By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
May 6, 2007
Media watchers and human rights advocates often express bemused frustration at the way Communist China, Communist Vietnam and the United States conduct international relations. Before each and every big summit or meeting of heads of state, each of these nations reach for a time-worn playbook.
China and Vietnam typically release some dissidents, offer news reports about freedom of religion and tell their media to be more free and open. This is a kind of appeasement to the U.S. and the many international Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) like Amnesty International that monitor and publicize activities outside the international norms.
The U.S. often responds to these overtures with talk of reconciliation, the progress being made in China and Vietnam on freedom and human rights, and the hope of all Americans for a new tomorrow.Sometimes the U.S. even offers some incentives, concessions and inducements. These are typically accepted with much gratitude, pomp and ceremony.
As soon as the summit ends and the Communists get what they wanted, the door on human rights in the Communist world slams shut so fast it almost catches Uncle Sam’s red, white and blue coat.
Last July, we at Peace and Freedom began to monitor every international news report that mentioned the word “Vietnam.” We did this because Vietnam was holding many political prisoners without charge. One prisoner in particular came to our attention. Mrs. Cuc Foshee, an American citizen since 1970, had returned to the land of her birth, Vietnam, to visit relatives. She was arrested by the Communist government and held without charges, trial, or access to a lawyer.
Many other NGOs were developing detailed lists of human rights abuses and other irregularities inside Communist Vietnam. But the results of our international media review of Vietnam that started in July 2006 offered great insight into the workings of the word.
From the state controlled media inside Vietnam, all the news was rosey. Freedom of speech and religion were on the rise, dissidents were set free, the economy was booming, the shrimp were bigger than ever and they even jumped into fishing boats when called.
The free media in the rest of the world could not always see though the smoke and mirrors offered by Communist Vietnam but the NGOs and human rights groups were able to balance the outrageous lies from Vietnam with some factual and frightening stories.
The interest in Vietnam’s human rights record and activities grew in intensity as the year progressed because President George W. Bush had indicated his intention to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in November 2006.
The thought of the President of the United States visiting Hanoi offered the photo opportunity of the decade for Communist Vietnam. The Communists were hoping for something of a Victory Lap to celebrate Vietnam’s progress since Saigon fell to the Communists in 1975.
Vietnam was also seeking some very real goodies. Entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Permanent Normal Trade Relations from the U.S. would add fuel to an already burning Vietnamese economy almost ablaze with new investments and opportunities.
The Vietnamese Communists made several concessions and pronouncements of good behavior in the run-up to the APEC conference. Thankfully, Mrs. Foshee and others were set free and came home after years or months in prison.
And in November, Vietnam began to reap every gift imaginable. The photo opportunity of President Bush in Hanoi before a regal looking bust of Ho Chi Minh appeared on page one of every major newspaper in the world. Vietnam got WTO and in a few months PNTR. The “trifecta” was achieved.
After November 2006, Vietnam started the largest and most severe repression of human rights in recent memory.
Next month, the President from Vietnam will visit the United States for the first time. Human rights activists are already wondering if the usual play book will be used by both sides or if the U.S. will actually press Vietnam on human rights, as promised. The world awaits the outcome.
Now we look to China.
Beijing was chosen to host the 2008 Summer Games by the International Olympic Committee. As part of the deal, China agreed to make progress in several human rights areas.
Now, NGOs and human rights organizations are already saying that China is falling short of its commitments on human rights.
Even though there is virtually no chance of human rights issues impacting China’s Summer Games, China’s international media charm offensive is in high gear.
We have seen China responding by hopping like a bunny to all kinds of criticism from around the world. China has announced new, more liberal rules for the media. China has made all kinds of pledges from stiffer self imposed environmental and global warming goals to renewed actions on freedom of religion.
China even replaced the Foreign Minister, who did not speak English, with the former Ambassadore to the United States who speaks English like a Princeton man.
China is making some real improvements in human rights and other areas of international interest, but there is much work yet to do for a China desiring acceptance by the law abiding world community.
The issues for China are great and some seemingly small.
When President Hu Jintao Visited Sudan last February, his presence violated the sanction of the U.N., the E.U. and others wanting to seal the Sudan from aid or trade until improvements in the situation that many have called genocide in Darfur could be assessed.
During President Hu’s visit to Sudan he offered economic aid and more investment in Sudan’s oil industry. Darfur was not mentioned publicly at all.
The United States has complained to China for decades that many in China violate international laws and standards on intellectual property rights such as copyrights and trademarks by producing “knock offs” of everything from Rolex watches to major motion pictures like the blockbuster “Titanic.”
These violation cost business and owners in the west tens of billions of dollars a year.
But the copyright infringement discussion pales in importance to China’s vast array of human rights abuses.
As we get closer to the Olympics next summer, one can expect some saintly behavior and some angelic pronouncements from China. But after the last gold medal is awarded we caution everyone against saying anything negative about their communist Chinese Olympic hosts.
We doubt that there will really be a new playbook.
In response to this article we heard from a man who went though Communist Vietnam’s “re-education system” after Saigon fell in 1975. He spent 12 years in “re-education” and admitted maybe he was a slow learner.
He wanted to tell us that two months before a scheduled visit to his camp by Human Rights Watch, the Communist government prepared the camp and those under “re-education” with the greatest intensity.
Visit our Flagship at:
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