judicial standards.

“As we seek to build bridges with foreign adversaries, it’s important for us to understand the differing visions that underlay their legal systems,” Rosenstein said at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, in a live-streamed discussion about “defending rule of law norms”.

“In China, for example, the Supreme Court urged government officials to resist Western-style judicial independence, deriding it as erroneous and mistaken,” Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein’s comments reflect positions taken by the Trump administration about the degree to which Beijing has become an adversary on multiple fronts – a departure from previous administrations, which have largely sought closer relations since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1979.

US President Donald Trump claimed in his first comprehensive national security strategy in December 2017 that China and Russia are “attempting to erode American security and prosperity” and that the two countries “want to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests”.

US Vice-President Pence steps up Trump administration attacks on China

In October, US Vice-President Mike Pence issued what some analysts called the harshest rebuke of China ever by a US administration, when he said that, among other geostrategic initiatives, Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan to reunify with the mainland and China’s loans to the embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro threatened American security.

The second-in-command of the Justice Department, Rosenstein – a frequent target of Trump’s criticism of the department’s special investigation into possible collusion between his election campaign and Russia in 2016 – is expected to step down from his position in a matter of weeks.

Still, he praised Trump for his recent selection of William Barr as his new attorney general and echoed administration concerns Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have warned China about, including reports of internment camps in China’s Xinjiang province.

“In Xinjiang, Chinese law allows the extrajudicial mass detention of citizens, the ethnic Uygurs. Today more than one million Uygurs and other minorities reportedly are detained in internment camps,” Rosenstein said.

UN reports China is holding 1 million Uygurs in ‘secret internment camps’

“They’re forced to renounce their culture and religion and they face political re-education. That’s today, in the modern era.”

China has come under increasing international pressure over its mass detention and enforced political education of up to one million ethnic Uygurs and other Muslims in the area. Beijing has defended the camps as “professional vocational training institutions” that focus on “the country’s common language, legal knowledge, vocational skills, along with de-extremisation education”.

Rosenstein, though, cited the camps as an example of Beijing’s failure as a responsive, reliable government. “Citizens of countries that operate that way are subjected to rule through law, not rule of law,” Rosenstein said. “The law is an instrument of state power, a mechanism for rulers to maintain control and quash dissent.”

Rosenstein also cited the case of Kevin and Julia Garratt, a married couple who were imprisoned in China in 2014 on spy charges shortly after Canadian authorities arrested a Chinese national in response to a US government request.

China appears to detain foreign citizens as a means of retaliating or inflicting political pressure on other countries.

About a month before the Garratts were detained, a Chinese national, Su Bin, was arrested in Canada on a warrant issued by the United States. Su was sentenced to 46 months in US federal prison after Canada extradited him to the US on espionage charges, according to a Justice Department announcement at the time.

Canadian Kevin Garratt is free, after two years in Chinese detention on spying charge

The Garratts “were accused of spying and threatened with execution”, Rosenstein said. “The husband did not meet with a lawyer for almost a year and was held for more than two years.

“Meanwhile, Su Bin … consented to his transport here, retained a lawyer of his choice and received all protections afforded a criminal defendant in our system.”

This article US Justice Department official calls China a ‘foreign adversary’ that lacks commitment to rule of law first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2019.