- - Sunday, July 30, 2017

The death of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo from late-stage liver cancer last month is further evidence that China’s suppression of human rights is growing more severe. Worse still, foreign reaction to outrage in China is growing weaker, and cynical besides.

China ignored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s call on the Beijing government to allow Mr. Liu to go abroad for his final days on this earth “as a signal of humanity” and concern for the treatment might prolong his life.

Chinese civil rights activist Hu Jia accuses Western nations of “a policy of appeasement,” and Princeton-based rights lawyer Teng Biao warns that “if the West is reluctant to anger China, there will be no hope.”

Several governments have asked that Liu Xiaobo’s widow be allowed to choose whether to stay or leave China. But there’s no sign of willingness to penalize the Communist authorities for their gross persecution of Mr. Liu, who might have lived a little longer if he had had access to foreign medicine.

Steve Tsang of the British think tank Chatham House warns that President Trump’s “America First” policy of reluctance to intervene abroad and the “stronger expectation and desire to see China playing a global role” is leading to a worsening abuse of civil rights inside China. John Kamm, an American businessman and founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, who for decades has quietly lobbied China for improved treatment of political prisoners, says he could not even persuade the Beijing government to allow Mr. Liu to leave China for treatment.

Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, says that “taken together, particularly over the [first decade of this century] you have progressively less interest by foreign governments to fight as hard as they ought for systemic change in China.”

There was also a confused reaction at the United Nations where Beijing’s offer to increase its contribution to peacekeeping troops has played a major role is softening further the U.N. attitude toward civil rights abuse.

President Xi Jinping, whose growing cult of personality as head of the Communist Party has begun to assume a similarity to that of Mao Tse-tung, has successfully distracted attention from human rights and turned international attention to Beijing’s proposal to create a new China-European trade and investment route, the so-called “One Belt, One Road.” While China’s growing global status discourages criticism from abroad, it also, as Mr. Tsang notes, gives both its government and the public greater confidence to rebuff such challenges from abroad. One American scholar of Chinese affairs, Andrew J. Nathan of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that China “simply pays no heed to foreign pressure.”

“Many Americans and people around the world believe these and other injustices demand accountability,” Sen. Marco Rubio said in a letter to Mrs. Liu. “Current U.S. law gives the president of the United States the authority to impose visa bans and to freeze the assets of foreign citizens who suppress basic human rights; surely the Chinese government’s treatment of you and your husband meets this standard. Other measures, including sanctions, can be brought to bear.

“I fear that if there is no price to pay for the Chinese government’s treatment of your husband, arguably China’s most prominent political prisoner, it will send a devastating message to thousands more like him, whose names we may not know but whose harassment, imprisonment, deprivation of rights, denial of medical treatment, torture in detention, and more, are daily realities.”

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