Can I ask if the Haskell Foundation has considered a policy regarding accepting sponsorship from companies based in totalitarian states; particularly China?
This is a question about sponsorship, NOT participation. I believe we should strongly encourage Chinese companies to participate in the community. This is instead about sponsorship: the positive act of receiving money on behalf of the Haskell community.
What is the difference between participation and sponsorship?
Sponsorship is not a passive act for donors or recipients. It raises the profile of companies which do it, it assists them with hiring, and it enables them, should they wish, to influence our community. Sponsorship is not an individual act. Individuals have freedom of association, can choose their values, and often even their employer. Community sponsorship is an engagement with deeper implications, because, in however small a way, it forms an association for all
members of the community.
China has engaged in efforts to cause self-censorship within other nations. There are numerous, documented cases of foreign companies self-censoring to retain their access to the Chinese market. Similar actions have been necessary by Chinese companies too, of course, although the details are usually more difficult to discover.
I worry that, by deepening financial ties with corporations that themselves depend on acceptance by the Chinese government, the Haskell Foundation may contribute to a growing international reticence on these issues. I worry we may increase the difficulties faced by those in China who depend on the international community to speak out. We may do all this despite being a small, free and vibrant population who are influential enough to promote positive changes instead.
I recognize this is a difficult issue. I understand that a blanket policy may be wildly impractical, or appear arbitrary. The geographic location of a company does NOT determine their ideological stance. I also do not believe it is an issue that should be covered in the Guidelines for Respecful Communication; it is not a practical matter over which the Foundation can exert much influence. Ordinarily, in the case of virtually any other nation, it would not even be something upon which I might think the Foundation SHOULD comment! But let me reiterate that I am raising this BECAUSE it has impacted other organizations. China is renowned as the world’s second largest economy; it is a heavyweight with vast wealth and influence.
If a funding policy is not possible, an alternative might be a positive affirmation of ideals instead. One way to do this is to state that the Foundation supports the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
This is a covenant supported by most nation of the world. China is a signatory, but has not ratified it. I believe it is un-controversial from a Western point of view, and covers the rights of freedom of expression, freedom of political affiliation, and so on.
I won’t personally comment any further on this issue in this Discourse. It is close to my heart and angers me far too intensely for idle debate. I have friends in Hong Kong who are impacted by both the Chinese government’s new national security law, and the difficulty of escaping Hong Kong during COVID. I’ll leave it to cooler heads to decide whether it warrants action.
Thanks for your time,