Sri Lanka, the once self-trumpeted "island of paradise," turned into the island of bloodshed more than a quarter-century ago. But even by its long, gory record, the bloodletting since last year is unprecedented. The United Nations estimates that some 1,200 noncombatants are getting killed each month in a civil war that continues to evoke a muted international response even as hundreds of thousands of minority Tamils have fled their homes or remain trapped behind the front line.
With the world preoccupied by pressing challenges, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a naturalized U.S. citizen, press on with their brutal military campaign with impunity. The offensive bears a distinct family imprint, with another brother the president's top adviser.
Chinese military and financial support — as in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uzbekistan, North Korea, Burma and elsewhere — has directly aided government excesses and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. But with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly emphasizing that the global financial, climate and security crises are more pressing priorities for U.S. policy than China's human rights record, which by her own department's recent admission has "remained poor and worsened in some areas," Beijing has little reason to stop facilitating overseas what it practices at home — repression.