Last July on his trip to China, President Clinton extended the hand of friendship to the Chinese government. Today, with the outrageous sentences handed down to Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, and Qin Yongmin, we see more evidence of how the Beijing regime is failing to return the gesture.
While the world's attention was focused elsewhere, the Chinese government moved rapidly to conduct sham trials, convict, and harshly sentence Chinese citizens whose only crime was to dare to oppose the Communist party's control. Then, in a cynical ploy to provide cover to its international defenders, the Beijing regime exiled one dissident. Beijing's actions raise serious questions about the much-touted progress on the rule of law in China.
In order to stop the dragnet on dissenters in China, a dragnet which could further set back the cause of democracy in China for decades, the Clinton Administration must act now. The President should (1) call on Chinese President Jiang Zemin to commute these sentences and release other prisoners of conscience, (2) assert a U.S. leadership role in bringing a resolution condemning China's human rights practices to the annual U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva in March and, (3) delay the high level trade delegation going to Beijing early next year.
It is clear that the Chinese Communist Party will not tolerate any actions it perceives as a threat to its control. It is also clear that the Clinton Administration will tolerate the Beijing regime's repressive actions as it strives to retain control. "Constructive engagement" has tragically become "destructive imprisonment" for yet more courageous Chinese promoters of freedom.
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