Bush to China: ‘Do as I say, not as I do’
By Mary Shaw
Online Journal Contributing Writer
January 25, 2005—Chinese pro-democracy activist Yang Jianli has been incarcerated in a Chinese prison since April of 2002. Jianli, a permanent U.S. resident, is the founder of the Foundation for China in the 21st Century. While on a return visit to China in 2002, he was arrested on charges of using a false passport. He was then placed in solitary confinement, held incommunicado, and tortured.
The Chinese government violated their own law when they failed to release Jianli after 37 days, which is required if no warrant is filed. They eventually convicted him of illegal entry and espionage and sentenced him to five years in prison. He suffered a stroke last summer while in custody.
The U.S. Congress has unanimously passed several resolutions condemning Jianli's prolonged imprisonment and demanding his release. In addition, Condoleezza Rice, while national security advisor, told Jianli's wife that American officials had pressed high-level Chinese authorities on the matter.
Jianli is now up for parole. As a human rights activist, I pray that the Chinese government will finally see fit to release him. At the same time, I can't help but note the irony in the Bush administration's support for the release of this Chinese dissident.
Let's look at the situation: The Chinese have essentially labeled a dissident as an enemy combatant, put him in jail, incommunicado, with stalled due process, and tortured him. The trial was conducted secretly. His family was not informed of his whereabouts. It sounds very much like how the Bush administration has been dealing with those suspected of terrorist ties in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and even right here on the mainland.
I originally hoped to present a point-by-point comparison of Jianli's situation with those of Bush's "enemy combatants"; however, it seems that the Chinese have released much more information about Jianli than the Bush administration has given us about any of the people it is holding in their own legal limbo. But we do know that the U.S. is holding thousands of suspects in detention, incommunicado, under cruel and inhumane conditions, and not even offering the minimal level of legal recourse that the Chinese afforded to Jianli. Just earlier this month, a federal judge in Washington threw out challenges to their detentions by inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Ironically, some information does leak out from Guantanamo and elsewhere as detainees in Bush's "war on terror" are occasionally released, one by one, when evidence leaks to the press and the public that their arrests were groundless.
The Bush administration has the nerve to complain about how awful the Chinese are. Somebody needs to send them a mirror. But, of course, we're the great and powerful United States of America, and Bush keeps reminding us that he's doing God's work and spreading "democracy," so it must be okay. Apparently, it's God's will that you can violate your own laws if Bush says so. If anyone else does, though, it's evil.
The Bush administration has lost the moral high ground for taking others to task for human rights violations. But I hope that the citizens of the U.S., despite their misguided leadership, will continue to stand up for what is right—in China, at Guantanamo, and right here in the U.S. We cannot let the Bush administration get away with its gross human rights violations, just as we cannot let the Chinese government do the same.
We must not forget the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who wrote the following from Berlin in 1939:
"First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade-unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade-unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out because I was not a Catholic. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me."
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She currently serves as Philadelphia Area Coordinator for Amnesty International, and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. She may be reached at email@example.com.