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Yup, China. Again

November 13, 2009

amnestyshootingSorry, I can’t help myself. China is like a gnawing, throbbing toothache to me- it just won’t go away and I can’t ignore it.

Yesterday I wrote about the China’s nervy, inappropriate warnings about any thoughts or plans that President Obama might have to meet with the Dalai Lama (and there is certainly no indication he has any such plans, unfortunately) should he decide to exercise his right as the leader of the free world, to invite whomever he damn well pleases to the White House or the private residence, the local pub or the front lawn.

Now that Obama has started his Asia trip the issue of China’s pathetic human rights record – including the clampdown, preventative detention and repression that happens every time a high-ranking member of the U.S. sets foot on Chinese soil- is making its way into the media’s consciousness again. From Christian Science Monitor:

While President Obama meets Chinese leaders and converses with handpicked groups of youths on his visit to China next week, another group of citizens expect to be staring at the walls of their apartments.

They are China’s human rights activists, and to judge by past experience, those who are not in jail will find themselves under house arrest next week, to prevent them from causing any trouble.

“I would like President Obama to know that his arrival will cause various troubles for us [activists],” says Li Hai, who was not allowed outside during former President George Bush’s visit here last year. “We will be deprived of our freedom.”

“I expect the police to be on duty outside my door on the morning of Nov. 15,” the day of Mr. Obama’s arrival in China, adds Gao Hongming, who was imprisoned in 1994 for seeking to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Twice this year, before the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre this past June and before the 60th anniversary of China’s founding on Oct. 1, policemen accompanied Mr. Gao on obligatory trips outside the capital. “But since [Obama’s] visit is very short, I don’t think I will have to leave Beijing,” Gao says.

During past trips by US leaders, community leaders have also been followed, detained, or warned to leave the capital. “The president’s trip will put lawyers and NGOs – and the important work they do – at risk,” says Sara Davis, head of Asia Catalyst, a New York group fostering NGOs in China.

Insufficient US pressure on human rights?

Human rights advocates both inside and outside China have expressed disappointment in the current US administration over its apparent reluctance to put pressure on Beijing to end human rights abuses.

Obama himself rejected that charge in an interview with Reuters before he left for Asia. “We believe in the values of freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion … and there has not been a meeting with the Chinese delegation in which we didn’t bring these issues up,” he said.

There is no lack of issues to raise, the critics say. Over the past year, the Chinese authorities have disbarred some two dozen of the country’s most active human rights lawyers, ratcheted up Internet censorship, jailed critics, and – according to Human Rights Watch – “disappeared” Uighur men and boys since violent riots broke out in the western region of Xinjiang in July.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, said on a visit here last February that human rights “can’t interfere” with US efforts to enlist China’s help in tackling climate change, the global recession, and security crises.”

Such statements have fed “the overall impression at home and abroad … that the US will no longer be the leader on human rights,” complained a group of Chinese human rights advocates in an open letter to Obama last month.

Activists care about American voice

“Most Chinese activists really care about the American voice,” says Yang Kuanxing, one of the letter’s drafters. “We want to hear from the US.”

“The Chinese government is now betting that President Obama won’t raise human rights, while Chinese civil society activists, lawyers, and peaceful critics – the kind of people with whom the president typically aligns himself – are fervently hoping he will,” says Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch…

How sad that we even have to play this guessing game- will the White House and State Dept. start to demonstrate leadership with respect to human rights or will they continue to only raise the issue when it involves nations we can criticize without any political risk like Cuba, Iran and Burma?

Human rights are human rights, regardless of where one resides, right?

The website China View is just one attempt at documenting China’s horrific torture and repression of its own people. China today uses over 100 different methods of torture on men, women and young people in order to “re-educate” them or simply cause as much pain, humiliation and suffering prior to death. It is repulsive and at a certain point the U.S. has to ask itself at what point does silence become complicity?

Hillary Clinton, for her part, has always stood up for human rights in China in the past- I just wish she would continue to do so because she has incredible legitimacy on this issue- it would send such an incredibly important message to all those democracy activists and supporters of religious freedom currently imprisoned in China as we speak. Please, Hillary…


3 Comments leave one →
  1. steve permalink
    November 14, 2009 8:39 am

    Thanks for posting this- it’s something that needs to stay in the news because we can’t forget the thousands or even millions of people who live in fear every day. The US may need China economically but we can’t compromise our principles on this. I’ll admit I am surprised that Hillary hasn’t spoken out more about human rights and it is disappointing. I hope she and Obama say something more public about this but I am not going to get my hopes up.

  2. November 18, 2009 1:59 pm

    That the Chinese government managed, or scripted, Barak Obama while not budging on the issues says something about the Chinese character that few outside of China realize. I’ve just posted on this at, drawing on my visit to China.

    • November 18, 2009 7:29 pm

      Thanks, will check it out. China literally drives me nuts, right still4hill?

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