At what cost is this world willing to buy gems? The Burmese gem industry has been an ongoing problem in the world market for some time now. Conditions in Burma are deplorable and unacceptable. The land, controlled by military force, is the home of forced labor, child labor, pollution, and deadly disease. Human rights are clearly being violated and to make the situation worse, the people who are violating people’s rights are benefiting. As money is flowing into Burma from exports, the Burmese military and military owned companies are gaining financially. “The official trade in Burma’s gems was valued at US$297 million in fiscal year 2006-2007, according to reports citing customs figures” (hrw.org). Who knows what will come of this situation if these military-owned organizations continue to be excessively funded. Though many countries have reduced their purchasing of gems from Burma, there is still one country that accounts for a very large sum of funding to Burma; China. In my opinion, China is selfish to continue to fund such organizations, no matter what the gain may be. Senator, we must do something to help, warn, and stop China from buying from these gems.
Many Human Rights organizations have urged governments around the world to impose sanctions on the Burmese gem industry. The industry holds gem auctions in which Burma typically earns hundreds of millions of dollars. After governments around the world have imposed sanctions on the gem trade, the auctions’ earnings for this past year were less than half of what was expected (hrw.org). The United States, many European countries, and Canada specifically, have helped to raise international pressure toward the gem industry. Industry sales are declining as a result. Some companies like Tiffany & Company and Leber Jewelers are boycotting purchasing from Burma altogether (hrw.org). Countries are seemingly trying to crack down on this unjust way of business; business that forces work upon children in conditions that include environmental pollution and diseases like HIV/AIDS, and drug-resistant malaria (hrw.org). The treating of humans beings like that in Burma is unethical. Are we willing to be unethical for monetary gain?
China has not imposed such strict sanctions perhaps because of the coming of Olympics. China continues to fund this industry in heavy amounts. The reason for China spending so much money is that Burma is the world’s top producer of jade. With the coming of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China is marketing many products made from jade. Just because the Olympics only happen once every four years, does not mean that China should support the unethical gem industry. Retail items and other souvenirs can be made from other materials. Instead of souvenirs, China should be worried about imposing sanctions for matter of life and death.
In my opinion, the Olympics are time for the whole world to come together and share culture; not to support the violation of human rights. The Olympics are great for world relations and bringing the world together, however, it is hypocrisy if we fund industries that violate the rights of our fellow humans which tear the world apart. Even though China is the only country not imposing sanctions, it does not mean the world should not take action. The whole world must speak out to stop this crisis. It is our job to persuade China to stop their purchasing from Burma if they will not act themselves. If one country gets away with not imposing sanctions, then it seems that is okay for another country to do so. The Burmese gem industry is not okay, it is not fair, and it is unethical. I strongly purpose that our government take a stand and reason with China; perhaps hold a conference. Personally, there is not much I can do but raise awareness of this issue. I will spread the word against the Burmese gem industry and as a country we must spread the word. The U.S. has already imposed sanctions and now China must follow suit. This problem is a world issue that needs to be handled by all nations, including China.
P. J. Tyson