Beijing Besieged

Dear Friends, please read these two articles from a friend, Reggie Littlejohn, a specialist in China affairs. These are very timely considering the Olympics coming up this year in Communist China. Jerry

By Reggie Littlejohn for Human Rights Without Frontiers

Three events have converged on Beijing in just the past week: Haile Gebrselassie pulled out of the Olympic marathon because of pollution-related health concerns; the Chinese government is staging a violent crackdown on the peaceful protest of monks in Tibet; and officials have challenged Premier Wen Jiabao on the one-child policy. Beijing is being besieged by its own failures on the environmental and human rights fronts. If the Chinese Communist Party does not marshal its resources to make pronounced improvements in both arenas, the Olympics – instead of a showcase for all that is great about China — could become a public relations debacle.

I was in Tibet during the 1987 uprising in Lhasa. I was appalled to see that the Chinese Communist Party crushed a peaceful protest of Tibetan monks with deadly force. The western response to this brutality gave birth to the “Free Tibet” movement. If the CCP does not exercise restraint in Tibet today, but rather responds to the current protest of Tibetan monks with deadly force or with martial law, the CCP could bring upon itself its own worst nightmare: an international boycott of the Olympic Games. Justice demands that the leaders of the free world, the corporate sponsors of the Olympic Games, and the International Olympic Committee, condemn any violent crackdown against peaceful Tibetan monks.

It appears, moreover, that there is significant strain and dissent within the ranks of the CCP concerning the one-child policy. Two weeks ago, a member of the National Population and Family Planning Commission was quoted as telling a news conference that officials recognized the need to revisit the one-child policy. Headlines in the West declared, “China Scraps One-Child Policy.” Last week, Premier Wen Jiabao strongly denied that statement, telling China’s annual parliament, “We will adhere to the current policy of family planing, keep the birthrate low.” Then just today, in a double flip-flop, Reuters reported that twenty-nine members of the Academy of Social Sciences signed a petition calling for “the abolition of the one-child rule as quickly as possible.” Scholar Ye Tingfang told the press in Guangzhou, “If we enforced the old coercive policies out of desperation, now desperation calls for ending that policy.”

“Desperation,” indeed, appears to be a motivation for this courageous act, which Ye Tingfang and twenty-eight others delivered in direct disagreement with the official proclamation of the Premier just the week before. The signatories of the petition to abolish the one-child policy are well aware of the potential consequences: blind activist Chen Guangcheng has been tortured and remains jailed today for his 2005 attempt to expose the coercive family planning practices in Shandong Province. Last week the CCP even detained his lawyer, Teng Biao, from March 6 to March 8. Upon his release, he told the New York Times that “officers had questioned him sternly and warned him about recent articles he had posted in the Internet.” They also told him not to discuss his detention.

Those who dare to speak out against China’s human rights atrocities from Chinese soil – including the Tibetan protesters and the signatories of the petition to abolish the one-child policy – are doing so at the risk of their freedom, and possibly their lives. Those of us in the west who enjoy freedom of speech have a responsibility to speak out and take action on their behalf.

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