The Labour Goverment's justification for saying and doing nothing about the violent oppression of the Tibetan people has been about little more than naked commerce.
Prime Minister Helen Clark, while steadfastly refusing to condemn the Chinese regime, has been quick to argue that its better to ‘build bridges’ with the Stalinist bureaucrats (as opposed to apartheid South Africa when she argued it was better to 'isolate' the South African regime).
Similarly that’s the argument the Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, has been trotting out.
Parker said today that he believed ‘more good’ could be achieved by engaging China than by isolating or lecturing the Chinese.
Of course what neither Clark or Parker explain is just exactly how ‘engaging’ with the Chinese Stalinists will be beneficial to the Tibetan and, indeed, the Chinese people.
Decades of oppression of the Tibetan people will not suddenly be lifted because the likes of Clark and Parker drink a few glasses of wine with their Chinese government hosts and see a few tourist spots.
Tibet is the poorest region in China, with one-third living below the official poverty line. The country's recent rapid economic growth has simply left most Tibetans further behind. For example, when the first rail link between Tibet and China was completed two years ago, it brought not prosperity but more Han Chinese, part of the government's attempt to dilute the Tibetan character of the region. Ten per cent of Tibetan herders have been forced off their land and into unemployment in the cities.
It is no wonder, then, that Tibetans want to throw off Chinese rule.
But there is another reason why the Chinese regime keep the iron heel firmly down on Tibet- there are other dissatisfied minorities in China and the success of any Tibetan uprising would only encourage these minorities to challenge the Stalinist regime in Beijing.
Also, and what has not been mentioned in the New Zealand mainstream media, is that for over five years there has been a rising tide of demonstrations, protests and riots in China.
Inflation has been rising fast and is currently the highest in 12 years – meanwhile wage levels remain dismally low, often at ‘sweatshop’ levels ( Chinese workers don't enjoy the protection of trade unions).
It is much better to blame these protests on what the Chinese regime call the "Dalai clique" than on the failure of Chinese capitalism to meet people's economic needs or their desire for self-determination.
The likes of Clark and Parker, like other western representatives, are simply pursuing objectives that they perceive to be in the best economic interests of New Zealand capitalism.
They want a stable trading relationship with China, the emerging world superpower, regardless of what is happening in Tibet and in China itself.
Shakespeare wrote: ‘God has given you one face, and you make yourself another’.
It’s a quote that aptly applies to Prime Minister Clark, Mayor Bob Parker and the 94 other New Zealand business ‘leaders’ attending the signing of the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement later this month.