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PART 1: China’s Communist Leaders Are ‘Traffickers’ Selling Human Organs—Robert Destro on ‘Genocides’ of Uyghurs, Falun Gong

“The people you’re dealing with in China are human traffickers. … They’re committing genocide against their own people.”

In this two-part episode, I sit down with Robert Destro, former assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He is also a law professor at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.

On the eve of Human Rights Day, we discuss threats to human rights globally—from state-sanctioned organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghur Muslims in China to lockdowns of the unvaccinated in Germany to COVID-19 restrictions in the United States.

“You have to stand up against tyranny; otherwise, it will eat you alive.”

Jan Jekielek: Professor Robert Destro, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Robert Destro, Ph.D.: Well, thanks for having me.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, Bob, we’re on the eve here, as we premiere this episode of Human Rights Day. I’ve been looking at the human rights situation in the world for a long time. In the last few years, I think unarguably, it’s gone quite a bit downhill. Give us a state of human rights in the world today.

Mr. Destro: Well, it depends on how you look at it. The situation is pretty bad around the world, and we’ve got at least three genocides going on in China. You’ve got a genocide going on in Burma. You’ve got a genocide going on in Africa, in the Middle East. Those are just the big ticket items.

There [are] also lockdowns in Australia, Austria, Germany, and here in the United States. The problem is that we don’t have a really good language to describe the whole range of human rights problems. For those of us who are in the field of human rights, it’s a pretty challenging time.

Mr. Jekielek: This is great that you frame it this way, because I want to talk about both of these areas. One focuses more on persecution of marginalized groups. The other is more of this broader question of whole populations, societies.

Let’s start with China—at least three genocides. Actually, the Uyghur Tribunal is set to, I think by the time we premiere this, they will have made a judgment. So very briefly, give us a picture of that. I know most people will be more familiar with that, and then let’s get into the other ones.

Mr. Destro: Well, during my time in the State Department, I spent a lot of time working on questions like slave labor in Xinjiang, the human rights’ violations against the Uyghurs, against organ harvesting. The whole range of ways in which the CCP suppresses that whole community. They call them terrorists. Absolutely pervasive surveillance state.

The range of human rights violations ranges from snatching people off the street, putting them in a camp, and then making them work, to snatching them off the street, putting them in a camp, and harvesting their organs. It’s just mind-boggling, when you look at the scope and depth of the human rights depravity that we’ve got going on there.

Mr. Jekielek: There’s this element of population reduction through forced sterilization. People don’t often understand the dimensions that go into the designation of a term like genocide, and this would be one of them, right?

Mr. Destro: When you’re trying to get rid of an entire community, whether it’s a faith community, an ethnic community, you have forced population control, forced migration, the kinds of oppression that you see, forced labor.

All of them, when you look at them all taken together, there are statutory definitions of genocide that we don’t need to get into here. But the fact is that the world really understands what a genocide is. It’s understood around the world what it is. It’s just the policymakers hate to call it that because nobody quite knows what to do about it.

Mr. Jekielek: So many directions we can take right now, but Tibet, you don’t hear very much about these days. Maybe 10 years ago, you heard a lot about what was happening in Tibet. And frankly, a lot of similar things are happening to the Uyghur people today, but you don’t hear much about Tibet.

Mr. Destro: Well, you don’t hear much about Tibet because it’s a small community. The Chinese Communist Party has decided that the Tibetan Plateau is prime real estate for the military, for water, for all the natural resources that it has. The Tibetan diaspora is far flown, and they don’t get a lot of press. Unfortunately, the Western press doesn’t give you sustained coverage of what’s happened.

But what’s happened to the Tibetans is more or less what’s going to happen to the Uyghurs. There’s a lot more of them so it’s going to take longer. But there’s absolutely no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party wants to eliminate Tibetan culture, and that’s part of the definition of genocide.

Mr. Jekielek: What has happened to the Tibetan people exactly, because I suspect some people watching might not even know?

Mr. Destro: Well, there’s been population control. They make it difficult for children to learn the Tibetan language. They want to take over the training of Tibetan Buddhist monks. They want to control the succession of the Dalai Lama, the reincarnation.

The idea of a government bureaucracy—whether it’s Chinese, or German, or American—deciding that it’s going to be in charge of reincarnation is just laughable. But the fact is that’s what they want to do. They’ve said, “We’re in charge,” just like they’re now in charge of appointing Catholic bishops. Their view is that they get to control everything.

Mr. Jekielek: There’s this idea, when you think about genocide, you often think of the Holocaust—mass systematic killing of people, maybe millions of people. But genocide is more than that, just for the record.

Mr. Destro: Yes, it’s more than killing. It’s the systematic destruction of a community. The idea [that] you could have committed genocide just as effectively by taking the Jewish community of Europe and dispersing it all over the world, so they would no longer have an identity as the Jewish community.

That’s when you start seeing the discussion of Israel and the legitimacy of Israel. Israel is the Jewish community’s self-defense mechanism. This is the place where they can be together and defend themselves collectively and individually. The idea that you would question that for any community, it’s just not acceptable.

Mr. Jekielek: Let’s jump to the third genocide. Presumably, you’re talking about genocide of Falun Gong practitioners, which is different. It’s a faith community of practitioners, not an ethnic community, although those are also faith communities and ethnic communities.

Mr. Destro: But faith communities are not always ethnic communities. When you look at Christians, there’s a billion Christians, there’s a billion Muslims. There’s no question that the Falun Gong meets the definition of a religious community, at least under American law. The systematic attempts to wipe them out, to disperse them, to force them underground is every bit the same kind of a genocide as going after people.

You say, “Well, how can you compare killing somebody with forcing them underground?” We’re not talking about the impact on them. We’re talking about the intent of the perpetrator, and that’s something that often gets lost. We focus on the victim when we really need to be focusing on the perp.

Mr. Jekielek: Okay, you mentioned forced organ harvesting. There’s some evidence now in this Uyghur Tribunal that the Uyghur people are being used for this murder-for-organs industry in China. It began with the use of Falun Gong practitioners at scale from what we know.

Some of the estimates I’ve seen have been something like 60,000 to 100,000 transplants a year with no credible donor, right? No credible organ donation system, so probably mostly from Falun Gong, because it was the largest community. There is an element of killing, although it’s not extremely well documented.

Mr. Destro: It’s more documented than you would think. If you know what you’re looking for, you can find it. That’s the trick in any forensic investigation of any kind of a human rights or civil rights problem, so we can see it in the medical journals. We can see the Chinese doctors who were writing about all the advances they’ve made in organ transplantation. Well, where’d you get all the organs from? We have anecdotal evidence. We also have some publication evidence.

We also have other countries like Israel, for example, making or writing a law that says you have to prove the providence of the organ that you went out of the country to get. When we talk about organ harvesting, that’s human trafficking. It’s trafficking in organs. You’ve got sex trafficking, organ trafficking, labor trafficking. But then when you aim it at a specific community as a part of your intent to get rid of that community, then that’s what takes you off into the genocide.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, and you feel that’s well established here.

Mr. Destro: Let’s just put it this way, there’s a lot of evidence. Whether or not it’s been well established and who decides—that’s up in the air still.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, what is the evidence?

Mr. Destro: Well, we’re talking about the evidence of organ trafficking?

Mr. Jekielek: We’re talking about the evidence of this murder for organs industry, specifically having some intent to eliminate the Falun Gong community.

Mr. Destro: Well, let’s separate the two for a moment.

Mr. Jekielek: Okay.

Mr. Destro: It was probably 20 years ago, maybe a little bit longer, when a friend and colleague, Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon had spent some time in Europe, in Louvain, Belgium, and Louvain is one of the big transplant centers in Europe.

She used the phrase at the time, “organs of indeterminate origin.” I was like, “What did you say? What do you mean organs of indeterminate origins?” She says, “They knock people over the heads and they steal their kidneys.” This is what you’re talking about. And it happens not just in China, it happens in other places. So this question of you’re going to go get a new kidney or you’re going to go get a new liver, shouldn’t you have to explain where it’s coming from?

If you sold the whole body, the whole person alive, everybody said, “Oh, that’s slavery.” Well, if you sold the dead body, everybody would say, “Well, you’re selling parts.” Well, that’s exactly what’s happening. That’s organized crime in body parts. Then you add the question of are you targeting a community? Is it a part of a longer or a broader purpose to eliminate that community? That’s what takes you into crimes against humanity, and into genocide.

Mr. Jekielek: How does that work with respect to Falun Gong?

Mr. Destro: Well, with respect to the Falun Gong, the question is how do we get international decision-makers—the United States government, the Germans, Australians, whomever, and the Indians—how do we get people to take account of the fact that the people you’re dealing with in China are human traffickers, and that they’re committing genocide against their own people, because the Falun Gong are not an ethnic group.

They’re not like the Uyghurs, they’re not like the Tibetans. They are ordinary Chinese people who have been targeted because of their beliefs. If we did that here, everybody would be up in arms and rightly so. So this question of how do you get people’s attention on the outside to bring pressure on the Chinese government on the inside.

Mr. Jekielek: Actually, I’m remembering something you’ve said. You said that Falun Gong to the Chinese regime presents an existential threat of sorts, and they’re obsessed with eliminating it, for lack of a better term. As horrific as that sounds, what have you gleaned over the years as to why this reality exists?

Mr. Destro: Well this is something that during the course of my tenure in the State Department we were always very aware of who we were allowed to invite into the building and who we weren’t allowed to invite. So during the course of my tenure as assistant secretary, I was able to get permission to bring in the representative of the Central Tibetan Authority. That was a big deal for them and for us.

The idea of bringing in somebody from the Falun Gong, it would’ve enraged the Chinese Communist Party to do that. I wondered, “Well, why is that? Why do they consider them such a threat?” And so, as I did my own research and I tried to say, “Well, if I’m going to try and go to the secretary and get permission to get somebody in the building, how do I explain this to myself?”

It turned out that some of the people that I talked to were actually Falun Gong practitioners. They learned about Falun Gong practice from the Chinese government. It was back in the early ’90s. It was physical fitness, it was meditation. It was something that was considered to be getting you in touch with authentic Chinese culture.

Then, as I say, my own research showed me that toward the middle of ’96, ’97, the Ministry of State Security realized how many Falun Gong practitioners there are. And there were probably more than members of the Communist Party. In a totalitarian society like that, you can’t have a rival organization with a rival view of what China stands for, because this is a debate about China. What is China?

The Chinese Communist Party thinks about those things. A very good former, now unfortunately deceased, friend of mine was put on a panel by the Chinese Communist Party. He was a philosopher. What does it mean to be Chinese in the 21st century? This happened back in the late ’80s, early ’90s.

So this idea of what does it mean to be Chinese, obviously, it means not Falun Gong today. When you say existential threat, there’s a different vision of what China is than what the communist party sees.

Mr. Jekielek: So you mean the communist party sees the party always in the first position?

Mr. Destro: Yes. And that’s why certain people have described the communist party as basically, communism is a European virus that affected the Chinese body politic.

Mr. Jekielek: I’ve heard that as well. It’s basically a European import. It’s not Chinese.

Mr. Destro: No, it’s not Chinese.

Mr. Jekielek: That’s just interesting to think about.

Mr. Destro: In one respect, to use their own phrase, it’s Chinese with European characteristics.

Mr. Jekielek: Yes, to flip the Chinese characteristics around it.

Mr. Destro: Right.

Mr. Jekielek: I can’t help but think right now, Mao unequivocally, with the support of this ideology, is the number one mass murderer in the world, right?

Mr. Destro: Right.

Mr. Jekielek: That’s what a lot of people think of when it comes to China, is Mao’s legacy.

Mr. Destro: When you just look at the numbers, it’s astonishing. Stalin was no slouch either, nor was Hitler. But like I say, you can’t compare the communities because what happened to each one of them is so horrific that there’s no comparison. But if you compare the mindset of the perpetrators, they’re mass murderers, genocidal mass murderers who would stop at nothing to get their way.

That doesn’t just happen there. That’s why you have the Burmese generals, you have what’s going on in Nigeria, you have ISIS. It’s all the same from the perpetrator’s perspective. It’s the will to power and a complete disregard for the humanity of your victim.

Mr. Jekielek: This is an interesting question. I just want to touch on this a little bit because under communism, from what I understand from a bunch of research that some of my fellows on the Chinese side of The Epoch Times have done, once you become “enemy of the state” in China, your physical person, the dignity of the physical person is completely removed.

So basically, why not use you for body parts? Why not use you in whatever way? It’s just physical material now. That concept blows my mind. I don’t know quite what to think about it.

Mr. Destro: Well, I don’t know what to think about it either, except that the first stage of a genocide is always cutting the other out of the fold. So if you look, the Genocide Watch has done a very nice job on setting out the stages of genocide. The first one is to identify the other as the outsider, and then where it goes from there. It may be cultural. I don’t know.

We see that happening in many other places. In our own history, we’ve defined African Americans as outsiders, immigrants as outsiders. We all do it because human beings are by nature, familial and tribal and that’s part of humanity. The whole point of having an organized society is so that you get away from that.

Mr. Jekielek: Having something like this, that people can lose their human dignity by association with a group or simply by state decree. What do you think about that from a human rights perspective?

Mr. Destro: Well, the key phrase you use is human dignity. Now, you don’t get your dignity from the state. The state, this is part of the American concept of state, is that we give up a certain degree of our autonomy and our liberty for the common protection of the state. But we get our dignity from God.

We get it as a part of our human nature. That’s the human side of human rights that doesn’t get talked about all that often, but the state cannot take your human dignity away. The state can use force and kill you, or beat you up, or imprison you, but it can’t take your dignity away.

Mr. Jekielek: But it can pretend to do so.

Mr. Destro: It claims the right to do so, but because the individual’s not important. The collective is important.

Mr. Jekielek: Why did it take until the Trump administration under your jurisdiction, and then later, also under the Biden administration, for people involved in this persecution of Falun Gong practitioners to actually be sanctioned?

Mr. Destro: Well, the sanctions process is a long end and because there are really legal consequences, you have to give people due process. You even have to give murderers due process.

Mr. Jekielek: But we’re talking 20 years.

Mr. Destro: Right. Well part of that, and again, this gets into another thing we’ve discussed. But part of that is the perception that human rights is somehow the icing and realpolitik is the cake. Or trade is the cake, and human rights is the icing. When the reality is that we’re dealing with human relationships across the board, whether they’re trade relationships, economic, military. It’s all about humans relating to humans.

So the idea that you could divorce human rights—we can set it aside for the time being while we deal with a pandemic, or while we deal with trade—is ludicrous. Because if you know that the person on the other side of the table doesn’t even consider you to be a human being, then how can you have a contract with them?

You just can’t. One of the most important human rights laws in this country was the Civil Rights Act of 1871 that said that African Americans had exactly the same contract rights as white people do, because contract is private law. Only people who were equal can make enforceable contracts.

Look at how the Chinese Communist Party dealt with the contract about Hong Kong. They didn’t consider themselves to be making contracts with equals. They considered themselves to be making a contract with an invader. When the invader was gone, so was the contract.

Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. Well, this is obviously a foundational question, what you’re discussing here right now. Let’s talk about the Olympics, right?

Mr. Destro: Right.

Mr. Jekielek: A diplomatic boycott has been announced effectively here in the US. I think the UK is planning to follow suit. That’s what it looks like, anyway. Some other countries as well, possibly. At the same time, there’s an Olympics happening, as we speak.

I’ve said this on record. To me, it feels worse than the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, because we actually know what China’s doing—one for sure, you know, three genocides. And we’re going to have an Olympic games there. Even Nazi Germany, we didn’t even know exactly what the German Nazis’ intentions were. What do you think about this?

Mr. Destro: Well, I think it’s window dressing, to be honest with you. I think that you need to let young people get together and do their sports. That we do because we celebrate people’s expertise, bow and arrow, or hunting, or tennis. All these things are wonderful, skiing. It’s amazing what people do. This is part of that human creative spirit.

The mistake I think we’ve made over time is to allow governments to “sponsor” the Olympics. When they become a national spectacle, they become political and they’re not sports anymore. I’ve never been a fan of not letting the athletes participate.

What I’m more concerned about is setting aside … we know what’s going on in Xinjiang, for example. We know what’s going on in Tibet, but we’re going to import solar panels made by slave labor in Xinjiang? We have to put our money where our mouth is. I say that deliberately with the emphasis on money because again, if I learned anything in the State Department, it’s follow the money.

The fact that you’re not going to take a suite in the hotel in Beijing is not the money we’re talking about. The money we’re talking about is the money that goes to big companies that extract the ore and the minerals, and then process them using slave labor. That’s the money we’re talking about.

That’s why you can raise questions about, as Congress did in the infrastructure build was, “Well, give us a report on how much carbon are you burning to build a solar panel? How much slave labor is there in that supply chain?” I will guarantee you that’s going to be completely downplayed because that’s where the money is.

Mr. Jekielek: Where the money is, that’s where you’re not allowed to look?

Mr. Destro: That’s where you’re not supposed to look because that then blows up the Green New Deal. The reality is based on money, it’s a Red New Deal because China controls 95 percent of the solar panel market. So all that money goes to China.

American law currently forbids the importation of anything that’s made with slave labor. Are we going to enforce that rule or not? If we’re not going to enforce it, then don’t tell me about diplomatic pressure on China. It’s complete window dressing at that point.

Mr. Jekielek: Well, you’re talking about something much broader here. There’s so many of these financial connections. How many Western companies were involved in developing the surveillance state in Xinjiang again, and frankly throughout?

This has been something that’s been in development for decades. There were US companies involved in development of this Great Firewall that keeps most Chinese outside of the global information architecture.

Mr. Destro: Well, but you’re not supposed to notice that. You recall from a few years ago when they talked about blood diamonds, that was a catchy phrase. Well, what phrase do you use for solar panels?

Mr. Jekielek: Blood silicon.

Mr. Destro: It could be blood silicon, I don’t know, I just don’t know what you do. But the reality is that in this country, we have accepted the proposition that products are not to be made in environments where you discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or anything else.

We will hold those perpetrators accountable, either by money, by firing them, by doing whatever, right? Why can’t we do that in the international sphere too? You can’t set … In this country, we haven’t divided business and human rights. Why are we doing it with respect to China?

Mr. Jekielek: Well, why? You tell me.

Mr. Destro: Well, because there’s too much money involved. There’s a lot of corruption there. Look at LeBron James. He and I grew up in the same hometown, and he refuses to acknowledge … He’s so focused on his basketball that he’s not focusing on the human rights things that he says he’s so concerned about. It’s either money or it’s … I don’t know.

Mr. Jekielek: This makes me think of this broader question. It’s only really meaningful when it costs you something.

Mr. Destro: Exactly.

Mr. Jekielek: Right?

Mr. Destro: Exactly.

Mr. Jekielek: That’s interesting.

Mr. Destro: It is. It’s also true that some of this stuff is so enormous that it’s hard to get your head around what we’re talking about. That’s why there’s this narrative out there that why is it, for example, that China has an exemption on its carbon emissions until 2050, 2060 so that the rest of the world can pollute China?

And then virtue signal that we’re all putting solar panels on our roofs. What about the Tibetan Plateau? There’re five major world rivers in the downstream countries—India, Vietnam, Cambodia. They’re all really worried the Chinese are going to shut off the water.

Mr. Jekielek: That’s a lot of leverage.

Mr. Destro: That’s a lot of leverage and it’s already starting. The next big commodity that people are going to fight over is water. We see in our own West the fights over water. When you get into international space with armies, that’s serious business we’re talking about. So this idea that you can somehow separate business and human rights, you just can’t.

Mr. Jekielek: You raised this other question of offshoring the things you don’t want to be responsible for.

Mr. Destro: Oh, yes. We see that here in the United States. Where does most of California’s electric power come from? Not generated in California. The pollution is done outside. And in China, part of the reason why you can buy cheap stuff from China is that the cost of pollution is borne by the people of China. It’s got the most polluted air, the most polluted water. And we get to take advantage of that?

Don’t talk to me about human rights. If you’re talking about the right to a clean environment, then maybe I should have to pay more. That’s implicitly one of the questions in the whole tariff question—do Chinese have an advantage? Well, I saw an editorial in the New York Times, “Well, we all have to pay for it.” Well, no pain, no gain. I should have to pay for it.

If the choice is do I get a discount because a slave made the Christmas tree bulbs? That’s a no-brainer. Most Americans would say, “Take it. I’m not interested.” And the ones that are interested, nonetheless, don’t talk to me about human rights then.

Mr. Jekielek: I think the cynical people doing these things say, “Well, the Americans say they want that, but they really don’t so we’ll keep that hidden from them.”

Mr. Destro: Yes, but that’s transparency. It would be a lot better if we just said, “We’re going to impose an offsetting tariff for the environmental degradation you do,” because our companies are not allowed to pollute. Their companies are. So in effect, aren’t we accessories, both before and after the fact of that crime? Of course, we are.

But those supply chains, everybody knows what a supply chain is now. What we need to do is be looking just like you would say, blood diamonds. Well, there’s blood cobalt, there’s blood silicon, there’s all that. People who are serious about human rights need to take those supply chains very seriously.

Mr. Jekielek: But you’re saying human rights, to go back to your analogy, are the cake?

Mr. Destro: Yes, they’re like the yeast in the bread or the flour. It’s part humans—we consume that which other people make. Even Marx said that capital is congealed labor. So what I do, when you do this interview and then you edit, it’s my background and your expertise in editing. And together, we produce a product. That’s human ingenuity.

The same thing is true with a widget or a solar panel. It’s not about panels. It’s not about cobalt. It’s about the people who make it, and we rely on each other. Do you really want to rely on somebody who’s stealing somebody’s liver? Really, it’s almost a stupid question to ask.

Mr. Jekielek: Yes. Well, it just makes me think we’re not in a very good state of human rights.

Mr. Destro: No, we’re not. That’s the piece where I think we’ve forgotten the human part of human rights. We’re very focused on the rights parts—speech, sex, right to free trial—all those really important things. But we value the right to free speech and the right to freedom of association because that’s what people do. We can’t communicate with one another.

We know that a baby will die if it’s abandoned, so that human touch is really important because we’re human. If we were some kind of a silicon borg, then we might look at rights in a different way, but we are who we are. And that’s why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was such an important development.

Mr. Jekielek: This makes me think of the theme that the UN has laid out for this year’s human rights’ state, which is article one of the UDHR. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

You mentioned earlier that this idea that rights ultimately have to come from something transcendent, from God, as opposed to from … Well, to me, it’s not clear actually, in the UN declaration, where those rights actually come from.

Mr. Destro: Well, remember, any kind of a UN document is going to be a consensus document. There are certain things you just don’t say because you’re not going to get agreement. There were lots of disagreements going into the UDHR. The fact that they actually got it through is a miracle all by itself.

But the idea that we’re born equal in dignity is like, “Well, where does that dignity come from?” You don’t have to be a believer to take the position that there’s something special about human nature. That we’re all equal in dignity and the same thing is with rights. We’re all equal in our dignity and the rights that we have, basically, are the ways in which we operationalize our dignity.

So this question of equality, there’s a big debate today about equality. But the way our Constitution deals with it is equality of protection and that’s what the UDHR says. It’s equality of protection, not some kind of an abstract notion of equalization.

Mr. Jekielek: Interesting. What do you make of statements … we just spoke about this idea that the violations of human rights are everywhere. They’re here, they’re in China, everywhere.

You’ll have someone like, for example, Ray Dalio on the record being challenged. Look at all these violations in China, and his response roughly speaking is, “Well, the US has its own problems too, so let’s not talk about that.”

Mr. Destro: Well, there’s a little bit of hypocrisy there. When I say that, I mean that you want to talk about it here. Well, why can’t we talk about it there? It’s either we’re going to talk about it, or we’re not going to talk about it, but you can’t talk about it selectively. The reason people talk about it here is because we actually have a place we can go to complain about it. We can complain in the media. We can complain in the courts.

The way the Constitution is framed, they divided up the authority so we always have somebody to go complain to. That’s what the right to petition for redress of grievances is. So the only time you don’t complain is when you think it’s not worth your time. And what he’s implicitly conceding is, “Well, don’t waste your breath. The Chinese aren’t going to do anything.” But he’ll complain here because we have mechanisms here, and that’s why this place is different than that place.

Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. So you made some suggestions already about how to address China and frankly, this would apply to other countries as well.

Mr. Destro: Completely, yes. Not just China.

Mr. Jekielek: You’ve suggested some sort of tariff, for example, on the pollution, that’s an example. But in our current situation, there’re these deep, financial ties with China into the whole, international monetary system and certainly, the US as a center of that. You’re now in a situation where you can be a decision maker. You’re not faced with the bureaucracy that you were in the State Department.

What is it that you do to try to somehow either hold China accountable or just simply create a better situation for the human rights of its people, in the context of that being a value of this country?

Mr. Destro: The connection between business, and by business I’m speaking broadly now—from extraction, food production and banking—so that’s the whole gamut. That’s really where the action is in human rights, is—governments will react when businesses react. In Germany, Hitler couldn’t have pulled off any of what he did without the private sector. The German bureaucracy didn’t manufacture Zyklon B gas. That was done by IG Farben.

This question of business and human rights, when you look at who was held accountable, that’s what the Nuremberg Codes and trials were all about. Holding everybody accountable who participated.

Mr. Jekielek: Right now, there’s a lot of people not being held to account. Then there’s even questions about who would be doing the holding to account, and whether they have the moral right to do that.

Mr. Destro: Well, as soon as you deny that we have the moral right to ask the questions, you’ve thrown human rights out the window. There was this sense after World War II that international organizations, these multinational organizations would be the way to hold people accountable.

Like every other human institution, however, they’re subject to being corrupted. And that’s what we see in many of them. When you look at the debate over the UN Human Rights Council, who are the members of the council? Iran, China. You think, “Is this some kind of a joke?” Because then you get into these questions of moral equivalence and well, you do it, and we do it.

At the end, it completely ignores the moral accountability that’s at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the concern I have about companies that are participating in the creation of the surveillance state. It’s like they know exactly what the technology’s going to be used for, and they’re not adverse to using it themselves. This was the creation of the Great Firewall of China. My problem is the Great Firewall of China beginning to envelop us.

 

[Part 2 preview]

Mr. Jekielek: Coming up on American Thought Leaders.

Mr. Destro: If you allow people to say, “Oh, declaring an emergency means that rights don’t apply,” then there’s going to be lots of emergencies.

Mr. Jekielek: With the rise of big tech censorship, and lockdowns of the unvaccinated, are the seeds of China’s internet firewall and Orwellian social credit system now spreading to the West?

Mr. Destro: As soon as you can use pejoratives for people, whether you call it anti-vaxxer, or anti-science, or racist, or whatever you want to call it, that’s the road to tyranny.

Mr. Jekielek: In part two of my interview with Professor Robert Destro, we discussed the state of human rights in the United States and the rest of the Western world. Are there ever moral grounds for suspending human rights?

Mr. Destro: You have to stand up against tyranny, otherwise, it will eat you alive.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

 

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