The Chinese democracy movement can rightly feel injured by Clinton's husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. In this frame of reference, Bill Clinton did three things of note. (1.) He made use of Chinese dissidents as props in his election campaign. At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, two student leaders from the Tiananmen Square uprising appeared and gave speeches. (2.) He promised to renew China trade only with linkage to progress on human rights. In 1994, he broke that campaign promise and gave us the phrase "Clintonian duplicity." (3.) He took Clintonian duplicity to the next level when, in 1999, he signed a PNTR deal for "permanent" free trade with a politically unreformed China that is still led by the Chinese Communist Party. Arguably, it makes Bill Clinton look bad in his timing, that the regime in China simultaneously (in 1999) began a crackdown to eradicate the Falun Gong spiritual movement that is known for meditation and qi gong exercises.
All of the above is backdrop and informs the latent discontent that China's democracy movement rightly has for the U.S. executive branch. Human rights in China became worse under Bill Clinton's bright idea of unquestioned free trade between the U.S. and Red China.
Then Hillary Clinton did something to inflame the situation. On her way to Beijing last week, Hillary Clinton telegraphed her attitude about human rights. The Washington Post cited her: "We pretty much know what they are going to say" on human rights issues such as greater freedoms for Tibet, Clinton told reporters traveling with her on a tour of Asia. She made it clear that she does not want human rights to "interfere" with her services for communists, dictators, tyrants, and thugs.
She generated headlines. A CNN headline said, "Clinton: Chinese 'human rights can't interfere' with other crises." An Australian headline said, "In China, Clinton avoids rights issue." The headlines also included reax from rights groups -- campaigners, commonly found shoulder-to-shoulder with the Chinese democracy movement. In India, a headline said, "Rights group slams Clinton's China remarks." In the Netherlands, a headline said, "Rights groups shocked at Clinton's China stance." USA Today's headline said, "Amnesty Int'l 'shocked' over Clinton's human rights remarks."
As reported by AFP:
The reaction became more heavy on Saturday, as the China Support Network released an article, "Hillary Clinton Visits Her Communist Masters In Beijing." Amid his scathing and blistering criticism, CSN's founder John Kusumi called for Hillary Clinton to resign. "We have no confidence in her here," Kusumi said Sunday. "I think that (U.S. President Barack) Obama could replace Clinton with (U.S. Rep. Nancy) Pelosi, and that might work."
"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns
hinder cooperation with China.
"Paying her first visit to Asia as the top US diplomat, Clinton said the United States would continue to press China on long-standing US concerns over human rights such as its rule over Tibet.
"'But our pressing on those issues can't interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,' Clinton told reporters in Seoul just before leaving for Beijing.
"T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was 'shocked and extremely disappointed' by Clinton's remarks.
"'The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues,' he said.
"'But by commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities, Secretary Clinton damages future US initiatives to protect those rights in China,' he said.
"Students for a Free Tibet said Clinton's remarks sent the wrong signal to China at a sensitive time."
Many times, it is true that the Chinese democracy movement has both moderates and hardliners, and this allows for a good cop / bad cop routine to be played out. The China Support Network moved into the bad cop position vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton.
On Sunday, The Wei Jingsheng Foundation moved into the good cop position vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton. They released an open letter, from famed Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng to Hillary Clinton. Its text is inserted here:
February 21, 2009
Respectful Secretary of State Clinton,
I am a political prisoner rescued from China during President William Clinton's term. I was fortunate to be invited to the White House to meet with then President Clinton, as well as to be introduced to you by President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic during a banquet hosted by him. The rescued political prisoners like us, and the Chinese people during that era, had all appreciated very much the human rights diplomacy of the USA. We have cheered for its success, as well as sighed for its shortcomings. We are actively seeking the reasons for the shortcomings. When there is inappropriate wording, please forgive us.
Unfortunately we saw some huge mistakes during the President Clinton's Administration. The first was the unlinking of Chinese human rights from trade issues, and the second was forcefully pushing the Congress to offer PNTR (i.e. Most Favored Nation status) to China. The result was that it not only reduced America's international prestige and damaged the democratic progress in China, but also brought disastrous long-term results for America's own economy and employment opportunities. According to the data released by the US government, during this period, the US trade deficit with China grew rapidly by a factor of 10 to more than 300 Billion Dollars annually, accumulating a total of more than 2 Trillion dollars.
Generally, people expected you to make a correction to this important historic mistake after you become the Secretary of State and to re-emphasize the human rights issue in China. However, from what you said and did during your visit to China this time, it was not the case. Using the words of the Chinese Communist government's Internet agents, the human rights diplomacy of the USA has come to its end.
Is it true that there is no relationship between Chinese human rights and the US interests? That is not so. Although the trigger for the economic crisis in the USA was in the financial sector, the root cause was the trade imbalance, especially the huge trade deficit with China that has effectively destroyed the real economy in the USA. The Obama Administration has been mobilizing Americans to overcome the difficulty and revive the real economy, as the prerequisite to tide over the current economic crisis. The real prerequisite of this policy is to block the huge loophole of the foreign trade deficit. Otherwise, billions of dollars from the economic stimulus package will simply become the profit of the multi-national companies and the Chinese government.
How was this huge US trade deficit to China formed? The most important reason out of the many was due to unfair and unequal trade with China. China is not a free market economy but a totalitarian country under one party dictatorship. The Chinese Communist government controls China's trade. Chinese workers do not have rights to protect their own interests. The government controls the Chinese media. It is exactly these human rights problems that result in the unfair and unequal trade, producing the abnormal trade deficit, tipping the economy of the developed countries, and finally ending with the current economic crisis. The imbalanced economic development in China has also resulted in the global energy crisis and environment pollution, and indirectly threatens the global security. All of these issues were of your attention during your trip to China, yet you have failed to put human rights as your top priority.
Thus, not to talk about Chinese human rights issues is effectively blocking the effort by the Obama Administration to solve the economic and security issues. I do not think that fits your responsibility as the US Secretary of State, or your purpose of visiting China now. There is a huge wave of criticism of your conduct related to your China visit this time, both inside China and Overseas, as well as in English and in Chinese. This failure has severely damaged the image of the Obama Administration, resulting in a huge misunderstanding of the US government, and also severely harming Americans' expectation of President Obama. I wish that you would take effective steps to remedy that.
If you think that there is a need, I am willing to discuss the related issues with you further.
Best wishes that your work will be productive and successful.
-- Wei Jingsheng
Chair, Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition
Washington DC, USA