However unsavory, it might seem nothing special for an official from China to hand out a “World Harmony Award” to a former Chinese defense minister, General Chi Haotian — despite Chi’s record as operational commander of the Chinese military forces which on June 4, 1989 used gunfire and armored personnel carriers to crush China’s Tiananmen Square democratic uprising. For the Chinese regime, which continues to brutalize democratic dissidents and gloss over the horrors of 1989, handing out such a perverse award would qualify as business as usual.
Except the Chinese official who presented this “Harmony” award to Chi is, at least in theory, not working for the People’s Republic of China. Sha Zukang is a high-ranking official at the United Nations, where he serves as Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. That’s a senior post in which Sha is presumed to act and speak not for China, but for the UN — as he goes about duties which include spending plenty of American tax dollars contributed via Washington to the UN budget. Sha’s responsiblities include overseeing follow-ups to major UN conferences and summits, and a whole range of UN activities advertised as promoting development and — no, I’m not kidding — good governance.
Apparently Sha’s UN job was no bar to his presenting an award to China’s Chi Haotian. China’s state-owned and run international broadcasting service, China Radio International, brings us the scoop — complete with a photo of Chi, clutching the award trophy (“a crystal peace dove, symbolizing the U.N.’s core spirit of ‘harmony and peace’ “), next to a smiling Sha Zukang.
Sha presented the award on behalf of an outfit called the World Harmony Foundation, or WHF, which has a web site listing a head office in midtown Manhattan, near the UN’s headquarters; and one additional “representative office” in Zhejiang, China. The WHF, according to its web site, is dedicated to promoting the ideals and principles of the UN charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The WHF also boasts of having received accreditation and consultative status to the UN Environment Program’s Governing Council in 2005. The WHF web site includes a section on “Harmony Bells for Peace,” with the information that the WHF designed the UN Harmony Bell — their web page on harmony bells includes a photo of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan ringing the bell in 2005.
All this World Harmony/UN/China business reminded me so much of the style of Annan’s former close adviser, climate “godfather” of the Kyoto Treaty, Maurice Strong (resident in China since 2005, when he left the UN at the height of the Oil-for-Food scandal) that I took a sideways glance for a connection, googling “World Harmony Foundation” together with “Maurice Strong.” Up popped this account, from another foundation, the Global Restoration and Eco-Development Foundation (or GERDF), which at least at some point in recent years had the exact same Manhattan address as the World Harmony Foundation lists today. The GERDF web site describes Maurice Strong contributing a motto for that Harmony Bell of which the World Harmony Foundation is so proud: “Together we ring the Harmony Bell.”
Yes, and together Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang of the UN, and the World Harmony Foundation (with its UN connections), with their professed dedication to the UN charter, have just helped Chi Haotian, of Tiananmen infamy, celebrate … what was it? Chi’s contribution to world harmony? (For that matter, what, exactly, is this outfit called the World Harmony Foundation? The WHF web site has a section on “Our Sponsors,” which includes zero information — apart from a note that the page is being “updated”).
If the government of the People’s Republic of China wishes to confer awards in-house on its former military commanders, there may be little the democracies of the world can do. But when a high-ranking UN official, trailing UN credentials, steps in to present such an award, surely it’s time for the host and chief funder of the UN — the U.S. — to protest.
There is a bigger web here than bears exploring in a weekend blog post. But just to follow one more thread: Back in 1996, former President Bill Clinton, in his efforts to cozy up to Beijing, made the abysmal decision not just to entertain a visit by Chi Haotian to the U.S., but to welcome him with full military honors — including a 19-gun salute, a tour of several military bases and a nuclear laboratory, and a personal meeting (congressional protest at the time linked here). For China’s democratic dissidents, such fawning appeasement of the Beijing regime could only have been a wretchedly discouraging message. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has the ability to redress her husband’s folly. At the very least, she might raise the question of why — if the UN has even a trace of integrity — Sha Zukang, after presenting this “World Harmony” award, still has his job.