OPINION: Google Genocide in China?

Lew Olowski | Attorney

Google is custom-building a censorship engine for the communist Chinese government. That government is now committing genocide against 15 million people: an ethnic minority known as the Uighurs. China is herding them into concentration campsdisappearing their children, and quartering thought police into Uighur homes to purge their culture, language, and religion. In all likelihood, Google’s censorship engine will help China execute the genocide by suppressing information about it from Chinese internet users.

Google’s employees have already helped the Chinese communists do this in the past. Google’s prior censorship engine facilitated China’s coverups of religious oppression, mass murder, and other human rights violations. Google censored search results about the extermination campaign against the Falun Gong religious movement and about the Tiananmen massacre of student protesters, and otherwise violated people’s freedom of conscience by excluding taboo information from search results.

Today, the Chinese government is more censorious than ever before. In recent years, for example, China has even censored “Grass Mud Horse” and Winnie The Pooh, simply because the former sounds like a Chinese curse word and the latter looks like the Chinese president. (Cao Ni Ma, Xi Jinping.) It’s implausible that Google’s censorship engine will allow information about the genocide to reach Chinese internet users.

The scale of this genocide is massive. So far, about one million Uighurs have been imprisoned into “reeducation” camps. About 1.1 million Chinese secret police have been sent into Uighur homes to coerce their adoption of the Chinese government’s political and cultural mandates. Chinese authorities have labeled Uighur homes with QR codes and stationed themselves literally everywhere. There’s no telling what China will do next.

Lawyers may quibble over whether China’s treatment of the Uighurs can yet be called a “genocide” versus mere “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing.” That question hinges on whether China eventually intends the Uighurs’ physical destruction. But if even 0.1 percent of the Uighurs detained in concentration camps have died in custody, it would equal the bodycount of some previous genocide prosecutions. And, of course, we can’t yet learn the full scale of China’s apparent genocide against the Uighurs specifically because of China’s control over the flow of information in that country — a project in which Google will soon be complicit. Neither Google nor China deserves the benefit of the doubt.

China purports to merely desire the Uighurs’ assimilation, not destruction. Yet during the Holocaust, too, Nazi Germany executed two simultaneous genocidal missions: the physical extermination of the Jews and the cultural extermination of other groups. The Nazi vision for Poland, for example, was to annihilate Polish culture and transform the Poles into a subservient labor class. China’s desire to cleanse the Uighurs of their own culture is no excuse.

Granted, American political discourse is tainted with Holocaust analogies about everything from gun control to border security. But comparing genocide in Germany to genocide in China isn’t an analogy: it’s an apples to apples comparison of one genocide to another.

Of course, Google is a natural partner for totalitarian China. Look at its corporate culture. Google terminates employees for wrongthink. It awards them for “Googleyness” when they snitch on their coworkers. Google censors your speech. Google apparently rigged its search results in the 2016 U.S. election and brainstormed doing so again in 2020. Nobody should be surprised that Google’s employees are handmaidens to dictatorship.

But the rest of us don’t have to follow. Here’s what we can do instead.

First, don’t be Google. Seek alternatives to doing business with China. Follow the example set by the worldwide boycott of apartheid South Africa 30 years ago: Americans refused to participate in trade with South Africa, knowing that this would perpetuate the inhumane oppression of black South Africans. Today, we’re witnessing a genocide against an ethnic group that China could soon eliminate from the face of the Earth. Treat “Made In China” or “Powered By Google” as a warning label.

Second, advocate an adversarial U.S. policy toward China. Call your representatives. If the Chinese government wants to act like a global pariah, then the U.S. government should treat it like one.

We should absolutely re-commit to the armed defense of Taiwan, a de-facto independent island under constant threat from Chinese aggression. We should reverse China’s recent annexation of the Spratly islands, through which China threatens its neighbors in the Philippines and Vietnam, among other Southeast Asian countries. And we should curtail free trade with China to the fullest extent of the law, whether under WTO rules or other powers.

It goes without saying, too, that China should either admit to its crimes or permit unfettered access by foreign observers to its concentration camps and, in particular, ethnic-minority regions as a whole. A United Nations Security Council resolution should be drafted to that effect, with language treating the Chinese government’s opposition as an admission of guilt.

We can disagree on the best response to China. But let’s all agree to one principle that Google discarded long ago: don’t be evil.

Lew Olowski is an attorney in Maryland and formerly a clerk to Radovan Karadzic, president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Lew served under Peter Robinson, who is among the world’s premiere international criminal trial lawyers litigating war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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