Should Mr Obama, be brave and speak up for human rights in China?

 SMH published a Washington Post piece from a certain Yang Jianli, requesting President Obama to speak up for human rights in China during President Hu visit to Washington. Well, it is obligatory for  Mr Obama raise the human right issue with President Hu.  It is part of the requirements of being a great Western leaders and president of USA. Obama would most certainly be condemned by the US media and political establishment if he fails to raise the matter. 

Why does WP  publish an article from an unknown like Yang on the occasion of President Hu’s visit to mend ties with US. And who is Yang by the way?   Is he another one of those dissidents that is being supported and maintained by US to stir unrest in China (under the guise of human right freedom fighter offcourse). This is what a knowledgeable reader said of Yang:

 Yang is a so-called black revolutionary leader who chose to re-enter China illegally in 2002 on someone else passport and was detained trying to fly to meet with labour dispute leaders in the north. He was convicted as a spy and released only by power of the US lobby that is state financed and dedicated to sowing insurrection in China for US geo-political advantage.

 Readers’ comments can be interesting and colourful. Some of the comments are enlightening and discerning, and display profound understanding of world geo-politics . They refused to toe the line set out by mass media. It must be pretty disheartening for those journalists and their backers who have worked tirelessly on  China-bashing and  threat policy.

Mr Obama, be brave and speak up for human rights in China

Yang Jianli

January 21, 2011

The Chinese President’s visit to the US offers a great opportunity.

DEAR Mr President:

I understand that when you meet Chinese President Hu Jintao this week, you will engage on some of the most complex international matters facing the US and China. Trade, currency exchange, peace on the Korean Peninsula and arms sales to, and relations with, Taiwan are but a few of the urgent issues.

I want, respectfully, to point you towards an even more fundamental complexity in the relationship that must be dealt with.

Assuming it is the goal of both countries to improve and expand on the political and economic foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship, this issue simply will not go away. It is the matter of how Hu’s government treats its citizens.

Today, Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel peace prize laureate, and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of other Chinese citizens are in prison simply for expressing their opinions. Mr President, as a fellow Nobel peace prize laureate, you above all others must appreciate the profound incongruity of representing one population – a people who benefit from guaranteed democratic rights and privileges enshrined in the US constitution – while attempting to coexist, do business with and grow alongside a population denied such fundamental rights.

Whatever the progress on short-term matters, if the long-term issues surrounding China’s need for progress on human rights and its democratisation are not tackled, an increasingly difficult and unanswerable series of problems will evolve into a situation that cannot be avoided.

The question, then, is when to raise discussion about the long road ahead, rather than focusing on more immediate crises.

Here is one suggestion: at some point during this visit you might privately ask the Chinese President about his feelings as the son of someone who was found to be a bad element by a previous iteration of his party. Hu’s father was denounced by the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution.

Clearly, Hu knows that without democracy- what Polish human rights activist Lech Walesa called a government’s conversation with its people – anyone can end up on the wrong side of a political debate. Perhaps at that point you might note that Liu Xiaobo would be just the latest example of the consequences of that missing conversation. You should then ask Hu, politely but firmly, to free Liu Xiaobo and fellow political prisoners such as Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xianbin and Wang Bingzhang.

Hu is said to have a nearly photographic memory. Yet even he will not be able to recall any section of Chinese law that permits the detention of individuals without cause. You might ask why Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, continues to be held under house arrest by Beijing authorities even though she has not been accused of committing a crime at any time.

Pressing the leaders of China’s government to move along a democratic path is not just in the best interests of both the US and China. Given the size and importance of the Chinese population, it is in the interest of all humanity. Moving China towards democracy starts with the release of its dissenters and political prisoners and with the removal of restrictions on innocent civilians such as Liu Xia.

The more humanitarian the Chinese regime becomes, the lower the cost to Chinese men and women of standing up against remaining repressions, such as arbitrary detention, harassment, unfair wages, media censorship and the one-child policy. Gradually, the heroic work of dissidents will become the more common practice of everyday people.

This process can be facilitated by your willingness to face this reality. Equally critical, as the Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke noted, is that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

Yes, it will be awkward to use this visit to raise these issues.

Hu, the leader of a resurgent China, of course may be reluctant to hear from you on these topics, privately or publicly. But this is your opportunity, Mr President. I respectfully urge you not to let the moment pass you by.

Yang Jianli is president of Initiatives for China, a Harvard fellow and a contributor to The Washington Post. He served a five-year prison term in China, from 2002 to 2007, for attempting to observe labour unrest.


Some of the comments:

It’s simple… many are prejudiced and follow along the traditional cultural views, so Aussies will believe whatever the American propaganda spews forth. How about before we point fingers at others for THEIR human rights abuses, we look at OUR own first?? Every country is guilty for at least some human injustice. We have yet to resolve our issues with our indigenous peoples, many of whom live in 3rd world conditions. The Americans have Guantanamo Bay… enough said. Could never understand how people who have never been to China or lived there, can sit in their armchairs and criticize so much all based on pure propaganda.

Ashton | Sydney – January 21, 2011, 10:05AM

How can the US admonish China for human rights abuses when the US.
conducts rendition flights and torture and calls that National Security,
unlawfal invasion of Iraq and called that a war on WMD,
taken control of the internet and calls that regulation,
perhaps another country should disscuss human rights with China

Heh heh | Bris – January 21, 2011, 10:11AM

The US is in no position to lecture China on anything, As brutal as the Chinese Communist party bosses are, they have not started two wars and, as far as i know, do not maintain hundreds of military bases and “black” sites around the world.

Max Gross | – January 21, 2011, 10:18AM

It’s going to be funny watching all the lefties ditch their knee jerk anti-Americanism once China starts throwing its weight around down here in the southern Pacific..

SH | …. – January 21, 2011, 10:33AM

A few observations:

– Work was dragging a bit until I read some of the comments about the US being the worst abuser of human rights on the planet. A little humour always makes the day go quicker.

– The bind the U.S. is in is that it has precisely zero leverage over China. China has no real incentive to float the yuan, owns stacks of U.S. currency, and is experiencing massive growth as the U.S. continues to struggle through a recession.

– China is turning the old argument of ‘be free like us so you can have our economic success and standard of living’ on its head. I’m sure the CCP think they’re getting on just fine (9% growth last year) without all that democracy stuff.

– The only possible leverage the U.S. could hope for is a massive change in consumption patterns away from Chinese goods, which would either involve a massive trade / tariff war, or millions of Americans radically shifting their spending habits all at the same time. Neither is going to happen.

So what we get is this cute little piece of Kabuki theatre where China & the US sit around pretending to take each others’ concerns seriously.

Nick | Melbs – January 21, 2011, 10:50AM

Yang is a so-called black revolutionary leader who chose to re-enter China illegally in 2002 on someone elses passport and was detained trying to fly to meet with labour dispute leaders in the north. He was convicted as a spy and released only by power of the US lobby that is state financed and dedicated to sowing insurrection in China for US geo-political advantage.

We don’t need to dissect individual aspiration or motivation because the force and money behind the Chinese insurrection industry are unconcerned with any ideological battle, and the actors end up being only pimps with counter revolutionary missions.

Yang Jianli was editor in chief of the dissident online review Yibao before 2002 and his insurrectionist credentials were already plain and his co-funding from Taiwanese NGO sources beyond US academia in place.

It is essential that readers be informed of Yang’s mission and the full details of his case. A fair minded western view of his case with facts follows here:

His byline is an unfair representation of the details of his case and the Chinese court judgement.

ciao – January 21, 2011, 11:06AM

profit down@9.27am
“The breathtaking hypocrisy, the mendacious, barbaric, cold-blooded juggernaut that is China. Be very afraid.” To me, human right improvement is symbolized by the photogragh taken at the start of the state banquet showing an Asian (President Hu) taking the centre stage, flanked by two African Americans (President O and his wife), and with a Caucasian sentries holding either a flag or a rifle on each side. Only nearly a centry ago, the capital of China was invaded by six European countries, Japan and the US, and the forbidden city looted. Chinese were called the “yellow Horde” and “the bane of the Far East”. So who is the breathtaking hypocrisy, the mendacious, barbaric, cold-blooded juggernaut? Thankfully times have changed.

dumb guy @9.54am.

Xinjiang and Tibet were integrated into China in the 13 century and have been part of China since then although they are called autonomous regions in modern China. The US-China joint declaration yesterday has affirmed that. President Hu clearly said there are rooms for improvements in human rights, In China as in other countries, but each should integrate that into its own social economic conditions and, human rights should not be used by a foreign country or organization as a tool for achieving ulterior motives.

Observer – January 21, 2011, 11:10AM

“Human rights” is ultimately a rather ambiguous term. Those insisting that China honor human rights all have the ultimate goal that China will embrace full democracy as a result. The type of democracy envisioned for China is at direct odds with China’s culture, traditions and history.

China is constantly changing. The last 35 years have seen a lot of change – more so than any other country in history. It is relatively easy to bring about economic changes compared to sociological changes. Changing the mind set of people is always much more difficult and requires a greater investment of time and effort.

One thing that most people miss – including the dissidents who ran from China and who are attempting to change China from abroad – is that the Chinese people enjoy more basic and fundamental freedoms than Americans or Australians. They do not have a “nanny state” telling them how to live their lives.

China is in a unique position: It is able to learn from the mistakes of other countries and governments.

Yang speaks for only a small minority of Chinese people. The majority of Chinese people are quite content with the way things are and reject Western influence. The consequences of giving rights to a people who are not able to deal with those rights in a responsible manner would create chaos in an other wise peaceful society and country.

Ignore the Western propaganda. China and its people are doing quite well. They have a 5,000 year history to rely on, and can see the problems in Western countries. They could very well have a better system.

How well is your government working?

Doc McCoy | Nantong, China – January 21, 2011, 11:55AM

Obama resigned an executive order allowing the assassination of US citizens by the CIA for suspected terrorist activities – ummmm – I dont think China has covert torture prisons in Yemen either.

Aristophrenia | Melbourne – January 21, 2011, 12:14PM

Contrary to all the hype about some ‘Western universal human rights’, Chinese social structure, in many ways, is far superior to the ‘Western Liberal Society’. Only very naive or ignorant people can believe that we in the West have claims to some form of ‘universal human rights’, democracy or equality. Our political system and our public opinion is dominated and manipulated by a small, powerful group of ‘intelligentsia, whose views are aggressively promoted and supported by the media who are at the forefront of the public opinion ‘engineering’. I am sure that the Chinese system would still represent the views of greater proportion of the Chinese population than our ‘intelligentsia engineered’ public opinion.

Simon T. | Springvale – January 21, 2011, 12:19PM

The arguments you read from time to time about Tibet and other Chinese territory is amazing. The world map is full of places that are now controlled by other countries. if its good enough for China to give Tibet back to the Tibetans then it is also good enough for the US to give most of its southern half back to Mexico and for the English to give England back to the Welsh. Crazy? Yes it is but no more crazy than asking China to give up its territory.

As for human rights, before anyone comments on China they should seriously consider the phrase “people in glass houses should not throw stones”.

MVF – January 21, 2011, 12:32PM


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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