George Monbiot’s arrestblair.org campaign awarded me with a bounty of £2,420.89 this week for my attempted arrest of Tony Blair. This comes on the day Desmond Tutu refused to share a platform with Blair.
Milton Friedman has long believed Hong Kong to be the model success story of laissez-faire economics. In the eyes of the WTO, the ex-colony’s status as the world’s freest economy is an ideal for the rest of the world to aspire to. In reality, the ‘capital of capitalism’ is anything but non-interventionist and the city today should stand as a warning to libertarians and corporate defenders the world over.
Mind the gap Although the territory has seen a huge growth in the number of millionaire residents, the local census Gini Coefficient shows inequality to be at its highest level for 30 years. As it celebrates 15 years of Chinese rule, the UNDP states that the wealthiest 10 percent of the populace control more than a third of the city’s income, whilst the bottom 10 percent share only 2 percent. A meagre minimum hourly wage of US$3.5 was only introduced last May and, with little corporate regulation or competition controls, a small handful of rich tycoons and their conglomerates reign freely. It has resulted in Hong Kong having the worse inequality amongst all OECD members; a fact that should make it a poster-boy for the failures of ‘free trade’. Yet income disparity is only set to worsen as the aging population and low birth rate give rise to an ever-shrinking workforce.
Last Thursday, I attempted a citizen’s arrest of Tony Blair for crimes against peace as he was about to present a speech at Hong Kong University about faith. It seems particularly dubious for the ex-British Prime Minister to address the subject of religion, as he has done so much to enrage the Muslim world and thus set back religious tolerance by decades.
My confrontation with Blair came during the deadliest week of violence in Iraq since the US pull-out, and a day after the International Criminal Court prosecutor asked judges to hand down their first sentence to a fellow war-criminal, Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga. All current ICC investigations and prosecutions are related to African nations, yet Mr Blair’s status as an ex-Western leader does not exempt him from its founding Rome Statute, to which Britain is a signatory
Some will find the comparison absurd but there is little moral difference when the products of their respective leaderships were mass human rights violations against civilian populations. Blair has requested that people “move on” from the Iraq War yet, with documented civilian deaths now totalling at least 107,013, leading QC Michael Mansfield has confirmed that there now appears to be enough evidence to trigger an ICC investigation. Legally, the type of weaponry deployed in the war (depleted uranium and cluster bombs) can be described as ‘indiscriminate’, thus making him liable for mass civilian causalities.
Radio interview with Phil Whelan, Morning Brew – RTHK Radio 3, 18.6.12
Update 2: I am eligible for a share of the ArrestBlair.org ‘bounty’ offered to those who attempt a citizen’s arrest of Mr Blair. I will donate the sum – of around £2400 – to relevant charities (including the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza). The site was founded originally by British Guardian journalist and writer George Monbiot.
Update 1: The attempted arrest took place at around 5:50 Hong Kong time, 14/6/12. I approached Mr Blair within moments of his arrival on stage – I was prevented from waiting next to him for the police. I stated the following within a couple of metres or so in front of him…
Back in the mid-eighties, prompted by this news report, multi-millionaire Bob Geldof organised a global musical event called Live Aid to raise money for the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa. An accompanying festive single was released entitled “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in aid of Muslim Ethiopia. The world was transfixed and the crusade raised £150m.
However, in 1991, famine scholar Alex de Waal argued that the “humanitarian effort prolonged the war, and with it, human suffering.” Aid was routed via the communist military junta (the Derg), led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, who were also fighting a war in the north – a conflict that part caused the famine. The war was thereby extended by 6 years with Médecins Sans Frontières estimating that the aid may have led to as many deaths as there were lives saved.
During the years that followed, reforms changed how aid was distributed in crisis zones and there were also lasting changes in how such tragedies were covered by the news media. The BBC’s Adam Curtis noted how the complexity and grey areas surrounding the use of aid money was underreported. It was a story that did not conform to a simple, good vs. evil cold war narrative. After the equally complex Rwandan genocide in 1994, modern news effectively stopped analysing political struggles and instead reported only on their often bloody outcomes, without context.