YANG Jianli TENG Biao
This week, China’s President Xi, in Washington for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Summit, will also meet on the side with President Obama. Obama continues to visibly rely on Xi’s professed commitments to the U.S., ranging from explicit to implicit, on an array of issues: carbon emission reduction, anti-nuclear proliferation, policing commercial hackers, and U.N. Security Council effort to stop ISIS, among others.
While monitoring how Xi fulfills his commitments, and whether he can be trusted to do so in the future, Obama would do well to remember a reliable indicator.
History teaches us that, when a dictator betrays the rights guaranteed the people by his nation’s own laws and constitution, his international agreements and commitment also are untrustworthy. In the 20th Century, we learned that lesson well.
So it behoves Obama to press Xi about how his escalating repression of human rights not only has shocked the world’s conscience, but also has violated China’s own laws and constitution. He might start with the following questions. Xi’s answers would permit Obama to recalibrate what bargains to strike with him and how vigilantly to monitor Xi’s compliance.
–“Why do you permit such gross violations of China’s constitutional provisions and laws guaranteeing religious freedom? The Communist Party has demolished more than 1,500 crosses and many churches in Zhejiang Province, alone. The Party continues to torture Falun Gong believers for peacefully practicing their faith (as recently confirmed by the U.N. Committee Against Torture), and also harvests and sells organs from live Falun Gong prisoners (the subject of a Resolution recently reported unanimously from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.)”
–“Why do you deny ethnic minorities that constitute a significant population of a Chinese province the substantial autonomy that Article 4 of China’s constitution guarantees them? Why, for example, have you instead continued the ethnic and cultural repression of Tibetans in Tibet that has driven desperate monks and nuns to self-immolation? And if you are not trying to illegally destroy the Uyghurs’ ethnic identity, why do you forbid their wearing beards and whiskers as the founder of Communism, Karl Marx did?
— “Do you think it is acceptable to unleash armed tanks and machine guns on peacefully protesting students and citizens; or do you agree with your father’s known position against the massacre of them in Tiananmen Square? If you do not think that was acceptable, then why do you try to enforce “national amnesia’ about the Tiananmen massacre? Will you permit citizens to peacefully commemorate the victims’ sacrifice on the anniversary of that tragedy this June?
— “Is your alarming escalation of brutal repression consistent with your claim of fidelity to the ‘Rule of Law?’ In 2015, the world watched you disappear or imprison increasing numbers of attorneys, human rights advocates, journalists, others peacefully exercising their rights under China’s constitution, and even their bystander relatives.
Starting October 2015, five staff of Hong Kong Causeway Bay Books, which was about to publish a China forbidden book on Xi’s private life, went missing one after another and were later found in detention in China. Martin Lee, the famous Hong Kong democratic leader, described the disappearances as the “most worrying thing that has happened in Hong Kong since the handover in 1997.”
Just last week, the two younger brothers and a younger sister of Mr.Chang Ping, the Germany-based Chinese journalist, were abducted by the Chinese police, becoming the latest victims in the incident surrounding the open letter demanding Xi Jinping’s resignation.
Citizens are sentenced on the basis of public confessions made following torture, but before their alleged crimes have been adjudicated in court. Is this adherence to the ‘rule of law’, or rather a renaissance of the infamous Cultural Revolution and the “collective punishment” doctrine of ancient China?
President Obama should ponder carefully Xi’s answers, or silences, in response to these question. Xi’s widespread violations of China’s own constitution and statutes — let alone his continued disregard of China’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other universally accepted codes of decency it has signed — should put Obama on notice and prompt his due diligence before relying too much on Xi’s smiling assurances. It also should encourage him to stop muffling his public call for human rights in China