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Tears stain Lithuania's history

By Xin Ping | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-12-10 09:21
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A migrant carrying a child walks in a camp near the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region on Nov 14, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

In one of the most romantic and tragic Lithuanian legends, Jurate, the Sea Goddess sheds tears of amber mourning for Kastytis, her dead beloved. When storms occur in the Baltic Sea, the delicate fragments of her amber palace are washed up on shore: the most precious pieces of which resemble the shape of tears. Unfortunately, as a betrayal of this beautiful episode, today the world spots no tears of a goddess, but the cries and bloods of thousands of migrants and refugees.

Nothing can justify the Lithuanian government's inhumane policy on them: migrants were detained in cramped containers with unbearable living conditions; dead bodies were dumped like garbage to the other side of the border. Whatever pretexts some Lithuanian officials may have prepared, human suffering is human suffering, and Migrants Lives Matter, let alone the authorities could have every possibility to perform better: at least, they could have been generous enough to offer a home for the dead, if not the alive.

More strangely, migrants were deliberately differentiated along the racial line. According to France 24, many African women accuse the Lithuanian police of creating tensions between them and the Iraqi women by favoring one group over the other: the Iraqis are allowed to have regular visits from their relatives while the Africans' similar requests are rarely granted.

Readers may be bewildered by the hostility and blatant double-standard of the Baltic state, but a deeper look into the history will shed some light on Lithuania's political psychology over the last one hundred years.

Let's start with the recent past: between February 2005 and March 2006, Lithuania allowed the US to operate a secret prison called "Site Violet" for the detention of suspects identified by the US as being involved in terrorism. Lithuania not only turned a blind eye to the existence of it, but also actively assisted with the site's creation and authorized its operation by the CIA free from legal oversight. According to one of its prisoners, he "had never seen the sunlight" while being detained in the facility.

Besides migrants and prisoners, minority rights have long been neglected and violated by the Lithuanian government. Although Poland and Lithuania share rich traditions with over 600 years of Polish presence in the Vilnius Region, members of the Polish minority in Lithuania still face abusive practices and unequal treatment by the Lithuanian authorities: their native language is abolished, historic monuments destroyed and religious activities restricted. Not to mention Roma: segregationist attitude towards Roma in Lithuania prevails among public authorities and some non-Romani citizens, illustrated by the segregation of Romani children at school and of housing settlements which originated in discriminating legislation.

Despite all the above harrowing facts, the Lithuanian government calls itself a defender of democracy and liberty. Through visiting the country's historical practices, it may not be hard to understand its logic: Lithuania sacrifices the right of migrants to fish for the sympathy of the European Union. It surrenders the justice for prisoners to pledge loyalty to the US. It steals the welfare of minorities in an attempt to build up its cultural identity. Sacrificing the weak to curry favour with the strong seems to be a traditional instrument for some Lithuanian politicians in the past 100 years—and they don't mind taking a slice for themselves: for five years straight, almost half of respondents agree that corruption prevails in the country, an Ernst & Young survey suggests.

But if the tears of their victims remain inconsequential for them, at least two things should be remembered, that democracy is either for all or for no one, and that liberty is never to be handed out by others but to be fought for on one's own. Not until Lithuania gets rid of its mentality of the cowardly bully could the country win the respect of the world.

Xin Ping is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Chinadaily, CGTN, Global Times, Xinhua News Agency, etc.. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com.

 

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