China-Israel ties alarm human rights advocates

Cooperating in commerce, military areas

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This newfound cooperation has raised concerns among human rights advocates.

Use of forces

Israel’s Border Police serve on the front lines of anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank and have been accused of using excessive force dispersing crowds. It denies the allegations.

The People’s Armed Police, or PAP, also has been accused of using excessive force, particularly in Tibet, a western region where the indigenous Buddhist population has pushed for independence.

Policing Tibet is a small part of a challenging mission. Believed to have as many as 1 million members, the PAP is responsible for asserting government control over a rapidly changing society beset by soaring numbers of protests, strikes and ethnic unrest by Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs on China’s Central Asian frontier.

Set up in the early 1980s to take over domestic security from the armed forces, the PAP has been derided for much of its history as undisciplined. The units proved unfit to handle the Tiananmen Square democracy demonstrations in 1989, forcing the Communist Party to call in the People’s Liberation Army.

In the past decade, the government has launched a full-force upgrade. It now has rapid-response, counterterrorism, anti-hijacking and other specialized units.

Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said PAP units engaged in “widespread abuses” in putting down a mass Tibetan uprising in 2008, using live ammunition against unarmed protesters, disappearances and other acts of disproportionate brutality.

He said the Israeli training “must include a human rights component, such as the principle of proportionate use of force.”

Mutual interests

Israeli officials rejected any notion of wrongdoing, saying that all cooperation was “transparent” and done with the full knowledge of the U.S. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a sensitive diplomatic issue.

The Chinese Embassy in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request for comment.

According to Israeli diplomats and analysts, the interests on both sides are clear. Israel has a strong interest in getting closer to a rising world power, while China is interested in Israeli military and technological know-how.

“I’m sure Israel does whatever it can to let the Chinese know that despite limitations on military transfers, Israel still has a strong will to attain good relations,” said Yoram Evron, a China expert at Haifa University and the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank.

He said he believes the warming ties were initiated by the Chinese, who were caught off guard by the Arab Spring protests convulsing the region in the past year and a half.

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