In a recent presidential debate, Congressman Ron Paul made a bizarre equivalence between a Chinese dissident taking refuge in America and Osama bin Laden hiding in Pakistan, as he was attempting to criticize American foreign and defense policies generally. And while it may come as a relief to dissidents like Yu Jie that, according to Paul, “if a Chinese dissident [came] over here, we wouldn’t endorse the idea, well, [that the Chinese government] can come over here and bomb us and do whatever.”
Yu is a prominent Chinese dissident, writer, and Christian, who arrived in the U.S. last week, as reported here and here. He had been held under house arrest since 2010 and denied permission to publish in China. As for Paul, it’s worth reviewing his views on the use of American military force, as well as America’s moral authority and political leverage on behalf of people suffering and often dying around the world, and particularly in China.
In 2008, Paul was the only member of the House of Representatives to vote against a resolution calling on Beijing to end its crackdown in Tibet, pursue a substantive dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, release political prisoners, and allow human rights monitors into Tibet.
On other occasions Paul was the only member of the House of Representatives to:
—Vote against condemning China’s system of forced labor in prison camps, the notorious Laogai system, and call for enforcement of U.S. laws that prohibit the importation of products made in the Laogai; and
—Vote against a resolution congratulating Liu Xiaobo, for winning the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and call for Liu’s release from prison.
Yet Paul’s isolationist position does not mean he thinks China should also mind its own business. He has voted against urging the People’s Republic of China to end its political, economic, and military support for the repressive governments of Sudan and Burma.
Just yesterday, word came that Zhu Yufu, a poet from Hangzhou, will face charges for writing a poem, “It’s Time.” Zhu wrote the poem around the time of the online rumors of a Jasmine Revolution which caused great anxiety among Chinese leaders. A translated passage cited in the New York Times story reads:
It’s time, Chinese people!
The square is ours,
The feet are ours,
It’s time to use our feet to go to the square and make a choice.
Zhu can expect an unusually harsh sentence. Others imprisoned in the current wave of subversion prosecutions include: Liu Xianbian, (10 years), Chen Wei, (9 years), Chen Xi, (10 years), and of course Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, whose arrest in connection with the Charter 08 movement for democracy and human rights earned him an 11 year prison sentence.
China Human Rights Defenders also report that a ten-year sentence was imposed yesterday on Li Tie, a writer and democracy activist.
Permission for Yu Jie to leave China may have been a minor concession by the Chinese government in anticipation of the expected February visit to Washington of Xi Jinping, the first secretary of the Communist Party. Xi is expected to take over for Hu Jintao as general secretary later this year.
In view of what’s happening to dissidents in China, it’s disturbing that this visit will go forward at all.
Members of Congress should consider asking President Obama to make the ongoing crackdown as well as the despairing self-immolations by Tibetans, the persecution of Uyghurs, Christians, and land rights and other activists, a central feature of First Secretary Xi’s visit. But they don’t need to bother asking Congressman Paul to join them.