Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’s travail the other day at the hands of Chinese immigration authorities in Hongkong, without any doubt, is in retaliation for the case she and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario filed against China with the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in its occupation of the West Philippine Sea.
Morales was separated from her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren and detained in a holding area for hours, without any explanation on the cause of her detention or the fate of her family.
Alone in an immigration holding area, Morales had no idea if the rest of her family was also separated from each other and detained without any explanation as she was. Will she be arrested, charged, and imprisoned in China for God knows what Chinese law she has violated? Will her whole family be dragged with her? Those tense moments of being kept in the dark, wondering what is the worst that could be done to her, can lead one to mental anguish.
Any such speculations won’t be baseless. Immigration authorities do not treat non-citizens with the same rights as citizens. The most that one can hope for is that she is protected by international human rights law and that the foreign country recognizes said rights. But this is China, a country not exactly known for a sterling human rights record, whether for its occupied subjects, its national minorities, or even its own citizens.
For people who had been held by immigration, those tense hours of not knowing their fate, detained for a cause that they do not know, is the closest experience to torture that they could have. All the world’s immigration authorities of course do this. But this does not mean that it is a pleasant experience. Morales’s experience at the hands of Chinese immigration authorities is certainly no joke. It is as traumatic as any experience at detention one can get, no matter how short. I am speaking from experience.
For a country with the world’s biggest army, and the second highest in military expenditure, China’s treatment of a 77 year-old grandmother as a “security threat” is absolutely pathetic.
This goes to show that even the efforts of two individuals to challenge China and its leaders before the ICC has a significant effect on the superpower. No matter how China dismisses challenges to its absurd nine-dash claim over the WPS and the rest of the South China Sea, it continues to be concerned with international opinion on the legitimacy of its actions. China may have the force of arms, but it cannot dictate to the world to accept the excesses of its ambitions and the parameters of its imagined right of conquest.
This is why even the legal challenge of a 77 year-old grandmother has an effect on the world superpower. Despite its armor and sword, China can still be hurt by a senior woman with a sharp mind, a just cause, and a pen. ###