Forward on Chinese democracy
CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Fri May 12 12:01:50 MDT 2000
>Paris, Friday, May 12, 2000
China's Dissidents Urge U.S. to Back Normal Trade With Beijing
By John Pomfret Washington Post Service
BEIJING - Bao Tong, once a high-ranking Communist Party official,
went out his with wife and daughter for a meal last weekend.
When they arrived, 10 men in plainclothes surrounded them and ordered
Mr. Bao, who was imprisoned for seven years for opposing the violent
crackdown around Tiananmen Square in 1989, into an unmarked car. He
refused, so they picked him up by the head, waist and feet and shoved
him in the vehicle. As she attempted to intercede, they pushed his
wife, who is 68, to the ground.
''Who gave you the right to do this to me?'' Mr. Bao recalled asking
the men who forced him home.
''The government,'' one man answered. '' The party,'' another said.
Once a top aide to the purged Communist Party secretary Zhao Ziyang,
Mr. Bao is one of China's most prominent dissidents. The catalogue of
indignities he is forced to endure - tapped phones, permanent
surveillance by the secret police and periodic restrictions on simple
freedoms - underscore some of the worst allegations about Chinese
human rights abuses made in the United States.
CB: Seems U.S. complaint against this implies that the U.S. does not carry out the
same type of thing. Aren't the FBI , CIA, BIA, state and local undercover cops
"secret" police ? What is secret about the police who arrested Mr. Bao out in the
middle of the public ? Doesn't everybody know who they are ? How then are they
Isn't repression of a high ranking government official also demonstration of less
elite qualities in the system ? Removability of "high" ranking officials is logically
connected with less, not more, hierarchy.
But Mr. Bao has a message for the United States Congress: Pass
permanent normal trade relations with China. Don't use it as a lever
to try to improve China's human rights situation. Hasten China's
entry into the World Trade Organization. Bring China as much as
possible into international regimes that over time will force this
unwieldy country to obey regulations that for too long it has
finessed by arguing that China was exceptional, somehow different,
above the rules.
Mr. Bao is not alone. A broad array of dissidents, environmentalists
and labor activists in China appear united in their support of U.S.
passage of the Permanent Normal Trade Relations Act.
As part of a landmark trade agreement ushering China into the World
Trade Organization, the White House has said Congress must do away
with these annual reviews and grant Beijing permanent normal trading
status. Such status would guarantee Chinese goods the same low-tariff
access to U.S. markets as products from nearly every other nation.
''It is obvious this is a good thing for China,'' Mr. Bao said in an
In the United States, the unlikely ''Seattle coalition'' of unions,
human rights groups, environmentalists and church groups have
combined their lobbying firepower to threaten the China vote. As this
happens, their intellectual counterparts in China are looking on in
''I appreciate the efforts of friends and colleagues to help our
human rights situation,'' Mr. Bao said, ''but it doesn't make sense
to use trade as a lever. It just doesn't work.''
''All of the fights - for a better environment, labor rights and
human rights - these fights we will fight in China tomorrow,'' said
Dai Qing, perhaps China's most prominent environmentalist and
independent political thinker, who also served time because she
opposed the Tiananmen crackdown. ''But first we must break the
monopoly of the state. To do that, we need a freer market and the
competition mandated by the WTO.''
To China's liberals, the arguments made in the United States about
China appear exceedingly simple, often fatuous and not really to the
Some Chinese liberals interviewed said they believed American labor
unions were using their concerns about workers rights in China as a
smoke screen to hide their protectionist agenda. Others said that in
the boisterous battle in the United States, all of China's complexity
has been lost.
Still more expressed consternation that Chinese exiles such as Wei
Jingsheng, who spent almost two decades in Chinese jails for
supporting democracy, had come out against permanent normal trade
relations. Mr. Wei has claimed that if China wins permanent normal
trade relations, U.S. workers will become as poor as Chinese workers,
underscoring concerns about his understanding of basic economic
To these liberals, American businesses and trade groups are
dissembling when they say that free trade and Western capital
naturally lead to a freer society. But equally, they say, opponents
of China's accession to the WTO and the granting of permanent normal
trade relations are muddleheaded when they say that denying China
access to American capital will somehow force China to improve
workers' and human rights.
''American consumers are a main catalyst for better worker rights in
China,'' said Zhou Litai, one of China's most prominent labor
lawyers, who represents dozens of maimed workers in the booming
southern metropolis of Shenzhen. ''They are the ones who pressure
Nike and Reebok to improve working conditions at Hong Kong- and
Taiwan-run factories here. If Nike and Reebok go - and they could
very well if PNTR is rejected - this pressure evaporates. This is
To them, the either-or argument in Washington over whether China's
human rights situation has improved or deteriorated sounds bizarre.
Yes, they say, Chinese people have more rights now than they have
ever had since Communism came to China in 1949. But the power of the
police is still both supreme and capricious. The party leadership
views itself as extremely brittle, so it lashes out - often violently
- at any perceived threat. And freedom of worship is being reeled in
because the party understands that it has lost any ideological
legitimacy, so it is deathly afraid of new beliefs.
Like Mr. Bao, Dai Qing is a nonperson in China. A writer of vigorous
prose in Chinese, she has been banned from publishing here and from
participating in any organizations and is not allowed to have a job.
She is followed sometimes, and, as with Mr. Bao, her phone is tapped.
Despite her troubles - or, Miss Dai argued, actually because of her
troubles - she said permanent normal trade relations and China's WTO
entry made obvious sense.
''One of the main economic and political problems in China today,''
she said, ''is our monopoly system - a monopoly on power and business
monopolies. Both elements are mutually reinforcing. The WTO's rules
would naturally encourage competition, and that's bad for both
monopolies. We have a time lag with the West right now. We've got to
confront our most pressing problems that first.''
Another factor, she added, is that the WTO, by forcing lower tariffs,
simplifying rules for investment and opening protected sectors of
China's market to foreign competition, will also hurt the Hong
Kong-based business executives who have profited mightily by using
their connections to China's elite.
''In order for this country to advance, we need to begin to chip away
at people who sell their relations and use bribery and other methods
to control China's markets,'' she said. ''WTO will help us move in
There is a growing cult of resentful nationalism in China today,
something that President Jiang Zemin taps into from time to time. The
balance between this cult, which is alternatively encouraged and
reined in by the party, and people who want China to stay open to the
West is fragile.
Rejection of permanent normal trade relations would give opponents of
Westernization in China a great victory, Miss Dai and Mr. Bao argue.
Their allegations of an American plot to isolate China, burnished by
the accidental U.S. bombing of China's Embassy in Yugoslavia a year
ago, would gain even more merit in the skewed court of public opinion
''Look,'' said Mr. Zhou, the labor lawyer in Shenzhen, ''our
situation here is different than in the United States. Here,
Taiwanese businessmen will spend $1,000 on their girlfriends but
won't give their workers a buck. To me, WTO and permanent normal
trade relations at least mean that U.S. and other Western companies
will continue to engage in China. That's a good thing, not a bad
thing for Chinese workers.''
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