Press Release by Congresswoman Pelosi

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Statement on the Eve of the President's Trip to China

June 23, 1998

I stand here today with distinguished colleagues from the House and Senate, leaders in the fight for human rights and basic democratic freedoms, and representatives of organizations that span the spectrum of American political discourse. Some of us disagree on many other subjects, but on this issue we are united....the United States must begin implementing an honest, effective, and sustainable engagement with China. President Clinton leaves tomorrow on his journey, becoming the first U.S. President to visit China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. As President of the United States, he represents us as a people -- we urge him to take concrete steps on this trip to speak out for our values of basic human rights and democratic freedoms, to uphold our national security interest in halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to ensure our economic strength by insisting on fair trade and open markets.

Over nine years ago, when we started the debate on U.S.-China policy in response to Tiananmen Square, our goal was simple -- to free China's pro-democracy activists, those involved in the Tiananmen Square events and those involved in the Democracy Wall activities of ten years earlier. The issue has grown larger over the years, to encompass concerns about U.S.-China trade and China's proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to unsafeguarded nations and rogue states. Throughout this all, we have been sustained by the courage of China's dissidents and their determined fight for freedom. We cannot and we will not walk away from them.

Today, we urge President Clinton to be as courageous on his trip as the young people who stood for freedom, and in some cases lost their lives for freedom in Tiananmen Square. We remind him of the significance of this Goddess of Democracy, and urge him to be true to the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, as were those Chinese students, workers, and citizens in 1989 who looked to the United States for inspiration. We urge him to meet with dissidents and with the families of those who died in Tiananmen Square. We urge him to remember their sacrifice. And we urge him to insist on the safety of those brave Chinese people who are taking now calling for their government to reform.

While the Chinese people have been inspired by our values, their government has never been impressed by the Administration's commitment to those values. The President has an opportunity to correct this misimpression. If he continues to insist on being scripted by the Chinese government, which I fear is the pattern of the day, from being received in Tiananmen Square, to conceding to China's rescission of visas for three Radio Free Asia reporters, he will miss his opportunity to stand with the Chinese people in their fight for freedom. If this pattern continues throughout the President' trip, he will be remembered for standing with China's authoritarian regime -- and will, indeed, find himself on the wrong side of history.

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