Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, an accused war criminal, has arrived in Beijing to attend a military parade celebrating the defeat of Japan—a country that China still accuses of not fully owning up to its own war crimes.
The International Criminal Court has accused Bashir of orchestrating violent campaigns in Darfur that left up to 400,000 people dead and over 2.5 million displaced. But because China is not a signatory to the treaty that established the organization, it is not obligated to act on ICC arrest warrants. Since the warrants were issued in 2009 and 2010, China has been the only country outside of Africa and the Middle East that Bashir has been able to travel to.
In China, Bashir was personally welcomed by president Xi Jinping. “China and Sudan are like two brothers that are also good friends and partners,” Xi said, telling Bashir, “You are an old friend of the Chinese people.”
No Western countries are sending their head of state to the event officially known as “Commemoration of 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War.”
The visit is fast becoming a point of diplomatic tension. On Aug. 31, Sudan foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour told Voice of America, ”China supported Sudan in its very dark days when Sudan was let down by the US.” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the next day, “Warrants for his arrest remain outstanding and we strongly support the ICC’s efforts to hold accountable those responsible for those acts. We oppose invitations, facilitation or support for travel by persons subject to outstanding ICC warrants.”
China has maintained close relations with Sudan since the 1990s, after Sudan became one of the first countries to diplomatically recognize China in the 1950s. Beijing’s support for Khartoum has ranged from backing its attempts to crush revolt in the south to building Bashir a new presidential palace and investing heavily in its oil industry. During Bashir’s visit this week the two also agreed to cooperate on space flight technology.
“It is reasonable and justified for China to invite president Bashir to attend the commemorative activities,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a press briefing. “China will accord him with due treatment during his stay in China.”
Asked about the irony of inviting a state leader accused of war crimes when so many similar atrocities took place during World War Two, Hua said that was “over thinking” things.