China to U.S.

During his recent visit to the U.S., Chinese president Jaing dined at the White House—the honored guest at a glittering state dinner. But as he basked in the warm glow of presidential toasts, Jaing also surely overheard the racket created by some uninvited guests outside in the cold. Across the street at Lafayette Park, thousands of human-rights activists held protest signs aloft and chanted pro-democracy slogans. Some were Buddhists, like actor Richard Gere. But others were Christians, like members of the Family Research Council, who brought along an eight-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty. And the protesters may have taught him a good lesson. By the time he flies back to Beijing, Jaing will have visited a dozen symbols of American freedom, from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where Jaing watched actors portray Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. But for all his exposure to these tributes to freedom, Jaing’s own words reveal that he doesn’t get it. Tyrants don’t understand what real freedom is all about. When Jaing arrived in Hawaii, he was greeted by protesters chanting "human rights now." Hawaii Governor Cayetano later noted that an irritated Jaing complained that he should not have had to put up with being "bothered" by noisy activists. He reportedly had demanded that President Clinton and American officials prevent any such demonstrations during his visit. In China, of course, Jaing would have simply arrested such protesters—or run over them with tanks. Thankfully, that’s not the way things work here in America. But Jaing’s moment of candor is deeply revealing. His words expose how futile it is to expect Chinese leaders to make human-rights concessions in response to polite diplomatic requests. Tyrants don’t respond to arguments from moral authority because they don’t recognize moral authority. And that is the lesson we learned during the Reagan years dealing with the Soviets. It’s a lesson I learned while I was in the Nixon White House, when the president sent me to Moscow to demand the release of persecuted Soviet Jews. "If you don’t allow the Jews to immigrate, there will be no U.S. grain," I insisted. And the Soviets backed down. But Chinese leaders feel free to say "shut up" about human rights because they know that killing Christians costs them nothing. They know that our political leaders care more about big export markets than about human rights. You and I ought to demand that our leaders get tough with trade and other policies. President Clinton opposed getting tough before Jaing came, not wanting to embarrass him. Well, Jiang has come and gone. I say the time has come for Congress to pass the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act, which provides modest sanctions against countries that persecute religious believers. Jiang’s comments prove we need this law, and we need it now. Now, I realize that China is a big market for our products, but our imprisoned brothers and sisters in Christ ought to be our first concern. And that’s a message President Jiang must have heard from Lafayette Park while he was dining at the White House. Such demonstrations may have infuriated the Chinese leader, but as Representative Chris Smith put it, "Bearing witness to [China’s] atrocities, telling the whole truth about them, is the best way I can think of saying ‘Welcome to America, Mr. Jiang.’ To that I say, Amen.  


Chuck Colson


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