As Western powers stepped up military actions against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, China’s official TV network CCTV has aired a documentary praising the dictator to Chinese audiences.
Titled “Maverick Gadhafi,” the biographical piece ran more than two minutes on CCTV 4, the network’s international channel, on Sunday while China’s official newspapers slammed the missile and air strikes by U.S., British and French forces as a violation of international rules and courting new turmoil in the Middle East.
The CCTV said that “With his independent characteristic trait, Gadhafi has made Libya attract more global attention than other African countries.”
It portrayed the Libyan leader as “leading a frugal life, who prefers mineral water and camel milk to any other drinks; a Bedouin tent to luxury residence; and riding a camel to a limousine.”
The air strikes targeting Libyan air defense systems to impose a no-fly zone came after the UN Security Council passed a resolution last Thursday authorizing the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians as Gadhafi’s forces appeared on the verge of crushing a month-long rebellion.
China abstained in the Security Council vote, although as a veto-wielding member, Beijing could have blocked the resolution.
While lauding Gadhafi, CCTV in separate reports called the Western powers involved in the Libyan strikes “aggressors,” saying they were harming Libyan civilians through the military action.
“I have seen similar reports on other China media outlets, painting Gadhafi as a national hero. These reminded me how Chinese media had depicted [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein before,” said Sun Wenguang, a retired professor of Shandong University, based in eastern China’s Jinan city.
“Calling these dictators national heroes or liberators of the people revealed that for a long time, the Chinese Communist Party has viewed them the same way,” Sun said.
The CCTV program did not cite terrorism and murder charges leveled on the Gadhafi regime, which in the 1980s and 1990s was considered one of the most active state sponsors of terrorism in the world.
Other analysts questioned the series of Chinese diplomatic actions over the recent Libyan crisis.
On Feb. 25, the United Nations Human Rights Council, of which China is a member, unanimously passed a resolution strongly condemning Gadhafi. The resolution called for establishing a commission of inquiry to consider whether crimes against humanity were committed by Gadhafi’s regime.
A day later, the United Nations Security Council also unanimously passed a resolution condemning his deadly crackdown on protesters, slapping sanctions on him, his children and top associates. The council also imposed an arms embargo and urged UN member countries to freeze his assets and those of his four sons and daughter.
‘Not from the heart’
Sun pointed to Beijing’s votes backing these actions, saying they “did not come from the heart.”
Most of the major powers were against the Gadhafi regime, “so China had to follow,” Sun concluded.
A netizen by the name “tuizong” questioned CCTV’s portrayal of Gadhafi as having led a frugal life.
“I heard his assets worth U.S. $30 billion had been frozen. I really want CCTV to explain this. Otherwise, I feel completely puzzled.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement at the weekend that Beijing “always does not agree with the use of force in international relations.”
Jiang said China “expresses regret” at the Western attacks on Libya and believes that all nations should respect Libya’s “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity” under the principles of the UN Charter and other international agreements.
Many Chinese netizens disagreed with Jiang, saying any moves to oust dictators was in line with universal values.
A netizen by the cyber name “zhanghui8964” said that the sovereignty of Libya belongs to the Libyan people, not to Gadhafi. “So ending Gadhafi’s rule is the highest form of respect for Libya’s sovereignty.”
Original reporting by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.