- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

The Chinese are trying to send a message to the American scholars of Chinese origin who have made our culture rich: The Chinese government has the authority to put American citizens in jail without consequence. The Bush administrations' silence in response to that message is becoming deafening.
When asked at a hearing at the Committee on International Relations last week whether a harsher incentive should be used than just dialogue with the Chinese government to obtain the release of the prisoners, even if it doesn't cause their release, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly responded that the United States should not make casual threats. There is nothing casual about an American father being held without charges, incommunicado from his family and lawyer for months, as has been the case with City University of Hong Kong professor Li Shaomin. There is nothing casual about a 5-year-old being whisked away from his parents in a Beijing airport and held by Chinese officials away from his family for 26 days, as was the case with Andrew, the son of American University researcher Gao Zhan.
These events are serious, and demand a serious response. So far, the Bush administration has not given one. The president's response letter to Diana, daughter of Li Shaomin, has not affected the professor's release. Nor was the tone of the letter one that could be considered comforting to a girl whose father could be tried in a matter of days: "A representative of our government in China visits him occasionally and will continue to do so," his letter reads. "We are keeping close watch on this case and hope your family can be reunited soon." This type of apathy is not echoed in Congress, which on Tuesday put forth a bill in the House asking for the unconditional release of Chinese American academics being held by the Chinese government.
It is not that the Bush administration is ignorant of the plight of the Chinese American scholars, or uninformed as to what goes on in Chinese jails. The State Department's 2000 Country Report says plainly that human rights practices in China "included instances of extrajudicial killings, the use of torture, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, the mistreatment of prisoners, lengthy incommunicado detention, and denial of due process." Confessions obtained through torture can be used as evidence in trials.
As University of Pennsylvania professor Arthur Waldron aptly put it: "It is not that the dictatorships of the world are no longer committing human rights abuses, it is that the democracies of the world are no longer protesting." It is time for the Bush administration to protest loud and clear.

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