Human-rights protesters ready for Hu

Lawmakers and activists plan to draw attention to China's human-rights record when President Hu Jintao is feted at a state dinner in Washington this week.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who leads the House Foreign Affaris subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and co-founded the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), co-chairman of that commission, will hold a press conference Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building with several activists for greater freedom in China.

ADVERTISEMENT
These include Geng He, the wife of Gao Zhiseng, a human-rights lawyer who has defended the underground Christian church in China and the Falun Gong movement. He had reported torture at the hands of secret police after taking on such cases, and has been missing since April.

Also at the press conference will be Chai Ling, a student leader in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square that were met with a violent government crackdown. She now runs a nonprofit called All Girls Allowed that battles the one-child policy in China, which has resulted in many parents selectively choosing a male child, and draws awareness to forced abortions that ensure compliance with the policy.

Another Tiananmen Square activist who will speak, Yang Jianli, won the support of members of Congress in trying to secure his release from prison, which happened in 2007. He is now president of Initiatives for China.

And Harry Wu, an activist who spent 19 years in forced labor camps for criticizing the Communist Party, spearheaded the creation of the Laogai Museum in Washington, which teaches visitors about human-rights violations in China.

Before flying to Oslo last month with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to honor Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, Smith told The Hill that the human-rights abuse "just underscores the degree of dictatorship that Beijing has sunk to."

The congressman also expressed his hope that, if named chairman of the human rights subcommittee as he recently was, he could collectively bring in Chinese dissidents to testify.

"We can't give the Chinese dictatorship a pass any longer on human-rights abuse," Smith said.

On Tuesday at 4 p.m., Vice President Biden will lead the U.S. delegation that will welcome Hu at Andrews Air Force Base. That evening, Hu will sit down with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Obama in the Old Family Dining Room in the White House.

On Wednesday morning, the president and first lady will welcome Hu to the White House in a state arrival ceremony.

Hu and Obama will sit down together for talks, then hold a joint press conference. That evening, the Obamas host the Chinese premier for a state dinner. It will be the first time a president hosts a head of state who is currently holding a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in prison.

On Thursday, Hu will visit Chicago for a gala dinner at the Chicago Hilton.

And Students for a Free Tibet will be protesting all the way.

Activists have bristled at the fact that Hu will be given the honor of a state dinner while the Dalai Lama, hosted at the White House in February, was photographed leaving through a back door past bags of garbage. China lodged a protest of the visit, with the Foreign Ministry saying that Washington had "seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and seriously undermined China-U.S. relations."

On Tuesday, Students for a Free Tibet will rally at the Chinese Embassy and then march to the White House where a rally will take place in Lafayette Square.

On Wednesday, a coalition of Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Taiwanese human rights groups will rally outside the White House. Protesters will also include Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders (the press freedom group notes that China imprisons more bloggers and cyberdissidents any other country). Sponsors include the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Students for a Free Tibet will protest at lunchtime outside the State Department, where Hu is to meet with Biden and Clinton.

During the evening's state dinner, the various protest groups will hold a candlelight vigil in Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

On Thursday is another pro-Tibet rally in front of the White House, and a lunchtime demonstration outside the Marriott Wardman Park hotel as Hu is hosted by the U.S.-China Business Council.

This past Thursday, Obama sat down with five advocates for human rights in China in the White House for the first time.

On Friday, Clinton urged China to free dissidents, including Liu, and raised the case of Gao.

"Many in China resent or reject our advocacy of human rights as an intrusion on their sovereignty," she said. "But as a founding member of the United Nations, China has committed to respecting the rights of all its citizens. These are universal rights that are recognized by the international community."

The Washington Post reported Saturday that Obama is planning to press China on human rights during the visit despite the potential to further destabilize relations with the People's Republic.