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Scolding Beijing and Washington

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A John Kusumi Special Comment

These two emperors have no clothes between them.

I say, "free prisoners" and "Hillary Clinton, resign!"

When we think about government ontologically, people are the reason why government exists, and government owes its existence to people. In fact I once produced bumper stickers that said, “People Are Important.”  The governments of China and America talk the talk, as if people are important, but then their actions belie their propaganda. Anyone who calls these governments hypocritical makes an accurate observation.

The matter at hand is the case of Zhou Yongjun, a Chinese dissident who was on the news wires yesterday due to his arrest in China. Both Beijing and Washington are mishandling his case.


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Zhou Yongjun in 2007

For background, I can note that I organized the China Support Network in 1989 as a way for Western people to support Chinese democracy -- at the time, many people were sympathetically in favor of the student-led pro-democracy movement, which had just been suppressed at Tiananmen Square. That was an occasion when the Chinese government used mass murder as its method of choice to suppress the students.

Zhou Yongjun was the first President of the Autonomous Federation of Universities in Beijing. Hence, he was a very visible student leader at the outset of that protest movement. Then, he was captured after the massacre and jailed by Chinese authorities until 1991.


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Zhou Yongjun in 1989

After that, he settled in the United States for exile. He attempted a return to China in 1998, was captured again, and sentenced through "laojiao" (administrative detention) to three years in a labor camp. He was released in 2001 and returned to the United States in 2002, where he has permanent residency and two children.


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Zhou Yongjun in 2002

In September of 2008, he attempted a return to China and was captured again. He was held secretly without charges for the past seven and a half months. Both Beijing and Washington are mishandling his case. In yesterday's news, the AFP news wire quoted me saying,

"It is exceedingly bad form for the Chinese government to create a new Tiananmen-related controversy at the very time that world attention is turning to the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square."

It's more than bad form. The facts at hand indicate that Beiijing and Washington are both misbehaving.

Simply compare and contrast two cases of two U.S.-based dissidents: Yang Jianli and Zhou Yongjun. On Saturday, May 9, Yang attempted to enter China, specifically to visit Hong Kong activists on upcoming matters as the pro-democracy movement commemorates the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square's uprising and massacre.  (Editor’s Note: See the 7-minute Human Rights Watch video, Tiananmen: China’s Unhealed Wound, and, for more historical background, read John’s review of Standoff at Tiananmen, a book by Eddie Cheng.)

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that "Everyone has the right to a nationality" (article 15) and that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country" (Article 13).

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The author was once the 18-year-old candidate for U.S. President ('84) and later the founder of the China Support Network, post-Tiananmen Square.
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