A Mere Glimpse into the “Challenge”

March 27, 2009

As I was browsing the web site of Washington College of Law, I found an event schedule for some visiting scholars from China before the Olympics last year. The event is called “The Challenges Facing China.”

I might be totally biased, but when I read that title, I immediately think of the words “human rights.” After a brief glimpse into the event schedule, I did find the words human rights, except that it is buried between a break and a lunch break, and the speaker for that topic is NOT one of the Chinese scholars, but a person from Amnesty International. Here is a copy of the schedule, as you can see (if you can easily spot Chinese names), the Chinese scholars only talked about environmental and business issues:

10.30 am         Environmental Issues in China

Professor Judith Shapiro, Washington Collage of Law. Sustainable Development

Professor Wang Rong, China University of Political Science & Law. Water Right Practice in China

Xiaoqing Lu, Research Associate with the Freeman Chair in China Studies. Environmental Challenges and Health Problems in China.

11.50 am         Break

12.00 am         Human Rights in China Panel

T. Kumar, Amnesty International. Freedom of Expression in the Upcoming Beijing Olympics and the Situation of Tibet.

12:40 pm         Lunch

1.40  pm          Business and Trade in China

Professor Meng Yanbei, Law School, Renmin University of China. Anti-Monopoly Laws in China

Professor Laney Zhan , The Law Library of Congress. SUBJECT TBD

I find this pretty funny: it’s like a huge intentional gala for which both the US president and Osama Bin Laden are invited to attend; the organizer is somehow clever enough to make sure that the two would not mingle either in a friendly manner or in a fist fight.

Well, what can I say? Chinese scholars talking about challenges that China is facing don’t have anything to say about human rights. Maybe one of my friends is right: “China has no human rights problem, just like it doesn’t have any intellectual property problem.”

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Just Another Example of Doublethinking

March 22, 2009

Erich Fromm wrote an afterword for George Orwell’s 1984. In that afterword, Fromm pointed out that “doublethinking” exists not only in the Soviet bloc, but also in Western democracies that support totalitarian regimes as long as they are friendly to the West, while how those regimes treated their own people is just another issue for another day.

That is sadly true. It is especially true in today’s mess. This administration has vowed to change Bush’s foreign policy. Shutting down Gitmo is one example. As far as I can remember, the reason behind this is this simple principle called “holding on to your principle”, namely that even in extreme times, measures that violate due process should not be imposed. If you buy this logic, then you should agree that “extreme times call for extreme measures” is no excuse for compromising the core value of this country, namely liberty, freedom, and democracy. This is a good move which I cannot agree more.

But look at this story: Hillary Clinton said, during her visit to China, that human rights should not intervene with economic and environmental issues. Let me point out that she made this speech at a time when China basically owns the US on the face of the humongous US foreign debt. Let me also point out (or argue) that without the protection of human rights, such as the right to free speech, only the crazy few who are willing to head to jail would play the role of whistle blowers, who are an indispensable part of the health of economy and environmental protection anywhere in the world. A time of financial crisis is indeed extreme time. But does that justify extreme measures, such as accusing human rights for “intervening” in the fight against this crisis? I never heard Bush talk about human rights while he was in China. I know he purposefully avoided it to appease China. That’s cowardly; but not as cowardly as saying that China has been right all along: human rights is indeed BAD!

This is why I agree with the author of Maus: the world will never learn the lesson from Hitler. And 1984 is sadly a book too brilliant for the cowardly politicians, the indifferent mass, and the humanity on the whole.


Headline: Sunrise This Morning

March 7, 2009

I ventured into the Chinese web page of Yahoo News yesterday, and this headline came into my sight: No Big Problem Found in Stimulus Spending.

My universe! Is this even news report? For one thing, I don’t recall the last time the media in China questioning any governmental policy. Since there has never been any problem in anything since 1949, what’s the point of reporting that there is, as usual, no problem? That seems like reporting that today there is sunrise in the morning. Duh!

On the other hand, no one can deny that China has a very serious corruption problem. Just look at the number of the corrupted officials disclosed each year, not to mention the high possibility of undisclosed, on-going, and future corruptions. Now, you have this ridiculously large amount of money to spend on the one hand, and this strikingly high rate of corruption on the other. It doesn’t take an actor to show the emotion called “worry.”

No protection for whistle blowers, no independent judiciary, no congressional oversight, no free media questioning anything…. No Problem!