Washington, Jun 6 –
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, chairman of the House human rights subcommittee, took to the House floor today to call on the U.S. Administration to cease its indifference to widespread human rights abuses in China, even as President Obama prepares to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow.
“Tomorrow, President Obama will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California to discuss security and economic issues,” said Smith co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China which includes Obama appointees. “A robust discussion of human rights abuses in China must be on the agenda and not in a superfluous or superficial way. It’s time to get serious about China’s flagrant abuse. It’s time for this President, this Administration, to end its manifest indifference toward human rights abuse in China. It’s time for President Obama to cease his numbing indifference toward the victims of Beijing’s abuse. Can a government—no, read that, dictatorship—that crushes the rights and freedoms of its own people be trusted on trade and security?”
Below are additional excerpts of Smith’s (NJ-04) remarks:
China today is the torture capital of the world and victims include religious believers, ethnic minorities, human rights defenders like Chen Guangcheng and Gao Zhisheng and political dissidents.
If you are a political or religious prisoner of conscience you will be tortured—sometimes to death.
Additionally, hundreds of millions of women have been forced to abort their precious babies pursuant to China’s draconian one child policy which has led to gendercide, the violent extermination of unborn baby girls simply because they are girls. The slaughter of the girl-child in China is not only a massive gender crime but a “security” issue as well. A witness at one of my earlier hearings, Valerie Hudson, author of Bare Branches, testified that the gender imbalance will lead to instability and chaos—even war, “that the One-Child policy has not enhanced China’s security, but demonstrably weakened it. As Nick Eberstadt famously phrased it, what are the consequences for a society that has chosen to become, simultaneously, both more gray and more male…The other face of the coin from the missing daughters of China, are the excess sons of China… the abnormal sex ratios of China do not bode well for its future.”
I chair the Foreign Affairs Human Rights committee—one of my witnesses at a hearing I chaired on June 3rd, Dr. Yang Jianli, testified that soon after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Communist Party embraced an ubiquitous code of corruption to enrich the elite at the expense of the general public believing that “economic growth means everything” to the survival and sustainability of the dictatorship. Dr. Yang said “[i]n order to uphold the one-party dictatorship, it had to rely on capitalizing on the dark and evil side of human nature: spoiling the elite in exchange for their loyalty. Therefore the corruption of the powerful elite now became accepted, endorsed, and even demanded.” “Currently in China, there are about 200,000 public protests with more than 100 participants each year—or once every three minutes. The government has no effective way to handle these other than increasing the police force to prevent the protests from becoming trans-regional. Every province has set up branches in Beijing, staffed with police offices and hired thugs and gangsters to intercept petitioners. These branches also run their own private detention centers.”
Mr. Speaker, the gulags of China—the Laogai—are filled and overflowing. Dr. Yang continued “[a]ll this was made possible thanks to the Tiananmen massacre and the political terror that was imposed on the entire country in the years following…”
Wei Jingsheng has been advocating for democracy in China for decades and has paid a heavy price in serving over 18 years in prison for his activities in fighting for freedom of the Chinese people. He testified “[a]t that time, the most widely held view was to ask for the redress of the June 4 Massacre from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, now, more than half of the people’s concern is not the issue of redress, but an investigation of the people responsible for the crime, and a demand for the Communist Party to plea guilty for this Massacre. This change of attitude illustrates that people have gradually lost illusions to the Chinese Communist Party.”
Dr. David Aikman, former Beijing Bureau Chief for Time Magazine, was also present during the Tiananmen massacre and covered the student protests prior to the conflict. He has also has studied extensively on the status of religious freedom in China and the situation of Christianity in China today and the historical influences on its development. He said, “[f]or the sake of honesty, of sanity, and even regional peace, the Chinese authorities need to tell the world the truth….Greatness of civilization requires truth, honesty and modesty, not continued countenancing of lies like the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin.”
Chai Ling, was one of the most effective—and most wanted—leaders of the protest movement in Tiananmen Square. Her courage and fight for democracy and remarkable escape is the stuff of legends. Today, as a strong woman of faith, her testimony is a message of remembering the lessons of the past but also giving hope for the future.
Dr. Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch who for many years has been an expert and advocate of political reform, democratization and Human Rights in China. She said “Chinese leaders continued to try to simply expunge Tiananmen from the history books….The Chinese government has stifled any discussion of the demonstrations and aftermath in the mass media and educational institutions, and systematically censored the internet for date signifiers….According to media reports, in recent weeks the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee issued a document on the “seven taboos,” a gag order to universities directing them to avoid discussion of certain subjects, including “universal values” and the Party’s past wrongs.”
“On June 3 and 4, 1989, Chinese military opened fire and killed untold numbers of unarmed civilians, many of whom did not participate in the protests….The Chinese government has refused to account for the massacre or hold any perpetrators legally accountable for the killings….For many young participants in the pro-democracy protests in 1989, the events left an indelible mark on their lives and spurred them to become long-term activists, for which they have paid a high price. Liu Xiaobo, a lecturer turned protest leader in 1989, became one of China’s best known dissidents and is now serving a 12-year sentence in prison for “inciting subversion….Government denial and repression make it impossible for the wound of Tiananmen to heal.”
Earlier this week the world remembered the dream that was and is the “Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989” and deeply honors the sacrifice endured by an extraordinarily brave group of pro-democracy Chinese women and men who dared to demand fundamental human rights for all Chinese.
Twenty four years ago this week, the world watched in awe and wonder as it had since mid-April of ’89 as hundreds of thousands of mostly young people peacefully petitioned the Chinese government to reform and democratize. China seemed to be the next impending triumph for freedom and democracy especially after the collapse of the dictatorships in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. But when the Peoples Liberation Army poured into and around the Square on June 3rd, the wonder of Tiananmen turned to shock, tears, fear and helplessness.
On June 3rd and 4th and for days, weeks and years after right up until today, the Chinese dictatorship delivered a barbaric response—mass murder, torture, incarceration, cover-up and the systematic suppression of fundamental human rights.
The Chinese government not only continues to inflict unspeakable pain and suffering on its own people, but the cover-up of the Tiananmen massacre is without precedent in modern history. Even though journalists and live television and radio documented the massacre, the Chinese Communist Party line continues to deny, obfuscate and threaten.
In December of 1996 General Chi Haotian, the operational commander who ordered the murder of the Tiananmen protestors visited Washington DC as the Chinese Defense Minister. Minister Chi was welcomed by President Clinton at the White House with full honors including a 19 gun salute—a bizarre spectacle I and others strongly protested. Why do I bring this up? Minister Chi addressed the Army War College on that trip and in answer to a question said “not a single person lost his life in Tiananmen Square” and claimed that the People’s Liberation Army did nothing more violent than, the “pushing of people” during 1989 protests. Not a single person lost his life? Are you kidding? That big lie and countless others like it was—and is—the Chinese Communist Party’s line.
As chair of Foreign Affairs’ human rights subcommittee, I put together a congressional hearing within a couple of days—December 18th, 1996—with witnesses who were there on the Square in 1989 including Yang Jianli—a leader and survivor of the massacre—and Time magazine bureau chief David Aikman. I also invited Minister Chi or anyone the Chinese Embassy might want to send to the hearing. He—they—refused.
I guess Minister Chi thought he was back in Beijing where the big lie is king and no one ever dares to do a fact check.
Last week, the US State Department asked the Chinese government to “end harassment of those who participated in the protests and fully account for those killed, detained or missing”. The response? The Chinese Foreign Ministry acrimoniously said that the U.S. should “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs so as not to sabotage China-U.S. relations.”
“Sabotage” Sino-American relations because our side requests an end to harassment and an accounting? Sounds like they have much to hide. Therefore, Mr. President, tomorrow and Saturday be informed, be bold, be tenacious, and seriously raise human rights tomorrow with Chinese President Xi. No more superficial interventions.
Know that today there are brave men and women still fighting for freedom and suffering persecution in China. The China 16 leaders represent thousands of men and women who have taken a stand for liberty at great cost to themselves and their loved ones.
Mr. President—raise these cases with Xi Jinping and insist upon their release. The China 16 represent the diversity of groups but not all that have been persecuted in China including Tibetans, Uyghurs, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, pro-democracy advocates, human rights lawyers. Some are suffering with major health problems and have been imprisoned for more than 10 years with little access to family members. All have been locked up because they are seen as threats to the government’s hold on power.
We will not forget what took place in Tiananmen Square 24 years ago today. The struggle for freedom in China continues. Someday the people of China will enjoy all of their God-given rights. And a nation of free Chinese women and men will someday honor and applaud and thank the heroes of Tiananmen and all those who sacrificed so much for so long for freedom.