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A Worthy Nobel Laureate *updated- Obama Calls on China to Release Xiaobo*

October 8, 2010

Much to the eternal annoyance of China, the Chinese democracy and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, currently imprisoned by the Communist Chinese regime, has won the Nobel Prize. This is long overdue and it’s an important recognition that despite China’s economic growth, at the end of the day it remains an oppressive, anti-democracy dictatorship which treats political dissidents in a manner similar to that of Iran and other repressive authoritarian governments.

Unfortunately, the U.S. responds very differently to China’s human rights abuses than it does to those perpetrated by Iran and other countries which we have on our black list. Hopefully Secretary Clinton, who has long history of supporting human rights, will issue a strong public statement congratulating Liu Xiaobo and renewing U.S. calls for his release. It will not be enough to send out a written statement by P.J. Crowley or, God forbid, to not acknowledge the Nobel announcement at all. I can’t help but think there is a lot of hand-wringing going on at both the White House and the State Department right now, when in fact, they should be glad that someone as worthy as Liu Xiaobo has been given the Nobel Prize for standing up for the very principles of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights which the United States promotes and supports worldwide.

If the U.S. wants to maintain any sense of credibility when it criticizes human rights abuses by regimes in places like Iran and Cuba, then there needs to be a little bit more consistency. And also a little less concern about “offending” China’s delicate sensibilities because that simply makes us look not only hypocritical, but weak.

Update:I forgot to add this. For those not familiar with Liu Xiaobo and why he was arrested by the government, this is a decent summary.

UPDATE II: President Obama has spoken out and called on China to release Xiaobo. I’m glad he did the right thing:

President Barack Obama called on China Friday to quickly release imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, lauding the dissident as an “eloquent and courageous” supporter of human rights and democracy.

The comments are likely to further rattle China at a time when the United States is stepping up pressure on Beijing over a currency policy Washington blames for job losses.

Obama’s statement, released hours after Liu was awarded the prize, reflected the sensitivity of U.S.-Chinese relations.

Obama praised China’s “dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.” But, he added, “this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected.”

14 Comments leave one →
  1. TanK permalink
    October 8, 2010 8:35 am

    Your secretary has no interest in the suffering of people like Xiabo anymore. Didn’t she say she wouldn’t let such concerns as human rights interfere with the more important things she wanted to work with China on? Both she and Obama talked tough during the election but now that they are in power they both are a disgrace when it comes to human rights. Sudan, Israel, Burma, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Honduras, Colombia the list goes on and on. Who do they focus on? Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.

    How can she claim to be a woman rights advocate when she ignores the women being tortured in prison in China. Would you like some pictures of these women for your blog so your readers can see what the US is refusing to see? Woman raped with hot pokers and have their breasts burned off, all for practising their religion or speaking out on human rights.

    But what is it you Americans say? It’s the economy stupid.

    • Steve permalink
      October 8, 2010 8:44 am

      That’s a bit harsh TanK but I too am a bit disappointing in how this administration has soft-peddled human rights. I agree that if we are going to speak out for certain principles than we need to be consistent. And while we need China, THEY ALSO NEED US. China always says they will punish any country that interferes with their shitty communist dictatorship. Big friggin deal. They huff and they puff and then they calm down.

      I agree with stacy that Hillary needs to issue a personal statement in support of this. Both the left and the right have been critical of how this administration has handled human rights and I have to say, I sort of agree.

      In other news of disgusting human rights abuses being ignored by the US and most of the world:

      http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/07/will_the_kids_be_alright_deportations_conscience_and_israel

  2. HillaryFan permalink
    October 8, 2010 9:03 am

    Thanks for posting this, I know this issue is important to you, you’ve written quite a bit about Chinese human rights. Keeping my fingers crossed that Clinton issues a statement.

    • October 8, 2010 10:00 am

      I think we’ve seen time and time again with this administration that coddling doesn’t result in behavior change. Obama wants to work with Republicans but they don’t want to work with him. Rewarding Israel for slapping us in the face hasn’t worked- in fact, they have become more emboldened, and since the Chinese realized that under this admin. that they would not be held to account for human rights abuses, their crack downs on tibetans, democracy activists and internet freedom have WORSENED. Same thing with Bashir and Sudan.

      I don’t want to oversimplify things and I know that Secy Clinton is in a difficult position, but she really needs to congratulate Liu Xiabo publicly in some manner- even if it’s a released statement by her personally (as opposed to saying something on camera). If she doesn’t I will be extremely disappointed. As Steve said, we need China, but China needs us and it’s becoming more obvious that we are very selective in who we criticize for human rights abuses, which ruins our credibility in that area.

  3. October 8, 2010 10:50 am

    Ok, I just received a statement issued by Secy Clinton congratulating Fiji on their independence day…at first I got excited when I saw the heading “statement by Secy Clinton” because I thought “yay, it’s about Xiabo!” but then I scrolled down and well…

  4. October 8, 2010 11:14 am

    I agree with Stacy that our country is very selective in who we criticize for human rights abuses. I don’t think though that this is anything new. We’ve been doing it for decades. Around the world, others often see our strategically chosen criticisms as a sign of our imperialism.

    China is our banker, and if they decide to lessen that role, our economy will be affected in ways none of us wants to consider… Our debt (largely thanks to 2 unpaid-for wars, tax cuts, and out-of-control healthcare spending) is a major threat to this country on a variety of levels.

    • October 8, 2010 1:50 pm

      Just general comments, not directed at anyone in particular–Yes, the U.S. needs China and unfortunately our government is doing nothing to lessen our dependency on China’s cheap, shoddy labor and just like with so much else, we created this mess and now our government takes the position that they somehow are forced into a corner without admitting they helped create the situation to begin with. Decades of corporate and government greed helped create our over-dependence on China. We outsourced almost all of our manufacturing for slave labor and to take advantage of China’s total lack of business/safety/environmental regs. Who the hell thought that would work long-term? Who thought China wouldn’t be a threat? Who thought the US economy could survive long-term when we no longer manufacture anything?

      And no one cares about the debt when it comes to defense spending. The fiscal hawks just become hawks minus the fiscal part.

      China needs the U.S. They are not going to dump our debt. And we don’t have to go it alone with respect to speaking out- the US, the UK, Scandanavia etc. should all join together in speaking out. Most of the democratic world can speak with one voice and it would alienate China- China hated when they were criticized prior to and during the Olympics but once they were over, people kind of forgot about it and didn’t keep the pressure on.

      If we take the position that human rights only matters when a) it’s politically popular to beat up publicly on a given country (ie. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela) b) we don’t “need” the country and c) the country in question doesn’t have a lot of political support here in the U.S., then why should countries like Iran or Burma listen to anything we say about human rights? What’s the point in our speaking out at all? And how can anyone claim the mantle of being pro-human rights, pro-woman’s rights etc. while ignoring human rights abuses for purely political reasons? How can the US claim human rights is a key aspect of US foreign policy/diplomacy? Do the women in Chinese prisons count for anything?

  5. October 8, 2010 1:38 pm

    She released a statement on the retirement of General Jones.

    I am keeping my fingers crossed. How can she NOT say something about this? If this was a person who was imprisoned in Iran for nonviolent human rights advocacy would the State Dept. issue a statement?

    • PYW permalink
      October 8, 2010 2:15 pm

      She probably can’t release something publicly because it would infuriate China. Unfortunately, that’s the bottom line right now. She’s likely not any more happy about this than we are.

      • October 8, 2010 2:21 pm

        China gets upset about everything, then they get over it.

        I still believe that we can’t have it both ways- we can’t claim human rights is key to our foreign policy and then not speak out because we’re afraid a country might get upset. We are the world’s superpower. Then when the state dept. speaks out on other human rights abuses in places like Iran or Cuba, it looks totally hypocritical and politically-motivated. I”m not willing to make excuses for the State Dept. on this.

  6. PYW permalink
    October 8, 2010 4:47 pm

    Glad to see Obama’s call for his release. That’s much better than stony silence.

    • October 8, 2010 4:52 pm

      Yay- she just released a statement, I can’t post it yet though- I’ll post it when I get home.
      🙂

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