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China: Few changes since Tiananmen

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted May 10, 2004

When the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued its recommendations on U.S. policy toward China earlier this year, it included a reminder that the Secretary of State had named China as a "country of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for its systematic crackdown on religious freedom, which includes violations having been committed against Roman Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and Buddhists

The Commission called upon the Chinese Government to stop its crackdown and start reforming its own laws and reminded our nation's policymakers that we have the power to present these demands when we negotiate trade agreements with the country that represents our fourth largest trading partner. Our own embassy and consulates can continually scrutinize the Chinese Government's record on human rights and religious freedom.

The general repressiveness of the Chinese regime was witnessed recently when, after drawn-out negotiations, the Chinese Government permitted Vice President Cheney to deliver a televised address to the nation, only to fail to inform the public when and on what station it would air. Nor did they show repeats of the broadcast. When they posted the text on a website, gone were his statements about political freedom and Taiwan. Even The New York Times correspondent wrote, "The censorship showed that even a hopeful sign of political progress in China can be more like a mirage. Officials sought to convey a relaxed attitude about what Mr. Cheney might say in public but worked to alter the record. "

A largely unknown story has been the complicity of Cisco, the American high-tech firm, in working with the Chinese Government to build firewalls that can prevent the people from accessing that Chinese officials deem to be "politically incorrect." The Internet, which should be the electronic version of the "Democracy Wall," is now largely under the Chinese Government's control, since communications via the web usually end up being censored.

When a Cisco manager in China was called to answer for how the government has made nefarious use of Cisco's innovations, this is how he responded: "It's none of Cisco's business."

Yahoo! willingly complied with the censorship demands of the Chinese Government. Try searching the terms "Chinese democracy" or "Taiwan independence" on the Chinese Internet and do not surprised if you draw
blanks.

It's these kind of stories that should make Americans very wary of all the talk about China's new found interest in capitalism. The Chinese leaders may be encouraging more money-making ventures for their country, but they have no interest in bringing true democracy or human rights to their country.

Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire, and BetrayalThis is made crystal clear in a recently published book, Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire, and Betrayal, by investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann.

I came to know Ethan when I ran National Empowerment Television and he headed our crack investigative team. He later went to China and lived there for three years, returning to the United States worried and disillusioned by what he had witnessed. His new book is starting to attract a buzz and it relates the stories about Cisco, Yahoo!, and the Chinese. Recently John Derbyshire, the National Review columnist, writing in The New York Sun, called Losing the New China "a fascinating book, though a deeply depressing one."

Unlike other countries that have replaced their discredited communist philosophy with democratic values, the experience of the Chinese leadership demonstrates that if you lose your core beliefs, you are left with little else but the desire simply to survive for survival's sake. One of the most telling comments in Losing the New China was reported to have been made by a senior government advisor: "We still don't stand for anything. We are not a democracy, we are not communist. We are just big."

As the 15th anniversary of the lone demonstrator facing the tank at Tiananmen Square approaches, the distressing fact is that China is not changing for the better. That should be of concern to our policymakers and any American who is interested in human rights and religious freedom, much less to say the Chinese people themselves.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

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