Archive for the ‘freedom of speech’ Category

The United States: A Nation of Prayer and Hope

July 4, 2007

Adapted from essays written by John Carey and published in The Washington Times

We Americans don’t discuss hope much. Hope, it seems, is for sissies. Americans like action: like John Wayne kicking in the bad guy’s door, six-shooter in hand.

And some people shy away from discussing hope because the concept of hope puts one on the road to prayer and this, WE KNOW, is taboo to a segment of the world’s population.

But there is a day, every four years, when Americans celebrate hope. And that day is Inauguration Day.

And we listen to our elected president’s words. We judge our president-elect by these, his first words, as our commander in chief.

In history, there are many themes that seem to resonate through the inaugural addresses. Education, poverty, crime, war, and peace all appear over and over in inauguration day speeches. But the importance of God’s guidance and the wonderful goodness of hope permeates many of the great American inaugural addresses.

We should not be surprised that many presidents invoke the name of God, maybe even offer a prayer themselves for the success of the nation (and their presidency?), and offer us hope at the inauguration. Their task is looming large; their support sometimes fleeting. One might wonder at the overconfident man in such a difficult situation. Normal men ask for God’s help and offer us all a hopeful vision of the future.

On January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, “Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” He asked us to answer a “call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ –a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”

On another January 20, in 1969, Richard M. Nixon reminded us, “Forces now are converging that make possible, for the first time, the hope that many of man’s deepest aspirations can at last be realized.” He also said, “We see the hope of tomorrow in the youth of today.”

President Lincoln, in his second inaugural, looked with hope at the end of the Civil War. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and for his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln delivered these words on March 4, 1865. Just one month and 10 days after he delivered this speech, on April 14, Lincoln was assassinated.

President Eisenhower evoked hope. On January 20, 1953, he reminded the nation that “we view our Nation’s strength and security as a trust upon which rests the hope of free men everywhere.”

President James A. Garfield suggested a halt in the march of mankind, just for a moment, to reflect upon the importance of hope. In his March 4, 1881 inaugural, he said, “Before continuing the onward march let us pause on this height for a moment to strengthen our faith and renew our hope by a glance at the pathway along which our people have traveled.”

Inauguration day is a day of hope and prayer. No other day in American life is so steeped in prayer. No other day in the American calendar so often reverberates with the theme of hope.

Oh, many moments in American life begin with prayer: including the opening of House and Senate sessions in the capitol. But at our inaugurations, one can feel the sincerity of men thrust into the maelstrom. Greater Washington seems to become a great cathedral of hope and prayer: before it immediately returns to a nation that separates church and state.

What, exactly, is hope? You can’t buy anything with it and nobody can prove that it helps you in life. So what is hope?

Hope is an amputee veteran of the war in Iraq who wants to learn to ski. Hope is the cancer victim who won’t give in. Hope keeps the terminally ill calm and the pinned- down platoon together. Hope is the antithesis of despair, the enemy of our darkest fears.

Hope and prayer drive my friend in South Carolina to fight his multiple sclerosis.

Hope is one of those emotions unique to mankind. It sometimes defies reason and fights off evil thoughts of surrender.

Prayer goes hand-in-hand with hope; and America was founded by men deeply governed by their hope and prayer and belief in God.

The Founding Fathers established the United States, wrote the Declaration of Independence; the Bill of Rights and the Constitution; and created a nation firmly rooted in the belief in God and freedom of religion protected by the separation of church and state.

Many of the Founders and their forefathers fled Europe to escape religious prosecution. They wanted this new nation to allow them freedom of religion and thus the very nation is rooted in a belief in God.

The Declaration of Independence starts this way: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

After signing the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams, who was called “the firebrand of the American Revolution,” affirmed his obedience to God by stating, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom alone men ought to be obedient. From the rising to the setting of the sun, may His kingdom come.”

James Madison, the fourth president, made the following statement, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

Madison is often referred to as “The Father of Our Constitution.”

When historians at the University of Houston conducted a 10-year study of the ideas that shaped our republic, they found 94 percent of the Founding Fathers’ quotes in 15,000 documents were based on the Bible.”God created all men equal,” one of the most fundamental and important acclamations of our government, became an underlying reason for the Civil War, a fundamental reason for the Emancipation Proclamation and a keynote of equality ever since.

Every president of the United States is sworn into office, by reciting an oath while he has one hand on the Bible. The oath ends, “So help me God.”

Every session of Congress since 1777 commenced with a prayer by a minister paid by the taxpayers.Every military service of the United States pays uniformed religious ministers for the officers and men in service. These ministers are from all faiths that recognize the importance of God in human life. Nearly every base has a chapel.

The Ten Commandments are carved into the doors of the Supreme Court and appear prominently in the court’s chambers.

Every piece of U.S. currency bears the words “In God We Trust.”

In America, you are even free to start your own religion. Nobody (except possibly the Internal Revenue Service) will interfere, so long as you don’t do anything outside the normal bounds of decent behavior.

So, as we all celebrate the blessings of American freedom, justice and government every day, perhaps we should reflect upon the roots and tenets of our democracy. We are not a Godless people. Or are we?

Yes, our democracy is evolving and we are open and accepting to that evolution. But let us not allow the evolution to turn into a careless revolution or even an unintended erosion of the principles by which we live and we are governed.

I am one of those historians that thinks the Founders were pretty smart. Their belief in God, hope and prayer encourages me every day.

And inauguration day is America’s unique day of hope. Whatever the speech, whoever the president-elect: a key player in every inauguration day is bound to be the Almighty and his right hand man: Hope.

Presidential Myopia: Leaders in Vietnam and China Only See What they Want to See

June 25, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
June 25, 2007

Presidents are often accused of selective blindness. Hero of the U.S. Civil War General U.S. Grant became President of the United States and was considered by most men of his time, including Mark Twain who published the President’s memoirs, an honorable man. Yet Grant filled his government with corrupt and crooked men who almost destroyed him.

In the last century, some leaders hailed Adolph Hitler during the 1930s for building an economic resurgence of miracle proportions in Germany. After 1945, they claimed to deny the holocaust or said that they were just following orders.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler

The current President of Vietnam, H.E Nguyen Minh Triet, spent last week in the United States transmitting a message of economic prosperity and growth for those that do business with Vietnam. But what he was told, by the President of the United States and several congressional leaders, was that he had to address what Amnesty International has called widespread abuse of human rights in Vietnam. “Harassment and threats against leading dissidents increased and attempts were made to ensure that they could not meet or talk with foreigners,” Amnesty International reported on May 23, 2007.

President Triet didn’t hear any of this.

More than 70% of the U.S. and western media reporters that filed stories on President Triet’s visit to the U.S. discussed the issue of human rights in Vietnam. President Triet and his advisors did not see any of this.

We know this because in this morning’s Washington Times, President Triet spelled out his myopic vision of the future for the Vietnam and U.S. relationship. It is a wonderful fantasy of economic wealth not unlike Adolph Hitler’s 1930s promises. It makes no mention of Vietnam’s ugly, largely unseen, repression of religious freedom, denial of free speech and free elections, near genocide of ethnic minorities such as the Hmong, and other human rights abuses like human trafficking.


Above: Communist Vietnam’s proven method of silencing a prisoner.  Father Ly just before he was removed from court.  He
had no representation at trial.

The President of the United States says he mentioned these abuses to President Triet. But reading President Triet’s account of his trip to the U.S. reveals an additional crime of selective listening.

President Hu Jintao of China suffers from the same psychiatric ailments that inflict President Triet of Vietnam.

Hundreds of protesters demonstrate outside the St. Regis Resort where Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet is staying in Dana Point, Calif., Saturday, June 23, 2007. Triet, who is leading a delegation of Vietnamese businessmen,...

Above: Hundreds of protesters demonstrate outside the St. Regis Resort where Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet is staying in Dana Point, Calif., Saturday, June 23, 2007. Triet, who is leading a delegation of Vietnamese businessmen, has tried to focus on U.S-Vietnam trade relations. But during his trip, Triet has been criticized by senior U.S. lawmakers for human rights abuse claims. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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President Hu and the rest of China have agreed to be completely oblivious to what President Bush and others in the world community call the genocide in Darfur.

There are a few small glitches, though, in President Hu’s current myopia which Peace and Freedom calls the “Blindness to Darfur” strategy. The U.N. condemns it. The E.U. condemns it. NATO condemns it. Everybody condemns it. Both the Canadian Prime Minister and the King of Sweden and his PM spoke to Hu about it in the course of ten days in June 2007.  But President Hu is on a course to blow off the entire world, which he has been doing for some time.  One small fly in the ointment: Hollywood stars that are starting to refer to the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics as the “Genocide Games.”

President Hu also watched a series of interesting scandals erupt inside China during the last few months. China has slavery hidden in the outlying regions far from the prying eyes of the western media. Children are used as slaves in mines and in brick making.  Child labor is a problem too.  Children were found manufacturing Beijing Olympics 2008 memorabilia.  China has exported to the United States and the world tons of food, pet food and digestible health care products like toothpaste which are laced with poisonous substances prohibited for such uses in the west. China has brutally subjugated Tibet. China arms terrorists via Iran. China has overtaken all other countries to become the world’s number one polluter.

The list of President Hu’s and China’s embarrassing tactics and practices is growing to become an endless condemnation of the communist system he espouses.

And the two communist regimes of President Triet’s Vietnam and President Hu’s China share many things besides economic prosperity: a lack of freedom of religion, a lack of free elections, a lack of freedom of speech and the media, and a propensity for human abuses including child labor, slavery and human trafficking.

President George W. Bush listens to remarks by President Nguyen Minh Triet of Vietnam during his visit Friday, June 22, 2007, to the Oval Office. ".I would like to take this opportunity to send a message to American people," said President Triet, during the meeting. ".If both peoples both want peace, friendship and solidarity, then we should join hands and march toward the future." White House photo by Eric Draper
Above: President George W. Bush listens to remarks by President Nguyen Minh Triet of Vietnam during his visit Friday, June 22, 2007, to the Oval Office. “…I would like to take this opportunity to send a message to American people,” said President Triet, during the meeting. “…If both peoples both want peace, friendship and solidarity, then we should join hands and march toward the future.”  –White House photo by Eric Draper
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So, like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others; we at Peace and Freedom just wanted to mention to the myopic leaders of Vietnam and China: the world will not swallow your arrogant lies forever. Human rights are meaningful and important. You cannot trash the earth and abuse your fellow man without consequences.

Even though President Triet of Vietnam and President Hu of China are partially blind; others in the world see fairly well.

File:NguyenMinhTriet & GeorgeWBush 2006-Nov-17.jpg

Above: Nguyễn Minh Triết and First Lady Trần Thị Kim Chi meet with George W. Bush and Laura Bush at the President’s Palace, November 2006.

Related:

Vietnam’s President Triet Assesses His Visit to the United States: No Mention of Human Rights

Congressman Royce says: Stop the Abuses in Vietnam

Chinese Government Staff: “Happy News President Hu Jintao; We Ready For Happy Time Olympics!”
http://peace-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2007/06/chinese-government-staff-happy-news.html

Vietnam’s President Triet Assesses His Visit to the United States: No Mention of Human Rights

June 25, 2007

By H.E Nguyen Minh Triet
The Washington Times
June 25, 2007

During my recent visit to the United States, I was told that Vietnam-U.S. relations had entered a new chapter and sketches of a bright future had been shaped. I suppose this is a completely correct assessment. We have good reasons, however, not to stop at only sketches.

Instead, we should continue to draw the whole picture.

Despite the geographical distance between our two countries, the relationship between Vietnam and the United States goes back almost to the birth of America. Thomas Jefferson in 1787 tried to obtain rice seed from Vietnam for his Virginia farm. Then, the first efforts to establish relations between the two countries started with the visit to Vietnam by Admiral Edmund Roberts in 1832 and the two visits to the United States in 1873 and 1875 by Mr. Bui Vien, a senior diplomat under the Nguyen dynasty.

Nguyen Minh Triet shakes hands with George Bush

Mr Triet said there had been a direct and open exchange of views

Entering the 20th century, the two countries enjoyed a period of cooperation in the fight of mankind against fascism. And in 1945, the Declaration of Independence of a new Vietnam opened with Jefferson’s immortal words, “All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These testify to the fact that even in the previous centuries, the two countries had found common interests and values and potential for cooperation. Regrettably, the bilateral relationship, instead of evolving as expected, had undergone vicissitudes and even a sorrowful past. After many lost years, however, in both the immediate and long-term interests of the two countries, Vietnam and the United States again realized that they have things in common to build on rather than a past that may separate them.

Following efforts from both sides, bilateral relations were normalized in 1995. Since then, Vietnam-U.S. relations have shown their strong vitality. The most impressive thing to many is the growth of economic relations. Only 10 years after normalization, bilateral trade volume increased nearly twentyfold.

Many leading US businesses with well-known brands such as Boeing, Ford, Microsoft, Intel and GE are now present in Vietnam. With Vietnam’s membership in the World Trade Organization and the United States’ establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Vietnam, more opportunities have opened up for expanding bilateral economic relations.

Besides economic cooperation, the Vietnam-U.S. relationship has expanded to other fields of culture, education and sports, as well as cooperation against nontraditional security threats including terrorism and transnational crime. In particular, goodwill and close cooperation in solving the war legacies have an important role to play in promoting cooperation in other fields. Even on issues where there are differences due to historical background, traditions, culture, customs and development levels, the two sides have established dialogue and cooperation mechanisms to narrow the differences.

After a dozen years of normalization, unprecedented opportunities are unfolding now for Vietnam and the United States to build a more sustainable, fruitful relationship. Bilateral ties are built on the two countries’ common interests and concerns: commerce, culture, science and technology, education, regional peace and stability, the fight against terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian assistance to combat HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, and the lingering wounds of war. For Vietnam, the United States is always a key partner, and Vietnam’s commitment to multifaceted cooperation with the United States is sincere and steadfast.

Vietnam has emerged today as one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing economies in the world. Known as a new rising star in Asia, Vietnam offers an attractive business and investment environment, driven by a youthful and friendly population who are exceedingly optimistic about the future. In the international arena, Vietnam is showing itself more and more to be a responsive and reliable partner. And I know that a stable and prosperous Vietnam is also the wish of the American government and people.

Amid such robust development of bilateral ties, I paid an official visit to the United States for the first time and met with President Bush. What came out of our meeting was that our bilateral relations have recorded tremendous achievements and we are on the threshold of a new development stage. We agreed that Vietnam and the United States will develop our friendship and constructive partnership on a broad, in-depth and effective base. We also agreed on how to promote bilateral cooperation in politics, economy and commerce, science and technology and education, and to settle issues left behind by the war and other issues of mutual concern. Most notably, during my visit, the two countries signed a trade and investment framework agreement and many other economic deals, exemplifying vividly how the two countries are bound together.

History again shows that the two countries, once separated by a sorrowful past, have common interests and values to build on. The first sketches of a new chapter have taken shape, and Vietnam and the United States are ready to draw the whole picture now.

H.E Nguyen Minh Triet is president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.Related:
Presidential Myopia: Leaders in Vietnam and China Only See What they Want to See

 

Google asks gov’t to fight censorship

June 24, 2007

By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON – Once relatively indifferent to government affairs, Google Inc. is seeking help inside the Beltway to fight the rise of Web censorship worldwide.

The online search giant is taking a novel approach to the problem by asking U.S. trade officials to treat Internet restrictions as international trade barriers, similar to other hurdles to global commerce, such as tariffs.

Google sees the dramatic increase in government Net censorship, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, as a potential threat to its advertising-driven business model, and wants government officials to consider the issue in economic, rather than just political, terms.

“It’s fair to say that censorship is the No. 1 barrier to trade that we face,” said Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s director of public policy and government affairs. A Google spokesman said Monday that McLaughlin has met with officials from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office several times this year to discuss the issue.

“If censorship regimes create barriers to trade in violation of international trade rules, the USTR would get involved,” USTR spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said. She added though that human rights issues, such as censorship, typically falls under the purview of the State Department.

While human rights activists are pleased with Google’s efforts to fight censorship, they harshly criticized the company early last year for agreeing to censor its Web site in China, which has the second-largest number of Internet users in the world.
Photo

The company defends its actions, saying the Chinese government made it a condition of allowing Chinese users access to Google Web pages. China has an Internet firewall that slows or disrupts Chinese users from accessing foreign uncensored Web sites.

Censorship online has risen dramatically the past five years, belying the hype of the late 1990s, which portrayed the Internet as largely impervious to government interference.

A study released last month by the OpenNet Initiative found that 25 of 41 countries surveyed engage in Internet censorship. That’s a dramatic increase from the two or three countries guilty of the practice in 2002, says John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, who helped prepare the report.

China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, India, Singapore and Thailand, among others, are increasingly blocking or filtering Web pages, Palfrey says.

Governments “are having more success than the more idealistic of us thought,” acknowledges Danny O’Brien, international outreach coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Still, even government filtering isn’t always successful. In a brutal regime like Iran, which filters Web content, there are nearly 100,000 bloggers, making Farsi “one of the most blogged languages in the world,” says Palfrey.

Google’s YouTube has become a common target for thin-skinned rulers. Turkey in March blocked the video-sharing site for two days after a complaint that some clips insulted Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Thailand continues to block YouTube after several videos appeared in April, criticizing the country’s monarch.

Bloggers in Morocco said in late May that they could not access YouTube shortly after videos were posted critical of that nation’s treatment of the people of Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco took control of in 1975. A government spokesman blamed a technical glitch.

One likely source for Google’s censorship idea is a paper written two years ago by Timothy Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, who argues that downloading a Web page hosted in another country effectively imports a service.

Drawing on that concept, Google envisions using trade agreements to fight back. The negotiated pacts would include provisions guaranteeing free trade in “information services.” As is true of most trade pacts, the provisions would call for arbitration if there are violations.

The U.S. has a trade agreement with Morocco and began negotiating one with Thailand in 2004, although those talks were suspended early last year after a military coup.

Columbia’s Wu said the trade pact approach is likely to be more effective when governments are guilty of blocking entire Web sites or applications, such as Internet phone-calling, than when they filter specific content.

Under World Trade Organization rules, countries can limit trade for national security or public moral reasons, Wu said, exceptions that authoritarian governments would likely cite when filtering politically sensitive material.

The company’s trade initiative reflects Google’s increasing acceptance of the value of federal lobbying. The company didn’t hire a lobbyist until 2003, according to public filings, but paid the high-powered Washington-based Podesta Group $160,000 last year to work on Internet free-speech, tax and other issues.

Human rights groups say Google’s censorship efforts seem sincere, albeit motivated by bottom-line incentives.

“Free expression is a unique selling point” for a company like Google, O’Brien said. Filtering and censorship “diminishes the value of their product.”

Yet last month at the company’s annual meeting, Google’s board recommended investors vote against a shareholder resolution urging Google to renounce censorship.

The resolution was defeated, although Google is already acting on some of the proposal’s ideas, including working with other technology leaders, such as Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., to develop a set of principles on how companies should respond to censorship and other human rights violations when doing business abroad.

Human rights advocates, academics and corporate social responsibility groups are involved in the project, announced earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Google’s global growth efforts continue. YouTube said Tuesday that it plans to expand into nine other countries, including Brazil, France, Spain and Poland, offering local-language Web sites and highlighting videos of domestic interest.

In China, where Google is the No. 2 search engine behind the domestically based Baidu.com, the company said in April it will increase its investment as it works to create more content of interest to Chinese users.

Bush Discusses Human Rights With an “Evasive” President of Vietnam

June 23, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
June 23, 2007

Print editions of the Washington Times reported on Saturday that President Bush “chided” Vietnam’s president on that country’s record on human rights, religious repression and lack of democracy. The Washington Post’s web site later softened the language to “prodded.”  In any event, President Triet of Vietnam did not have an effortless time visiting with Congressional leaders and the President of the United States.

“I also made it very clear that, in order for relations to grow deeper, that it’s important for our friends to have a strong commitment to human rights and freedom and democracy,” Bush said with Triet at his side in the Oval Office. “I explained my strong belief that societies are enriched when people are allowed to express themselves freely or worship freely.”

On Friday, June 22, 2007, Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet, during an historic visit to the United States, paid a call on President Bush at the White House. This is the first time a head of state from Vietnam to visit the U.S. since the end of the war in Vietnam in 1975.

Nguyen Minh Triet shakes hands with George Bush

Mr Triet said there had been a direct and open exchange of views

Although President Triet’s primary objectives in America included expanding business and trade opportunities with the U.S., President Bush took the opportunity to speak to President Triet about his record on human rights, religious repression and lack of democracy.

The two presidents signed a trade agreement in the White House which will pave the way for more open trade and business relationships.

Earlier, U.S. Congressional leaders also spoke to President Triet about human rights.

On Thursday President Triet met with Congressional leaders from both political parties on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in the meeting said he was repeatedly taken to task over claims by rights groups that Vietnam has increased repression of political activists and religious leaders.

Commenting on the talks afterwards to reporters, Republican congressman Ed Royce said human rights had been “overwhelmingly the dominant issue” of the meeting.

“We’ve got to see a stop to this conduct if this relationship is going to improve,” he said, adding Triet answered questions but was “very evasive”. Members of congress have called on the US president to press Triet to end what they say are widespread human rights abuses in Vietnam. That seems to have happened on Friday in the White House.

But President Triet defended his country’s position when talking to reporters before and after the White House meeting.

Triet told reporters that he and Bush had a “direct and open exchange” on human rights but offered no indications that he intended to do anything as a result of the discussion. “We are also determined not to let those differences afflict our overall, larger interest,” he said.

President Triet reiterated that his country did not need to improve human rights.  He said the people in jails in Vietnam were “criminals.”

“It’s not a question of improving or not,” Triet said in an interview with The Associated Press, hours after meeting with Bush. “Vietnam has its own legal framework, and those who violate the law will be handled.”

“The Vietnamese laws could not be 100 percent the same as the United States laws, due to the different historical backgrounds and conditions,” Triet said through an interpreter. “There is a different understanding on this issue.”

Triet was accompanied by a delegation of more than 100 Vietnamese businessmen. The group planned to play up negotiations to buy jets from Boeing Co. and the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, signed with President Bush, which sometimes acts as a road map to eventual free trade negotiations.

One might expect that the human rights issue could become a stumbling block to trade between the U.S. and Vietnam unless Vietnam takes actions to improve upon its human rights record.

Related:
Proud To Be An American

Bush Pushes Vietnam Leader On Human Rights

June 22, 2007

(CBS/AP) As hundreds of protestors across the street called for the release of political prisoners in Vietnam, President Bush voiced similar concerns at the end of his Oval Office meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.

“In order for relations to grow deeper, that it’s important for our friends to have a strong commitment to human rights and freedom and democracy,” he said.
Photo
US President George W. Bush(R) listens as the President of Vietnam, Nguyen Minh Triet(L), speaks in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC. Bush pressed his Vietnamese counterpart on human rights in landmark talks here as protesters outside the White House Friday demanded the release of all political prisoners.(AFP/Saul Loeb)
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The Vietnamese leader said he’s willing to discuss those matters — but hopes they don’t impair the larger overall relationship with the U.S., CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

Neither leader took questions during the appearance.

Triet is the first leader of his country to visit the White House since the end of the Vietnam War. But some fellow Vietnamese were not rolling out the welcome mat.

Hundreds were outside the White House carrying the flag of the old South Vietnam, as well as banners calling the Vietnamese president a criminal. CBS News correspondent Peter Maer says it was certainly one of the largest demonstrations against a visiting foreign leader in Washington in a long time.

“The young generation, they just want freedom, they just want freedom of speech, they just want freedom of expression,” one woman told Maer.

“Minh Triet, go home! Minh Triet, go home!” others shouted.

Republican lawmakers have urged Mr. Bush to encourage President Triet to make stronger efforts to stop what they describe as widespread abuse of Vietnam’s citizens.

“Societies are enriched when people are allowed to express themselves freely or worship freely,” Mr. Bush said in the Oval Office after the meeting with Triet.

Mr. Bush said he told Triet, “We want to have good relations with Vietnam.”

As dozens of protesters outside the White House waved flags, Triet said the two presidents had a “direct and open” conversation about human rights.

“Our approach is that we would increase our dialogue so that we will have a better understanding of each other,” Triet said through an interpreter.

He said he is determined not to let differences on the issue damage overall relations.

Triet has attempted to keep the focus on vibrant trade ties between the United States and one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies. The countries began a bilateral trade agreement in 2001; trade reached nearly $10 billion last year.

Triet is leading a delegation of more than 100 Vietnamese businessmen. He signed with the United States on Thursday a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which sometimes acts as a road map to eventual free trade negotiations.

But during an hour-long private meeting Thursday, senior U.S. lawmakers repeatedly took Triet to task for claims by rights groups that Vietnam has ramped up repression of political activists and religious leaders.

“Human rights was overwhelmingly the dominant issue,” Republican Rep. Ed Royce said. “We’ve got to see a stop to this conduct if this relationship is going to improve.”

When asked about Triet’s response, Royce answered: “Evasion.”

Vietnam tolerates no challenges to Communist one-party rule; it insists, however, that only lawbreakers are jailed. In recent months, Vietnam has arrested or sentenced at least eight pro-democracy activists, including a dissident Roman Catholic priest who was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Rep. Roy Blunt, the No. 2 House Republican, said Triet told lawmakers that Vietnam “had lots of human rights, but the dissidents were somehow endangering the security of the country. We pressed hard for more information about exactly what that means.”

Triet, in a speech to business leaders before the congressional meeting, avoided any mention of human rights. He called for more U.S. business investment in his fast-growing country and said the government was working hard to smooth out difficulties that some U.S. companies have experienced.

“We will do our best to help you,” Triet told the audience. “We are striving to create a friendly business environment.”

Triet said talk of the war was outdated. “Vietnam is peace. Vietnam is friendship. Vietnam is developing dynamically and creatively,” he said through an interpreter.

Sherman Katz, a senior associate in international trade at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Vietnam has “got to be aware that part of the price of doing business with the United States, if you expect the U.S. government to help you, is to clean up some of these” human rights problems.

In Los Angeles, Triet’s next stop, hundreds of protesters, most of them Vietnamese émigrés critical of the communist leader and his government’s human rights record, are expected to demonstrate.

The People of Vietnam: Victims of Communism

June 17, 2007

By Mike Benge
The Washington Times
June 17, 2007

Last Tuesday, June 12, President Bush spoke at the dedication of the Victims of Communism Memorial that honors the memories of those killed in communist regimes. He said their deaths should remind the American public “evil is real and must be confronted.” Ironically, this Friday, June 22, President Bush will honor the president of a tyrannical communist regime that murdered over a million Vietnamese and ethnic minorities with a White House visit during which he has the opportunity to confront that evil.
Photo
President Bush at the Victims of
Communism Memorial Dedication.
    
Recently, dozens of democracy activists, journalists, cyber-dissidents and Christian and other religious leaders were arrested and imprisoned by the Vietnamese communists. Congressional leaders and human-rights groups have charged Hanoi with “unbridled human-rights abuses,” the “worst wave of oppression in 20 years.” Those recently arrested are but a few of the hundreds of political and religious prisoners in Vietnam; some have been tried, while those less visible simply “disappeared.” This mounting crackdown is a deliberate diplomatic slap in the face of the United States.
    
Hanoi brazenly aired on TV the kangaroo court trial of Thaddeus Nguyen Van Father Ly, who was muzzled during the proceedings. In Vietnamese, the colloquial phrase for censorship is “bit mieng” — to cover the mouth. The picture of Father Ly’s muzzling seems a literal enactment of an old cliche. Denied representation, Father Ly was sentenced to eight years imprisonment.
    
Mr. Bush’s endorsement for Hanoi’s admission into the World Trade Organization at last year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hanoi, the removal of Vietnam from listed as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), and the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) were all predicated on the Communist Party substantially improving its human-rights record.
    
It should come as no surprise that after the granting of these privileges, the Vietnamese communists continued and intensified their repression.
    
Though Vietnam professes great strides in religious freedom, one must look under the veneer to seek the truth. For example, in 2006, the Vietnamese government claimed that “25 denominations” had received certificates to carry on religious activities, when in fact they were only individual house churches.
    
The price of these certificates is the surrender of religious freedom. The church must submit to the central Bureau of Religious Affairs (CBA) a list of the names and addresses of members, and only those approved by the CBA can attend services. All sermons must be approved by the CBA, and all sermons, including those of minorities, must be given in Vietnamese. Pastors and priests can neither deviate from the approved sermon nor proselytize, and the CBA police monitor all services.
    
Montagnards, Hmong and other Christians, Khmer Krom Monks, members of the Cao Dai faith, and Hoa Hao are still relentlessly persecuted. This is what Hanoi calls religious freedom, and the U.S. administration was naive enough to believe them and removed them from the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list of countries that suppress religious freedom.
    
Recently, the Vietnamese communist regime demanded of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues the cancellation of scheduled films to be screened at the May 22 forum. One film, “Hunted Like Animals,” sponsored by the Hmong-Lao Human Rights Council depicted the genocide against the Hmong, and the other film depicted human-rights abuses against the Khmer Krom by the Vietnamese communists. It should come as no surprise that the United Nations acquiesced to the demands of the repressive Hanoi regime.
    
Reminiscent of the days of slavery in the “Old South,” Montagnards who flee from repression in the Central Highlands are hunted down like wild animals. Vietnam pays bounties to Cambodian police for every Montagnard they catch and turn over to them. Vietnam considers refugees seeking asylum in another country to have violation its national security, punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years.
    
Recently, three Montagnards were arrested by Cambodian police and charged with “human trafficking” for the so-called crime of aiding other Montagnards to flee the repression in Vietnam via the Montagnards’ “underground railroad.” Although Cambodia does little to stop the trafficking of children for prostitution, the communist regime is prosecuting these Montagnards on Vietnam’s request in hopes it will convince the U.S. it is serious about trafficking. Vietnam pulls the strings of the marionette Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
    
Reports continue from behind the curtain of silence drawn around the Central Highlands of the torture and deaths of Montagnard Christians. During a February trip to Hanoi, Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, told a press conference that the Vietnamese officials assured her that Montagnards can freely travel to the Embassy in Hanoi or the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City to voice any grievances. 

 She said Montagnards should stay in Vietnam and not seek asylum in Cambodia. Given the Vietnamese communists history of repression and broken promises, how can Mrs. Sauerbrey be naive enough to believe Montagnards suffering persecution would ever to be allowed through the phalanx of Vietnamese police surrounding the U.S. Embassy and Consulate?
    
As predicted, Hanoi has announced the release of a few token high-profile political prisoners in an attempt to smooth the way for the arrival of Vietnam’s President Triet, and in hopes of placating President Bush, the State Department and Congress. Can this administration be gullible enough to fall for yet another charade by the Vietnamese communists?
    
President Bush, keeping faith in the spirit of the Victims of Communism Memorial that “evil is real and must be confronted,” should demand of Vietnam’s president the release of all of the hundreds of political prisoners including those recently arrested and the more than 350 Christian Montagnards that seem to have been forgotten by this administration. 
    
Though assigned to the State Department and not a combatant, Mike Benge was captured and imprisoned by the communist North Vietnamese during the war in Vietnam.  He served time in the infamous Hanoi Hilton and we are proud at Peace and Freedom to call him a friend.

Chinese Government Staff: “Happy News President Hu Jintao; We Ready For Happy Time Olympics!”

June 17, 2007

By John E. Carey, Mort Kondracke, James Kennedy Olds, and Richard McDermott
Peace and Freedom
June 18, 2007

The headline reflects a status report to President Hu Jintao of China from his government one week ago.  Last Monday was June 11. With the Beijing Games about a year away, the big communist Leader had instructed his staff to give him a complete status report on China’s readiness to host this huge world event.

Monday, June 11, Hu Jintao, seated at the head of his vast conference table, readied himself to hear the details, the good news and the bad news of China’s preparation on many fronts, to host the finest Olympics ever.

Seated next to President Hu was one of his most trusted advisors: former Ambassador to the United States and now Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.  Yang speaks perfect English. More importantly, he understands the west perfectly. Americans might say, “he gets it.”

President Hu wants all the world to see how modern, enlightened and glorious his nation really is next summer.

Of course, President Hu’s lackey communist stooges gave him exactly what they thought the Leader wanted: A Happiness Report! Everything these days in the communist government of Beijing is Happiness!

Beijing had an entire day set aside to train the populace on how to line or queue up for trains and busses. “You mean we can’t just swarm into the door like a hive of bees on acid like we always do?” Not during the Olympics.

Beijing has had a no spitting day. Just practice for the Olympics. Mostly the old guys spit in the face of that one so a repeat is scheduled.

China is reviewing all signs written in English to ensure grammatical correctness, clarity and “that western thing.” Gone are some of my most favorite signs, like “Deformed Man,” (outside toilets for the handicapped) or the more sublime on park lawns, “Show Mercy to the Slender Grass.”

And would you believe that plans are in place to relocate 20 million migrant children? Yup. There are 200 million migrant workers in China and they leave their children behind. Beijing will be without homeless, migrant of other “street people” for one time only: During the Happiness Olympic Games 2008 Beijing!

As President Hu Jintao heard all his deputies report all he could think of was delightful Happiness!

Not really. Hu Jintao is no idiot.

At the end of a day of briefings, President Hu turned to Foreign Minister Yang, and said, “What do you think?”

Foreign Minister Yang said, in an unmistakable tone of seriousness without much tact: “If we do not change our way on Darfur, Mister President, Hollywood will force nations to boycott our Olympics.  We have much work to do. We need to clamp down on pirates who copy movies and music. And we may need to make some grand and obvious human rights changes to impress Europe and the Americans.”

Yang really does get it.

Just to make sure the Chinese have a good staring list of topics to look at, we at Peace and Freedom sent out our own team of status seekers so President Hu would have a complete idea on some of the things that still might need a tad of attention before the Beijing Games in 2008.

胡锦涛
Hu Jintao
Hu Jintao

Here’s the short, preliminary list of things that may need just a touch of management attention before the Beijing Games Begin. But, often, and sadly, fixing with a touch often requires a wand or magic dust.

Darfur. China is Sudan’s biggest business partner. In exchange for all sorts of aid and perks for President General Omar Bashir, China has humbly agreed to pump Sudan’s oil out of the African ground and sending it to China for refining. Because President General Bashir is a buddy of President Hu, China has agreed to be completely oblivious to what President Bush and others in the world community call the genocide in Darfur.

You see, President General Bashir has decided to eliminate however many millions of those intolerable people in Darfur he needs to in order to achieve his own Happiness.

There are a few small glitches, though, in President Hu’s current “Blindness to Darfur” strategy. The U.N. condemns it. The E.U. condemns it. NATO condemns it. Everybody condemns it. Both the Canadian Prime Minister and the King of Sweden and his PM spoke to Hu about it in the course of ten days in June 2007.  But President Hu, being “who” he is, can probably blow off the entire world, which he has been doing. One small fly in the ointment: Hollywood stars that are starting to refer to Beijing 2008 as the “Genocide Games.”

Stricken child crawling towards a food camp

Above: A Buzzard awaits the death of a child in Darfur.

Women que for water. Amina Abdalla, a 45-year-old mother of seven, lives in northern Kenya's Marsabit District, where life is a daily struggle for scarce water and pasture. Abdalla's family lives on about 10 litres (≈≈ 1 quart) of water per day, far below the 20-50 litres per person per day recommended by the UN.

Above: Women que for water. Amina Abdalla, a 45-year-old mother of seven, lives in northern Kenya’s Marsabit District, where life is a daily struggle for scarce water and pasture. Abdalla’s family lives on about 10 litres (≈≈ 1 quart) of water per day, far below the 20-50 litres per person per day recommended by the UN.

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By the end of last week, China had convinced Sudan to allow a joint African Union and United Nations peacekeeping force to come into Darfur. This is a terrific and major breakthrough. But China has more to do to convince the west that the killing and starvation in Darfur is over.

There is also a difficult dynamic normally overlooked in the situation between Sudan, China, Darfur and the U.S. Sudan’s President General Bashir is helping the U.S. with the war on terror: even as he himself terrorizes the refugees in Darfur. As the British say, “A bit sticky.”

Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir

Tibet. We’ll just quote Mort Kondracke who spent the early part of his summer vacation in Tibet:

“Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans — along with an estimated 30 million Chinese — died in Mao Zedong’s maniacal collectivization campaign the “Great Leap Forward.” In Tibet, the Chinese caused mass famine by trying to change the dominant crop from barley to rice, which does not grow in high altitudes.”

“Tens of thousands more Tibetans were killed when the Chinese put down a nationalistic revolt in the late 1950s and almost all Buddhist temples were sacked and burned during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.”

“In the past 30 years, the level of violence is down, although last year Chinese border guards killed a young Buddhist nun trying to escape the country. Rather, China is simply dominating Tibet economically and politically — and the presence of huge military bases emphasizes the futility of resistance.”

China is currently forcing Tibetan nomads to move from their Yak herding areas to the cities. They have no jobs or city skills.

China says the Tibetan herders are overgrazing the Yaks and destroying the eco-system. This is laughable to anyone familiar with China’s record on respect for the eco-system. This is also laughable to anyone who has ever seen the vastness of Tibet juxtaposed to the small numbers of nomads and Yaks. It doesn’t look a thing like a Texas cattle drive. It looks more like a few lost Yaks leading a handful of nomads around.

We don’t mean to make light of this nasty human rights disaster. People who resist the Chinese are killed and those that relocate are never the same: they have lost their centuries-old way of life and they are lost in the villages without skills, money or prospects.

Above: Tibetans graze their yaks in the grasslands of the high Tibetan plateau in the county of Naqu, Tibet, China in this Thursday July 6, 2006 photo. China is forcing nomadic Tibetan herders to settle in towns to clear land for development, leaving many unable to earn a living, a human rights group said in a report issued Sunday, June 10. China claims the Tibetan tribesmen are “defoliating Tibet with their Yak grazing.” See for yourself how evil it looks.
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Herders have been forced to slaughter herds of yaks, sheep and goats and communist officials have paid minimal compensation and failed to protect Tibetans’ legal rights, Human Rights Watch told us.  HRW said tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people have been impacted.

China Arming Iran, Iran Arming Terrorists. Although this story has not yet received must traction in the national mainstream media, The Washington Times stands by its sources that have told two different reporters that Chinese arms have been track from China to Iran and then from Iran into the hands of terrorist targeting U.S. forces.

Philip Smucker, reporting from Kabul, wrote on June 5th that “Sophisticated new weapons, including Chinese anti-aircraft missiles as well as items made in Iran, are reaching Taliban forces in Afghanistan, according to government officials and other sources.”

Mr. Smucker continued, “A set of photographs was provided [the The Washington Times] depicting Taliban insurgents showing off new supplies of Chinese-made HN-5 shoulder-fired missiles [in Afghanistan].”

On June 15th Bill Gertz reported that “New intelligence reveals China is covertly supplying large quantities of small arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, through Iran. U.S. government appeals to China to check some of the arms shipments in advance were met with stonewalling by Beijing, which insisted it knew nothing about the shipments and asked for additional intelligence on the transfers. The ploy has been used in the past by China to hide its arms-proliferation activities from the United States, according to U.S. officials with access to the intelligence reports.”

Certainly if China is supplying arms to terrorist through Iran there will be additional confirmation which will undoubtedly disrupt relations with the United States.

Slavery and Child Labor and Abuse. A slave labor scandal erupted in China during May and intensified in June. Hundreds of teenagers were found working under arduous conditions in work such as mining clay and brick making. The children reported to aid worker that they had been held against their will for a year or more and fed just meager amounts of noodles and steamed bread (like a Chinese dumpling). Some said they had been fed only food and water. All were dirty, disheveled and malnourished.
A group of slave laborers rescued from a brick kiln in Linfen, northern China's Shanxi province, in late May stand outside a police station. About 550 slave laborers have been freed from various brick kilns and mines in central China in the past month.
Slaves released in China after more
than a year of forced labor. (Getty
Images)
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Amnesty International estimates that China has 20 million homeless or otherwise uncared for children. A large number of these children are the result of unions between China’s estimated 200 million migrant adults.

China said it would take immediate and forceful steps to end the practice of slave workers or exploitation of children living without protection. But this is another one of China’s ingrained, centuries-old “dirty little secrets.” Slavery is the worst human rights violation, but it springs forth from wide ranging tolerance of child labor abuses. We have not addressed child labor abuse as a separate issue here but as a subset of the same thought process that brought us this slavery crisis.

The China Youth Daily called the slavery a “shocking disgrace” exposing officials’ failure to enforce labor laws.

“When a law is massively undercut in its implementation so that it becomes a worthless piece of paper, then it’s necessary to rethink the law itself,” the paper said.

In both the cases of slavery and child labor abuse, the children work long hours averaging thirteen or fourteen hours per day, receive maybe one third the normal minimum wage , live togethter in hovels and receive poor diets.

In early June reporters discovered that merchandise bearing the Beijing Olympics 2008 logo was being manufactured and assembled by scores of children working long hours for meager pay.

Pollution.  China is on course to overtake the United States this year as the world’s biggest carbon dioxide producer, according to estimates based on energy data provided by China.

China’s emissions rose by about 10 percent in 2005, a senior U.S. scientist estimated, while Beijing’s data indicates that fuel consumption rose more than 9 percent in 2006, At these rates China will easily outstrip the United States this year, long before previous forecasts predicted.

Frequently at planned  Olympic venues the air is not breathable in China…. Mobile air quality testing stations will be set up during next year’s Beijing Olympics so athletes and coaches can monitor pollution levels first-hand, the city’s vice mayor said Thursday.
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This data indicates that China’s energy consumption is growing at a striking rate as consumers buy more cars and heavy electricity consuming appliances.

Approximately one new major factory opens in China every day, adding markedly to pollution.

China is exempt from the pollution standards of the Kyoto Treaty because China is considered a “developing country.” India, another growing polluter, is also considered a developing country and therefore exempt from Kyoto.

The standards of the Kyoto Treaty only would apply to nations such as the United States which is a “developed country.” This is why the United States refuses to acknowledge the treaty.

Above: What China says about its water is not always related to reality.

According to Chinese government reports and statistics, more than 70 percent of China’s waterways and 90 percent of its underground water are contaminated by pollution.

China is consuming vast quantities of natural resources.  Oil, metals and other resources are now being removed from Africa.  At home, China is consuming its own resources at a prodigious rate.

Intellectual Property Right (IPR) Violations. The term IPR violations is just a high handed way of saying copyright, trademark and other legal measures that prevent the theft or exploitation of finished work are violated by counterfeiters or pirates.

These violators of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in China cost U.S. artists and businesses billions of dollars owed to patent and trademark IPRs.

Beijing Cultural Law Enforcement Agency officers destroy pirated DVDs and CDs video and music material in the outskirts of Beijing, China Saturday April 14, 2007. China has promised to pursue product pirates identified by American authorities in a new effort to stamp out its thriving counterfeit industry, the head of the U.S. customs agency said Friday June 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)
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China accounted for about 80 percent of the 14,775 shipments of counterfeit goods seized at U.S. ports last year, said W. Ralph Basham, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

For decades China has been awash in fake Rolex watches, Oxford English Dictionaries that cost $300 in England available in Beijing for $30, and pirated recorded music and videos at unbelievably low prices. Just the day after the blockbuster motion picture “TITANIC” debuted on U.S. theater screens, pirated VCR copies of the film were on sale on the streets of Beijing for just a few dollars. In this computer age, the practice of copying and bypassing the registration and licensing fees of products like Microsoft “Windows” has become a crisis for the owners of the IPRs.

Late in May Microsoft and Vietnam signed an agreement saying that all Vietnam government offices would use only licensed Microsoft products and all associated licensing fees would be paid by Vietnam. This is a huge step forward in the anti-piracy campaign of the United States. Before this, Microsoft products were available on the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City for about 50 cent U.S. each.

China has yet to make an agreement on computer operating systems.

But progress in the IPR dispute is apparent. On June 15, the United States and China announced a breakthrough in this long-time contentious issue between the two powers.

Under a memorandum of cooperation signed on June 15, U.S. Customs will provide China with information on the source of seized goods, and Beijing will report back within 90 days on the status of efforts to track down the counterfeiters, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Basham said.

Pirate Pictures: China’s Fake DVD Pandemic

Above: China is full of pirated DVDs.

Food Safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused 257 shipments of food from China in April 2007. Here are some of the products rejected and the reasons they were not accepted into the U.S.

– Pesticides in frozen eel, ginseng, and frozen red raspberry crumble
– Banned antibiotics in frozen catfish
– Sardines and scallops “coated with putrifying bacteria”
– Monkfish containing the deadly toxin tetrodotoxin
– Most commonly, simply “filth”, a generic term for decomposition and gross contamination, which FDA agents found in salted bean curd cubes in brine with chili and sesame oil, dried apple, dried peach, dried pear, dried round bean curd, dried mushroom, olives, frozen bay scallops, frozen Pacific cod, sardines, frozen seafood mix, and fermented bean curd

More recently, the following tainted products have been in the headlines:
– Toothpaste laced with deadly diethylene glycol
– Dog and cat food containing fatal melamine mixed with wheat glutin

Above: Poisoned toothpaste

In the past year, the FDA rejected more than twice as many food shipments from China as from all other countries combined.

The FDA inspects about 1% of imported goods. The remaining 99% of the above products and others like them made it safely into the US and into your home.

The issue of diethylene glycol in toothpaste and other products if not a joking matter.  Diethylene glycol is poisonous and has und in Chinese made products for more than a decade.  In 1997, diethylene glycol from China killed dozens of Haitian children,  The FDA was unable to trace the chemical back to its manufacturer.  In years past, the appearance of diethylene glycol in products for people has been a persistent problem yeat China has been unwilling or unable to assist the FDA and other organization in identification of the source — known to be inside China.  Now diethylene glycol has been found in toothpaste for sale inside the U.S.

Many experts maintain that poisons are used in food and other products in much of Asia due to ignorance, a lack of proper training and cultural factors.

“The people who do this want to make money. And if they’re stupid and greedy, this is a bad combination,” said Gerald Moy, a food safety expert at the World Health Organization in Geneva. “It’s the wild West.”

Chinese dairy industry

Above: China’s dairy industry has been beset by poisonings and toxin scandals that have shaken consumer confidence. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

China’s Typical Crisis Response. Faced with tainted pet food followed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) releasing data on a host of products from China rejected at U.S. borders and then the revelation that tainted Chinese toothpaste had been found in the U.S., China responded. On Tuesday, June 12, 2007, China’s number two envoy in Washington DC went on the assault to explain the rigor China uses to police and ensure the safety of all products including food.

Above:  Zheng Zeguang, deputy chief of mission of the Chinese Embassy, Washington DC.  Time and again this troubled communist functionary had to go before the U.S. media while he was in Washington DC — obviously told by Beijing  try to explain the un-explainable.

The Washington Times carried the story on page one; which probably delighted the Embassy of China in Washington DC. The headline: “Chinese envoy warns of toothpaste panic.”

Chinese Embassy Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission Zheng Zeguang said “certain isolated cases” should not be “blown out of proportion” to mislead the American public into thinking that all food and drugs from China are unsafe. He reiterated that all products coming from China were safe.

Meanwhile, the Chinese charm offensive continued in Beijing.

Vice Minister for the State Administration for Industry and Commerce Li Dongsheng took more than 100 reporters from the international media on a tour of a government facility that houses seized fake products.

Fake, tainted or adulterated products from soy sauce to chewing gum were on display.

Mr. Li said, “Yes, there are now some problems of food safety of Chinese products. However, they are not serious. We should not exaggerate those problems.”

Mr. Li said “very good, very complete methods” are used by China to regulate product safety.

“We are very concerned about food safety in China and very concerned about protecting the rights of consumers,” Mr. Li said. “But we do not want to cause panic among the people.”

The problem was that everything they said was premature.  The Chinese wanted to get the food/toothpaste scandal behind them as soon as they could.  So without waiting for the facts, they went into a mode of denial and charm.

A shopper takes a box of Colgate toothpaste off the shelf at the Heinen's grocery store in Bainbridge, Ohio in this April 26, 2006 file photo.  Colgate-Palmolive Co. is expected to release quarterly earnings on Wednesday, April 25, 2007. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, file)

Above: A company in China copied Colgate toothpaste for export but it turned out to be poisoned.

The afternoon that the page one story “Chinese envoy warns of toothpaste panic” was published, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of some “Thomas Train” toy items. They were painted in China using lead paint which is toxic.

We remember feeling sorry for Chinese Embassy Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission Zheng Zeguang. That morning his picture has been on page 1 of The Washington Times, above the fold, as he told the media of the world that all products from China were safe and made with the greatest of care.

The very next day this was the headline in American newspapers: “More Toothpaste Revelations: Imported Chinese Toothpaste Marked as Colgate is Toxic.”

Congratulations ladies and gentlemen of the People’s Republic of China. By trying to rid the world of the food and hygiene safety story prematurely, your nation looks inept and worse, crooked.

Flag of People's Republic of China

Often, China’s government looks and acts like a fourth grader caught in the act of smoking a cigarette who then says, “What cigarette?”

A case in point: in 2003, China faced an epidemic of a disease called Severe Acute Reparatory Syndrome (SARS).

Three things happened when China realized it had an epidemic on its hands. In Phase One, China covered up the problem and denied it existed. The diseases persisted and worsened. Phase Two was a flurry of activity to impress the international community that China was on top of the situation. Most of this was for show and didn’t contribute a thing toward ending the epidemic. During this phase other nations like Vietnam and Singapore, that had admitted the problem as soon as it was discovered, eradicated the disease. Finally, China launched Phase Three: a show and charm offensive to convince the world that it did a great job solving the problem.

During the SARS emergency, the international media found out, for the first time, that China lacked sufficient medications, medical staff and hospital facilities to properly service their own population. Like many other things in China, the medical system was mostly a sham.

After graduating from medical school, the best educated medical professionals in China went to the west to work.

The World Health Organization estimated that only about 4% of China’s medical professionals were prepared for a disease like SARS. And the medical staff was severely undermanned.

Today, according to China’s own Ministry of Health (MOH), “In most countries, the ratio of the number of nurses to the total population is about 0.5 percent, but the ratio in China is only 0.1 percent.”

John Carey documented China’s response to the SARS epidemic in a Washington Times commentary under the headline “China’s Ham-Handed SARS Response: Omen of The Future In Disease Control?”

Recall the Bird Flu crisis? Phases One, Two and Three were used again. Hey, when you have 1.3 Billion people you can’t have a complicated play book. And forget about innovation. When an American football quarterback would call an audible for perfectly valid reasons; China is stuck. The only question China’s government leaders face is, what Phase do you think we are in?

In the current food and product safety crime, China is now launching Phase Three. Zheng Zeguang and Li Dongsheng are apparently two of the point men. The problem is, they didn’t wait for Phase Two to play out.

China launched Phase Three of the food safety scare early because there are other emergencies to handle.

Hollywood big shots are already calling the 2008 Summer Olympics the “Genocide Games” because of China’s intransigence and denial of the genocide in Darfur. China’s President Hu Jintao heard about it from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the G-8 meeting and the next week from the King and PM during a state visit to Sweden.

China’s routine crisis response is unlike that of any other nation.  It is always formulaic and usually, at least in part, dishonest.

One Child Policy. The government of China has decided that each couple may only have one child. This policy is in place to allow for the efficient use of resources, to ensure China can feed itself into the future, and to improve the economic standing of the entire nation.

But people have resisted the state telling them how to run their lives to this extent.

As people have become more affluent in China, they know they have the money to support more than one child in style: complete with a private education.

But the poor people who elect to have more than one child face the threat of fines or forced abortions and other abuses.

The “One Child” policy dilemma came to a boil at the end of May in the southern region of Guangxi.

Many of the people of Guangxi want more than one child, not because they are affluent. They are very poor. They want children so that someone will care for them when they are old. This is a common cultural tradition in China, Vietnam and other Asia nations: the parents end up being cared for by the children as they reach their final years.

China fines couples who have a second child $1300, a means of population control that represents an exorbitant sum in an area like Guangxi where most annual incomes are only $130.

The communist government of China decided to crack down on law breakers who have had more than one child. “The people who didn’t have money, they threatened to knock their houses down, or punch holes in the roof,” a resident said.

So at the end of May in the town of Yangmei, several thousand people ransacked the main government office, a local official said. Xinhua said official vehicles were set on fire. About 100 police were called in, and some protesters were injured or detained, said the official, who refused to give his name.

“The police looked like they were afraid,” one witness said of the clashes in his neighborhood.

Corruption. A few cases are illustrative of the “culture of corruption” in China.

One of our contentions is this: that China has a “culture of corruption” that often causes western business people heartburn.

Consider just a few cases:

–In June of 2006, the Communist government in China sacked the Vice-Mayor of Beijing. A western businessman accused him of soliciting a bribe. During the investigation, officials discovered the Vice-Mayor, who was overseeing the construction of Olympic venues for the 2008 Games, had built himself a pleasure palace filled with young concubines on the outskirts of the city.

Mr. Liu Zhihua’s colorful private life emerged after he was removed from his post after a foreign businessman reported him for extorting a bribe.

The Times of London reported: “Mr Liu’s sacking has triggered accusations of widespread corruption surrounding the Games, and highlighted a culture of graft that is said to trouble British and other foreign companies working as specialist contractors on Beijing’s Olympic sites.”

The newspaper also wondered why the mayor was not investigated because China has a history of protecting the top officials when making a show trial for more junior people.

–That same month, a bogus ambulance picked up an injured pedestrian in Beijing, charging him about $100 US, and then driving him not to the closest hospital but to one much further away. The man bled to death.

Concerned Chinese newspapermen discovered a plot that included unlicensed ambulances intercepting emergency calls and charging exorbitant rates to collect patients.

–The SARS outbreak reaction and the thee phase response to crises is a symptom of the “culture of corruption.” The general disregard for public safety exemplified by the pet food, food and toothpaste fiascos are all symptomatic of the culture of corruption. In fact, Chinese culture has such an ingrained teaching to cheat the other guy that it will take a century or more to turn this ship of state around.

–On May 10, 2007, the maker of Budweiser beer went to court in Arkansas to claim that an Arkansas-registered company is illegally marketing beer in China, using the American brewer’s trademarks. Anheuser-Busch sued USA Bai Wei Group in Pulaski County, Arkansas, Circuit Court, seeking an injunction to revoke Bai Wei’s corporate charter and require a name change.


Bai Wei (pronounced By Way) is how the Chinese language trademark for Budweiser is pronounced in English, according to the St. Louis-based brewer’s complaint.

This incident is part of a decades long disregard for intellectual property rights in China, where western copyrights and trademarks are ignored. Some of us first saw illegally republished or “pirated” book in China in 1976.

Above: Cover of Business Week in 2000

–The Associated Press recently reported on a scandal in China’s medial system involving “doctored” and unhealthy blood.  China admitted to the sale of fake blood protein, a potentially dangerous and widespread practice that underscores the country’s problems with product safety.

State media reported one death from use of the counterfeited blood protein.

The report centered on an inquiry in the northeastern province of Jilin, where 59 hospitals and pharmacies were sold more than 2,000 bottles of counterfeit blood protein. It did not say what the products were made of, but said they could “make a patient’s condition worsen and could cause death.”

The bottom line is this: until the culture of Chinese business improves, westerners will always be frustrated and wary of getting taken. More so in China than in almost any other nation in the world, the motto has to be “buyer beware.”. This will sometime become a stumbling block to good relations and good business.

Conclusion

Hopefully we have helped Hu Jintao and his many minion understand the problems they face as they march in lock step toward next summer’s Beijing Games. China has many policy difficulties that trouble the rest of the world. Unless some of these are addressed, there could be negative repercussions impacting China’s planned Grand Event.

And the list we have laid out above is not complete. China does not allow freedom of religion, freedom of speech or freedom of the press. There is only a one party system in China: communism. China has a very high number of executions following questionable trials. Dissidents in China risk a quick death. China restricts and controls use of the internet, and monitors email and cell phone conversations. There is no expectation of privacy in China and the rule of law is questionable.

There are no free and fair elections in China.

China seems to have a problem with wanton loss of life.

Deaths by traffic accident, mine explosions and cave-ins and other forms of disaster are record setting not just by numbers but when compared per capita with nations in the west.  The Chinese government seems to have an indifference to individual human life, perhaps beacause there are just so many Chinese.

Some belive that when you have a population of 1.3 billion, there is a tendency to discount the value of each individual human life.

In short, China could well suffer severe embarrassment before, during or after allowing western journalist to cover the Olympics.

In October of 2008, Hu Jintao will stand in the pantheon of Chinese political heroes. Or he will be the president of China fool enough to open the door to thousands of journalists: each seeking a “scoop.”
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A Most Significant Comment or Two: Well, I think we said ours was a short list and by no means complete.  We are sorry we missed this vitally important human right abuse: “Let’s not forget China’s own little genocide. The fact that Falun Gong prisoners of conscience are the only group (of prisoners) blood tested in jail and killed on demand to procure organs to rich foreigners on short notice really annoys me. The report ‘Bloody Harvest’ confirms that both the military and civilian hospitals are involved including the people’s courts.”
From: afad@canada.com

China’s secret rules stymie legal system

June 12, 2007

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China – China’s extensive effort to designate and protect state secrets undermines its international commitments and hamstrings its legal system, a human rights group said Monday.

China’s constitution and laws provide for freedom of expression and the right to criticize the government, but those provisions are routinely violated, often by authorities invoking rules governing state secrets, Human Rights in China said in a report.

The network of regulations “undermines both domestic law and (China’s) international legal obligations,” the New York-based group said.

“The internal contradictions and tensions in domestic law provisions, and the failure to consistently implement international norms, also undermine the development of a functioning and coherent rule of law,” said the report, titled “State Secrets: China’s Legal Labyrinth.”

China’s 1988 law on protection of state secrets contains an article defining secrets as “all other matters classified as state secrets by the national State Secrets Bureau.”

That “catchall phrase” gives the government “unlimited and unlegislated power to classify as a state secret virtually any information that it deems could harm the ‘security and interests of the state,’” the report said.

Categories of secrets include information concerning government, defense and the economy, but also such seemingly mundane topics as environmental protection and even family planning. The State Secrets Bureau in Beijing designates state secrets, with no recourse for appeal in the courts or other branches of government. The bureau has branches at all levels of government dedicated to preventing the free flow of information.

The human rights group said China’s secrets system violates the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Beijing has signed but not ratified, along with other treaties and the proceedings of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The system also undermines government transparency and the fairness of the legal system, worsening corruption, government malfeasance and cover-ups, and reducing accountability, the report said. The rules are frequently used to jail whistle-blowers, journalists, independent scholars and religious activists, it said.

“The very rights that (China) undertakes to uphold through the international framework are undermined by the comprehensive state secrets system,” the report said.

The system “perpetuates a culture of secrecy that is not only harmful but deadly to Chinese society,” it said.

Cases cited in the report include:

• The 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. Chinese officials at first refused to provide information or confirm reports, pointing to rules classifying infectious diseases as state secrets.

• A November 2005 chemical leak in the Songhua River that forced the shutting off of taps in a city of 9 million people. Ambiguities in secrecy rules covering industrial accidents led to delays and confusion in reporting the accident.

• Prominent sociologist Lu Jianhua, reportedly sentenced to 20 years in prison for leaking state secrets to a Hong Kong reporter who was sentenced to five years for spying. Human rights groups have questioned the evidence in the reporter’s case, but Lu’s trial was held in secret.

• Academic Tohti Tunyaz, sentenced to 11 years for spying and “splittism.” Supporters say the secrets he was accused of stealing were 50-year-old government documents.

• Journalist Shi Tao, sentenced to 10 years in prison after e-mailing the contents of a government propaganda circular to a human rights forum in the United States. Shi was accused of “illegally providing state secrets overseas.”

China’s rules are especially dangerous because the government can declare something a secret even after it has been published or otherwise becomes known, the report said.

It gave a mixed review to the only publicized move by the secrets bureau to declassify an entire category of information. In 2005, the bureau announced with great fanfare that casualty tolls from natural disasters would no longer be considered secret.

However, the announcement’s effect was blunted by confusion over the definition of natural disasters as opposed to man-made ones. Meanwhile, new rules were implemented fining media outlets for reporting on disasters without government authorization, the report said.

China starts crackdown in Tibet after journalists’ visit

June 10, 2007

Kathmandu, June 6 (IANS) China has intensified its crackdown in Tibet after a visit by two western journalists, a rights organisation has charged.

A travel agency was closed down in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, for having facilitated the tour of two foreign journalists, while a Tibetan was fined and many who had come in contact with the visitors questioned by the Chinese authorities, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said.

Tim Johnson of the US newspaper chain McClatchy Tribune, and Harald Maass of the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, travelled to Tibet on tourist permits to avoid restrictions placed on journalists visiting the region.

Though Beijing recently announced that during the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing next year journalists would be allowed to travel freely throughout China, Tibet still continues to be out of bounds.

Johnson’s formal application to the Chinese foreign ministry to visit Tibet was ignored, forcing the American to travel as a tourist.

During his trip, Johnson wrote on his blog that the people he had talked to were picked up for questioning and a Tibetan was given ‘an extraordinary fine on trumped-up charges’.

He also said a Chinese official at the main Chinese-run travel service lectured him on not talking to any Tibetans because of his status as a ‘tourist’ and blocked his attempts to travel within the region, making him switch to a local travel agency in Lhasa.

When they returned from Tibet, both journalists were summoned by the Chinese foreign ministry and their reporting criticised, ICT said. The Lhasa agency, which was not named, was shut down.

Zhang Lizhong, a division director at the Chinese foreign ministry’s information department, accused the reporters of distorting facts and producing ‘unacceptable’ articles, media watchdog Reporters without Borders said.

Johnson had filed a report on how China had ordered thousands of Tibetans to relocate.
Photo
A ethnic Tibetan herder herds yaks at Ruo’ergai grassland in Ruo’ergai County, China’s southwestern Sichuan province, August 15, 2006. China must stop the forced eviction of ethnic Tibetan herders to urban areas or farmland, which is destroying a way of life and is open to abuse, a human rights group said on Sunday. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files
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While trying to promote China as a tourist destination and beginning a direct bus service between Tibet and Kathmandu in Nepal, Beijing however does not allow individuals to ride the bus, giving travel permits only to groups who can be monitored more easily.

A Kathmandu-based journalist, who visited Tibet last month, was told by Chinese authorities that if he travelled by bus, he would also have to pay for two officials who would accompany him to facilitate his trip.

Even though he finally went by air, he was constantly accompanied by two young Chinese women and had to keep them informed about all his travel plans.

The fresh Chinese crackdown comes after five Americans, including one of Tibetan descent, protested at the Everest base camp in April against China’s occupation of Tibet and the Olympic Games Committee’s decision to allow Beijing to hold the hallowed games despite its poor human rights record.

China is particularly sensitive to negative media coverage on Tibet since it has planned an ambitious Olympic Torch relay that will cover five continents and summit Mt Everest, the highest point in the world, in 2008.

A team of Tibetan mountaineers recently carried out a trial of the Olympic flame ceremony on Everest and was successful in lighting approximately half of the torches in a test run.


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