Reflections on the Principle of Cause and Effect: Iceland’s Recent Bankruptcy

Jing Zhe

PureInsight | December 22, 2008


[] In 2007, Iceland was at the top of the Human Development Index (HDI) published by the United Nations Development Plan. This was the sixth year in a row that Iceland was ranked first on the list, and thus it could have been considered one of the most suitable places to live in the world. However, in 2008, it only took a few days for Iceland’s national debt to skyrocket to one of the highest per capita rates in the world.

Before the financial crisis of 2008, the average income per capita in Iceland was the fourth highest in the world. Now, however, on average, every Icelander (including children) has a debt of around $200,000 U.S. dollars, and the national bankruptcy has become an inerasable nightmare. Three major banks have been taken over by the government, the currency is depreciating rapidly, and the stock market halted all transactions for a period of time. Iceland is bearing bank debts nine times more than its GDP. According to an Austrian media report entitled “Iceland Morning,” over 30% of people ages 18 to 75 plan to leave Iceland, and 50% of young people from 18 to 24 want to go to other countries to find better opportunities.

Why is Iceland suffering so much? Could such a catastrophe have been avoided?

In China, there is an ancient saying, “good is rewarded with good, and evil begets retribution,” and so there is an understanding that every stroke of good fortune or bad luck has a reason behind it. Is there any value in considering this ancient belief in light of the current financial catastrophe in Iceland?

Let us look back to June 12-16, 2002, when then Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Jiang Zemin, went on an official visit to Iceland. Jiang was the CCP head who initiated the persecution of Falun Gong in China in 1999. At the time when he visited Iceland in 2002, there were more than 100,000 Falun Gong practitioners detained in prisons, labor camps, psychiatric hospitals, and brainwashing centers across China. Although the Icelandic government had been told the facts of the persecution by Falun Gong practitioners, its fear of losing profits in its business relationship with China led it to prevent Falun Gong practitioners from entering Iceland to protest based on a “blacklist” provided by the Chinese government. At least 200 Falun Gong practitioners whose names were on the blacklist were either detained upon arriving in Iceland or prevented from boarding flights to Iceland at departing airports in North America and Europe.

A democratic country, Iceland was the first western government to demonstrate this kind of behavior toward Falun Gong, and this was reported by many media and evoked worldwide repercussions. Undoubtedly, this conduct set a bad example of kowtowing to China’s totalitarian regime and neglecting the plight of Chinese citizens who suffer under the reign of CCP’s cruelty and violence.

The population of Iceland is less than 300,000. It has only 610 police officers and no military. It depends on NATO and the U.S. for its defense. In 2002, most of the Icelandic people believed that they could resolve the issue of the wrongful blacklisting and detainment of Falun Gong practitioners through rational dialogue under their democratic system. However, at that time, the government of Iceland did not realize clearly that seeking financial profits at the expense of conscience, morality, human rights, and democratic freedoms would have consequences sooner or later.

In June 2002, Icelanders protested their government’s bowing to pressure from the Chinese government and treating Falun Gong practitioners unfairly. Other democratic governments also expressed their concerns regarding this incident. On June 26, 2002, Canadian MP Svend J. Robinson criticized the government of Iceland for denying Falun Gong practitioners entry to Iceland based on the blacklist provided by the Chinese government. He wrote to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bill Graham, “It is shameful that an open, democratic society like Iceland would profile and turn away visitors from other democratic nations based on their religious beliefs. Furthermore, it is abhorrent that peaceful adherents of the Falun Gong religion should find themselves ‘blacklisted’ by any government.”

Icelandic citizens march to protest against the blacklisting of Falun Gong practitioners and the persecution of Falun Gong in China.

Citizens of Iceland also protested the behavior of the Icelandic government, and local media reports uncovered the government’s cowardice, utilitarianism, and anti-democratic behavior. Thousands of Icelanders joined a parade to support Falun Gong and protested (see article, “While Jiang Raises an Uproar in Iceland, Falun Gong Is Warmly Welcomed”). These actions forced the Icelandic government to release those detained Falun Gong practitioners.

Unfortunately, the government of Iceland did not restore its reputation. On September 5, 2002, a dialogue committee consisting of many Falun Gong practitioners went to Iceland and met with the government. This was the first official dialogue between Falun Gong practitioners and the government and mainly targeted the unfair treatment of Falun Gong practitioners by the Icelandic government when Jiang visited Iceland. A respected human rights lawyer and Icelandic Supreme Court lawyer attended the dialogue and voluntarily provided legal council to Falun Gong practitioners. However, even after the dialogue, Iceland’s government did not publicly apologize for its behavior.

Nevertheless, the principles of heaven are fair and eternal—universal in application, they have been repeatedly demonstrated throughout history, across different races, religions, and societies. Perhaps we could consider the view that the Icelandic people are suffering the current economic disaster on account of their government’s disregard for human rights and reluctance to admit and correct its mistakes.

According to the website, since 1999, to date at least 3,209 Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted to death by the Chinese government, hundreds of thousands have been illegally detained, put into labor camps and brainwashing centers, and more than 500 practitioners have been sentenced to more than 18 years in prison. The brutal persecution includes murder and numerous documented cases of torture, rape, solitary confinement, persecution in psychiatric hospitals, injection of chemicals into practitioner’s bodies to destroy their nervous systems, as well as inciting hatred and discrimination against Falun Gong practitioners. In March 2006, many witnesses testified that the Chinese government set up concentration camps where they extract the internal organs of Falun Gong practitioners and sell them for profit.

If the Icelandic government could reflect on its own morality and show its concern for Falun Gong practitioners who have endured this brutal persecution for over nine years, bravely condemn the human rights violations of the Chinese government, and appeal for an end of the persecution against Falun Gong, I believe Iceland will, with the help of heaven, have a brighter future.

Here, I would like to suggest that the Iceland Falun Gong Dialogue Committee give attention to Iceland again and tell the government the facts about Falun Gong. If the Icelandic government could correct its behavior and make efforts to improve human rights in China, I think it would be more hopeful that Iceland will make it through these difficult times.

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