- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FREEDOM IN CHINA?

A Chinese diplomat in Washington insists the communist government in Beijing guarantees “full freedom of speech” and “basic human rights,” despite well-documented cases of Chinese journalists and dissidents imprisoned for trying to exercise their civil liberties.

Wang Baodong, press spokesman at the Chinese Embassy, was responding to a request from Embassy Row for comment on letters sent by 30 members of Congress to President Obama concerning two prominent dissidents — one of whom won the Nobel Peace Prize last week.

“I want to say that the Chinese people enjoy full freedom of speech, and their basic human rights are well safeguarded within the framework of the Chinese constitution and relevant laws, which greatly contributes to the economic growth, social progress and improvement of people’s livelihood,” Mr. Wang said in an e-mail.

“The couple of people in question were given prison sentences because of their unlawful activities, and such activities run counter to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Award.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee outraged the Chinese government by awarding the 2010 Peace Prize to dissidentLiu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for promoting a human rights movement called Charter ‘08. The second dissident, Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer known as the “conscience of China,” was jailed without charges or trial last year. He was released in March and detained again in April.

The State Department, in its latest human rights report on China, cited the government for a deteriorating record on freedoms supposedly guaranteed in the country’s constitution.

“The government continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison journalists, writers, dissidents, activists, petitioners, and defense lawyers and their families, many of whom sought to exercise their rights under the law,” the report said.

Human Rights Watch added that Mr. Liu “is one of many leading human-rights activists who have been harassed, detained, beaten, forced out of their jobs and jailed in recent years.”

The members of Congress who wrote to Mr. Obama last week urged him to call for the release of the two dissidents when he meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Group of 20 Summit in Seoul on Nov. 11 and 12.

KYRGYZ SUCCESS

After two revolutions in five years and the overthrow of two corrupt presidents, the mountainous Central Asian Kyrgyz Republic finally held an election Sunday that met U.S. standards for fairness, according to the leaders of a congressional human rights panel.

“Sunday’s election can mark a new chapter in Kyrgyzstan’s democratic development, and I look forward to strengthening ties between Kyrgyzstan’s new Parliament and the U.S. Congress,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

His co-chairman, Rep. Alcee Hastings, issued a warning for the new government to protect minority rights.

“I urge the new government to ensure that minorities, including ethnic Uzbeks, are represented and included in the new system,” the Florida Democrat said.

Kyrgyz voters elected members to the 120-seat Parliament in what observers said was generally free and fair. The election followed a revolution in April that overthrew President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was elected after the 2005 Tulip Revolution overthrew President Askar Akayev.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.