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Imagine there’s no countries

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine, John Lennon

The Times editorial I am about to quote, like John Lennon’s much-loved song, begins with the word “Imagine”. It describes a little incident, seemingly unimportant to all but those most directly affected, that took in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. At least, Vanuatu calls itself a nation, and it has a flag and a seat at the UN and all the paraphernalia of a nation, but it seems to have decided that it no longer wishes to function as a separate state. A little incident that took place there four days ago gives a preview of what Lennon’s dream of a world where borders did not matter would really be like.

Imagine for a moment that last Friday a charter flight full of police officers from a foreign power landed at Heathrow. Picture those officers then driving to a series of addresses, identifying four British and two foreign citizens and then, declining to tell British authorities on what grounds they were taking this action, detaining them and forcing them on board the aircraft, which then took off. What might we call such behaviour?

This exact scenario was played out just before the weekend in the South Pacific republic of Vanuatu. Vanuatu might be the answer to a quiz question, but though it has a population the size of Hull it is also an independent sovereign country and a democracy. Nevertheless, last week the Chinese government sent officials to Vanuatu and arrested five men and one woman, all of Chinese ethnicity.

That the republic’s government was complicit in these arrests makes the position more and not less worrying. Before the Chinese police arrived it is reported that the six had been held without charge for several days on the premises of a Chinese company. Though the Chinese informed the government that their officers possessed Chinese arrest warrants, neither the islanders nor anyone else has been told what the charges actually are. In spite of this, local police assisted with the accompanying of the detained individuals to the China-bound aircraft.

Almost incredibly the internal affairs minister of Vanuatu has told the press that the reason why the six detainees did not appear before a Vanuatu judge was that they were not charged with any crime in the territory. Presumably if they had been then they would have had their day in court. As it is the minister has, in effect, connived at an abduction of his own citizens by a foreign power almost certainly in contravention of his country’s laws.

The South China Morning Post report on the same story is quite bold to make an explicit link to the protests in Hong Kong against the proposed bill allowing extradition to mainland China, given that the newspaper has itself been subject to pressure from Beijing.

28 comments to Imagine there’s no countries

  • staghounds

    Might still makes right when there’s no one bigger who cares to stop it. Bending others to do our will is a basic human trait.

    Put on some dirty clothes and hang out begging in public housing in your town and you’ll get the Vanuatu experience PDQ when the boss of that block comes and demands his cut.

    Also, wasn’t Vanuatu supposed to be flooded by global warming in like 1998?

  • Gavin Longmuir

    “…it is also an independent sovereign country …”

    And what exactly does that mean? Decades of peace (in much of the world) and a surfeit of lawyers (everywhere) may have persuaded the unwary that there is such a thing as “international law”. But as the recent treatment of Tommy Robinson has demonstrated, there is really no such thing even as “national law”. Law is strictly a matter of who can apply the most force.

    In a few times & places, the people who could apply the most force decided it was in their long-term best interest to create a level playing field. But that has happened only in a few times & places, and the playing field has generally soon been tilted once more to the benefit of the powerful. Standard practice is still that power comes out of the barrel of a gun. Or perhaps in the case of China vs Vanuatu, out of the checkbook.

    Is Her Majesty’s Government going to reconstitute the Falklands Task Force and dispatch them to the defense of Vanuatu? There was a time when the English government would declare war on Spain in response to something as minor as Jenkins’ Ear, torn off in a bar fight in Havana. But that was then. An independent sovereign country has to look at its realistic options and decide which hill it would rather not die on.

  • There was a time when the English government would declare war on Spain in response to something as minor as Jenkins’ Ear, torn off in a bar fight in Havana.

    Although the “War of Jenkins’ Ear” was surprisingly modern in that it was egged on by private actors in the form of the British South Sea Company who thought that a war with Spain would improve profits.

    Not seeing much difference between them in 1741 and Halliburton et al in Iraq circa 2003.

    Those who think themselves our masters have always attempted to usurp state power to acquire or sustain private riches, which is why it is so insidious and to be condemned when practised. It seems to me that the revolving door between Westminster / Whitehall and executive directorships in defence contractors / banking “consultancies” is just the modern version of a very old practice.

    The only way of getting rid of this sort of excess is a move to Swiss-style direct democracy, since the corruption of politicians through lobbying and other (more direct) forms of graft is eternal and insoluble while they remain.

    Not that I can imagine China adopting “Direct Democracy” (or indeed any genuine form of political representation) any time soon.

  • the reason why the six detainees did not appear before a Vanuatu judge was that they were not charged with any crime in the territory.

    Another demonstration of Hannah Arendt’s rule that the surest way to tell if someone’s basic rights have been taken is to ask if committing a crime would improve their position.

    If one of the six had had the sense to commit a crime then they’d have been in a Vanuatan jail, would have had a Vanuatan lawyer, and the Chinese might not have been able to take them without seeing a judge.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Has Vanuatu effectively sabotaged its citizenship-by-investment program by conniving in this event? Will anyone who had been considering paying a six-figure sum to acquire Vanuatuan nationality now really want to proceed, given that the status can be revoked so readily and without any specific reason being given, nor opportunity for appeal against the decision allowed?

    Those wanting to acquire a second citizenship for the purposes of easier travel (if their birth country’s passport offers only limited travel without first applying for visas) or safer travel (if their birth country’s passport makes them a target for militants) have an increasing number of countries which offer citizenship-by-investment programs to choose from, from the long-established St Kitts & Nevis program to the more recent Moldova program. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, Vanuatu has just done a ‘Gerald Ratner’ on its own offering.

  • George Atkisson

    The same thing happened in London. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/30/political-pressure-before-arrest-of-chinese-dissident-london

    The Chinese government pressured the police to arrest a Chinese dissident and survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre. His home was searched and his computers seized.

    The Chinese influence is in your own backyard, not just 1/2 a world away.

  • bobby b

    “That the republic’s government was complicit in these arrests makes the position more and not less worrying.”

    In one sense of this statement, I strongly disagree.

    The complicity of V’s government makes this a case of the failure of V’s government to serve its essential purposes. That’s an internal problem for one small country.

    Had that government not been complicit, this would have been an act of war. I would rate an actual invasion of another country by China as more worrisome.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Niall K: “… the Chinese might not have been able to take them without seeing a judge.”

    It would certainly have been an interesting test. Given that in Her Majesty’s realm, it was possible for Tommy Robinson to be arrested, tried, found guilty before an English judge, and jailed in a matter of mere hours for doing something which was objectionable to the powerful but clearly a non-crime, it would not be wise to expect any more independence from the Vanuatu judiciary.

    Even if one of the targets had managed to get himself jailed for some crime like jay-walking or shop-lifting, it would probably have taken only a few hours for the Chinese Government to have bought an extradition order from the Vanuatu Government. At least, that is what the comparison with modern English law would suggest.

  • Fred Z

    Calling Vanuatu a sovereign nation was playing Spielpolitik. We deluded ourselves for quite some time that this was OK, because we really did win the cold war and there was no real threat anywhere.

    But China is a new and strong player and Realpolitik is again the only game.

  • Fraser Orr

    In what sense is Vanuatu an independent nation? From a quick search the PRC provides aid to Vanuatu that amounts to roughly 25% of the government’s budget and the US an Australia provide similarly large amounts.

    Vanuatu is as much an independent nation as that 25 year old dude, jobless, playing video games living in his mommy’s basement is an adult.

    They might have the legal right to call themselves these things, but to all intents and purposes they really aren’t.

  • Myno

    Apologies to any- and everyone for attempting this…

    Imagine there’s no evil
    It isn’t hard to do
    No quirks of human nature
    And no self-lying too
    Imagine all the slaves
    Waking from this dream
    You, you may say I’m an a**hole
    Claiming I’m the evil one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And see the world for how it’s really run

  • Mr. Caligari

    Thats just 1 example.

    What about the Canadian businessman, who was arrested in Hong Kong? Or, in Germoney, a Vietnamese journalist?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The Chinese influence is in your own backyard, not just 1/2 a world away.”

    And how is this different from the European Arrest Warrant? Or basic extradition treaties?

    We certainly have reason to be suspicious of China’s standards of justice, but the idea that you can be arrested in one country for crimes committed in another is long-standing and widespread. If it was the USA wanting us to arrest a traitor like Ed Snowden who leaked thousands of classified documents revealing the government’s pervasive surveillance programme, don’t you think the UK would cooperate with it? Even though he had committed no crime here?

    “It would certainly have been an interesting test. Given that in Her Majesty’s realm, it was possible for Tommy Robinson to be arrested, tried, found guilty before an English judge, and jailed in a matter of mere hours for doing something which was objectionable to the powerful but clearly a non-crime, it would not be wise to expect any more independence from the Vanuatu judiciary.”

    So far as I know, his crime was nearly letting a bunch of child rapists escape justice scot-free by breaching rules designed to ensure they got a fair trial. Do you know different?

    ‘Illegal’ is not the same thing as ‘immoral’. People tend to judge what action they themselves consider most moral, and then assume without looking that that’s how the law works. But quite often the world doesn’t work how they think it does.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Here in Australia, we also have never ratified an extradition treaty with China. Both major parties have kept delaying it, because the Chinese version of justice is so different to ours. We also fear that having an opinion not in harmony with Beijing will be a crime.
    Those Communists know how to lose friends and adversely influence people, don’t they?

  • So far as I know, his crime was nearly letting a bunch of child rapists escape justice scot-free by breaching rules designed to ensure they got a fair trial. Do you know different? (Nullius in Verba, July 11, 2019 at 6:13 am)

    I know a bit more – and discuss it here. But I would agree it is no analogy to the Vanuatu case.

    For a true analogy, IIUC, foreign police must arrive in the UK and remove a UK national – and they must do so without an extradition warrant. AFAICS, the justly condemned and despised case of the Chinese Tiananmen survivor being detailed lest the visiting Chinese perpetrator-or-accomplice be embarrassed is not truly analogous since our Home Office’s guilt lies in its acting whereas Vanuatu is that (rarer) case where the government is guilty through not acting.

  • Jon

    Sorry to comment on here – does anyone check the reply email address listed in the contact field? Would love if someone could get back to me about the email I sent regarding Patrik Schumacher! Thanks, Jon.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “And how is this different from the European Arrest Warrant?”

    This.

  • llamas

    NiV wrote:

    “So far as I know, his crime was nearly letting a bunch of child rapists escape justice scot-free by breaching rules designed to ensure they got a fair trial. Do you know different?”

    – a reliable parroting of the party line. Note the carefully-parsed reversal, where Robinson is deemed guilty of nearly freeing child rapists – the amoral monster! – when in fact the accused had not been tried for, much less convicted of, anything. It’s a masterpiece of dialectic – he nearly let the presumed-innocent get off scot-free!

    What he actually did, was appear in public, outside a courtroom, and live-stream his presence. He did not breach any ‘reporting restrictions’ in the sense that he did not report any details of the trial then at hand, or of others which might follow. And the “rule” he did not breach, was not a rule of statute law, but a judge’s order, that was something-close to unique in the arena of trials of this kind, in that it prohibited reporting the identities of the accused.

    He was then, as described, arrested, tried, convicted and jailed in a matter of hours, a truly unique application of ‘justice’. Other reporters who do actually breach reporting restrictions find themselves feted in the press and hailed as heroes by the chatterati, and never suffer any consequences beyond a slap on the wrist – so long as their reporting is politically correct. Robinson, however, suffered all these consequences for committing the non-crime of appearing in public near the place a trial was taking place, and thus drawing attention to the mere fact that the trial was taking place. Secret, unreported trials – the very definition of a totalitarian state. And yet you brush off the targeted persecution of an individual citizen who drew attention to this as actually being a positive intervention in the interests of justice? Kafka is sitting wherever he is, laughing hysterically and saying ‘it was meant to be a novel – not an instruction manual!’

    llater,

    llamas

  • just a lurker

    Imagine there’s no countries

    Indeed. Many people before John Lennon dreamed the dream, and some made the dream a reality.

    This does not spark joy.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EN-WarringStatesAll260BCE.jpg

    This does spark joy!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Qin_Dynasty.png

  • Bell Curve

    That only sparks joy if the Qin dynasty is your idea of something good.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    llamas commented appropriately on NIV’s (mis)-representation of the Tommy Robinson case: “And yet you brush off the targeted persecution of an individual citizen who drew attention to this as actually being a positive intervention in the interests of justice?”

    NIV’s excusing the sudden dynamism in the normally lethargic English legal system is perhaps an example of a problem we all face unknowingly — it is very difficult for each of us to recognize our own tribalism.

    Patrick Crozier’s dissertation on Ulster showed the same issue. We can all agree that it was bad when the Chinese military fired on Chinese citizens at Tiananmen Square. But when Sandhurst-trained English officers ordered their UK troops to fire on UK citizens in Ulster — well, that was different.

    An American commentator some time ago observed that politics is just an extension of junior high school. When the popular kid does something outrageous, it is great & praiseworthy! When the unpopular kid does the same thing, it proves what an ass he is. As an example, compare the difference in the Political Class’s treatment of adult rape allegations against Bill Clinton versus their treatment of alleged teenage groping against Justice Kavanaugh.

    In an ideal world, we would hold everyone to the same standard. We might even be harsher on guys on “our side” when they fall short and let our side down. But our tribalism is strong — even (especially?) when we can’t recognize it within ourselves.

  • “Imagine there’s no John Lennon. It’s not hard to do.”

    — Mark Chapman

  • Nullius in Verba

    “– a reliable parroting of the party line.”

    You mean citing the law as written, widely understood, and written up in legal guides and manuals on journalism?

    “Note the carefully-parsed reversal, where Robinson is deemed guilty of nearly freeing child rapists – the amoral monster! – when in fact the accused had not been tried for, much less convicted of, anything. It’s a masterpiece of dialectic – he nearly let the presumed-innocent get off scot-free!”

    “Presumed innocent” isn’t the same as “innocent”. They were subsequently found guilty. However, they very nearly weren’t found guilty because of Tommy’s actions.

    Everyone has a right to a fair trial – even criminals! British law applies Blackstone’s Formulation in which we would rather let twenty guilty men go free than convict one innocent. So prejudicing a fair trial, in order not to wrongly convict the innocent, will often result in a verdict being rejected as unsafe, or rendered subject to appeal. It might require a retrial, or if a serious enough breach, might result in the accused being released should they judge that a fair trial has become impossible. Both because of the possibility of wrongly convicting the innocent, as well as the more likely danger of wrongly clearing the guilty, the courts take prejudicial contempt very seriously.

    In addition, the court had issued an order restricting reporting – and that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to decide for yourself what you think you ought to be able to report, or stuff that’s in the public domain, it means you can only say exactly what they say you can say. No editorialising. Such orders are standard in multi-part trials of this sort. And whether you agree with their reasons for doing so or not, when a court issues an order it expects it to be obeyed, or what’s the point? Thus, knowingly disregarding a court order is also taken very seriously. And courts have significant powers when it comes to contempt of court, including summary judgement.

    “And the “rule” he did not breach, was not a rule of statute law, but a judge’s order, that was something-close to unique in the arena of trials of this kind, in that it prohibited reporting the identities of the accused.”

    You mean, it’s not a breach of section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1984? That statute law?

    “He was then, as described, arrested, tried, convicted and jailed in a matter of hours, a truly unique application of ‘justice’.”

    It’s not a unique situation. It’s not even unusual. It doesn’t often come up, because most journalists covering court cases are well-trained in the serious dangers of ignoring court orders and other rules and are not so stupid as to take the chance. However, there are plenty of cases of people getting hauled up before the judge for contempt, and yes, they can do it in a matter of hours or even minutes.

    “Secret, unreported trials – the very definition of a totalitarian state.”

    And as a rule, the British state agrees, which is why the law allows for reporting to be *delayed* until after the linked trials are over, not prevented entirely. All Tommy had to do was wait, and then he could have reported away to his heart’s content.

    If Tommy wanted to complain about the issue of “secret” trials, he could have directed everyone’s attention to the Contempt of Court Act 1984, which is a public document published right out in the open, and which is perfectly candid about what they do and how it works. We know that the courts sometimes use these orders. We know exactly why they do so.

    Anyone who reports on the courts without knowing the rules is an idiot. Anyone who wilfully disregards a court order is an even bigger idiot. Anyone who wilfuly disregards such an order while under suspended sentence for breaching a previous order of the same type goes beyond idiocy into the realms of lunatic incredulity. And anyone who sets themselves up as a martyr for justice against a tyrannical state and then whines in astonished horror when that same tyrannical state throws him in jail obviously doesn’t believe their own propaganda. Have a bit of dignity about it! Paying the price for standing up to the tyrants is part of the ‘freedom fighter’ deal. It’s why they’re so admired. You don’t become a soldier for the glory and heroism, and then moan like a baby when you get shot at!

    “NIV’s excusing the sudden dynamism in the normally lethargic English legal system is perhaps an example of a problem we all face unknowingly — it is very difficult for each of us to recognize our own tribalism.”

    Judges are always very dynamic when it comes to enforcing their own orders! I recall hearing of one case where a young early-20s juror woke up late after a heavy night, and as the modern-day working youth tends to do, decided not to show up. The judge stopped the trial, then sent a copper round to bang on his door, arrest him, drag him into court, and then the judge jailed him for a week for contempt. Bed-to-jail in about 4 hours! They do not muck around!

    “But when Sandhurst-trained English officers ordered their UK troops to fire on UK citizens in Ulster — well, that was different.”

    Oh, yes. And when the British were helping the Americans with their ‘Extraordinary Rendition‘ programme, that was no doubt different too.

    There are plenty of cases of judicial injustice perpetrated around the world – countries like China are far worse for it, but Western countries are not exactly spotless, either. While I don’t think Tommy’s was such a case, I’ve no disagreement with the general observation that our countries do this sort of thing, too.

  • Paul Marks

    A useful reminder that individual freedom depends on the real existence of independent nations – when independence goes, then so does individual freedom. The sort of world that the “Woke” (the Social Justice Warriors – including many Corporate managers and so on) wish to create would have no national independence – policies would be “harmonised” – and it would have no individual freedom either.

    Do you want a Chinese (and Silicon Valley Cartel – and financial industry cartel) “Social Credit system” on a world wide scale? Where you have your life destroyed because you have the “wrong” political or cultural opinions? Well, in practice, that is what a “rules based international order” will mean – it will mean the rules of tyranny on a global scale, with no country really independent of this tyranny.

    It all sounds very nice and “liberal” when people talk of an “international community” or a “rules based international order” – but it really means no really independent countries and no individual freedom.

    “No, no, no Paul – you are being paranoid. In reality the establishment only want to destroy men from Luton with nasty working class accents” – think again, the establishment (the international establishment) actually wants to destroy anyone who expresses basic political or cultural dissent.

    Officials (sometimes from overseas) turn up with a warrant for some vague charges or vague charges – to take you off to face trial without a jury. Sounds very much the sort of thing that the European Union, and the British establishment, would love. And that the establishment “mainstream” media would celebrate.

    At the root of the problem (like most problems) is the education system – the schools and universities of the world, mostly, no longer teach support for national independence and individual freedom. In fact they try and teach people to hate and despise these things.

  • Mr Ed

    The then Prince of Liechtenstein faced down the Soviets in May 1945, refusing to hand over Vlasov Russians who had sought sanctuary in his then poor backwater. He reported said of it something like ‘You simply have to talk firmly to these people. It is the only language they understand.“. But he had principles and honour.

    Those Russians eventually got asylum in Argentina and safe passage. Pity they didn’t go to Chile, but still better than Siberia, if they’d even have made it that far alive.

  • better than Siberia, if they’d even have made it that far alive. (Mr Ed, July 11, 2019 at 9:28 pm)

    They wouldn’t. The mother of a friend of mine saw “The Odessa File” when it came out and was baffled to hear the following conversation from the row behind her as the lights came back on.

    Ah thought this film were about Odessa. Ah were in Odessa once. It were awful. We was ‘anding folks back to the Russians an’ they didn’t want to go. We could ‘ear them bein’ shot just off the dock.

    That must have been just before the 30-year rule resurfaced the issue. (Orwell wrote on it in 1945, noting that it “went almost uncovered in the UK press”).

    However one should for completeness note that at that moment in 1945 the Prince of Liechtenstein had no Lichtenstein former German prisoners who were now behind Stalin’s front lines that he wanted returned (Stalin made difficulties about British and American prisoners precisely to send a message) and no Japanese-occupied Manchuria they were eager for Stalin to attack so they did not have to.

  • Surellin

    I suppose I had never considered what a BORING world John Lennon was imagining.

  • DP

    Dear Miss Solent

    Imagine a referendum was held in a member state of the eu on withdrawing from the eu and that the result was ‘Leave’ and regain the independence of the people of that nation. The political establishment – elected and unelected government and the mainstream media – then sought to overturn the result and a ‘withdrawal agreement’ drafted by the eu which amounted to little more than a surrender treaty was thrice rejected by parliament, yet the prime minister of the day continued in office for well over three years after the referendum date, having failed to uphold the will of the people, and may still be in office.

    I can’t imagine that happening in this country, governed as we are by the Mother of Parliaments.

    DP

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