The Corner


Hard Choices, Hard Lives

When people under dictatorship decide to go dissident, they make a choice with huge consequences. (Almost invariably, they will tell you they did not “decide” to go dissident; they could simply do no other.) They set off a chain of events for themselves, and for their family.

Gao Zhisheng did this. A human-rights lawyer, he is one of the greatest men in all of China. What he has endured is almost unimaginable. And his family has had to endure a great deal too. About this, he is wracked with guilt.

I met his daughter, Grace, and wrote a piece. It is on the homepage today, here.

It is a vicious period for human-rights lawyers in China. The boss of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has cracked down on them, hard. Two years ago, the Party rounded up some 250 of them, in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown.” (The arrests started on July 9.) These lawyers have been tortured, some of them into insanity.

What business is this of the United States? We have to engage with China, right? Get along? Of course. But an awareness of the reality of China is desirable.

Recently, President Trump spoke about Cuba, and spoke rightly. He also said, “We will not be silent in the face of Communist oppression any longer.”

Hypocrisy is inevitable in human affairs, and this goes double for foreign policy. And yet sometimes hypocrisy is so flagrant, it costs you credibility in the world.

President Trump has gone out of his way to flatter Xi. He refers to him by his first name (which, in the Chinese style, is actually the second name): Jinping. More than once, he has called him “a great guy.” He has said, “I like him a lot. I think he likes me a lot.” And so on.

This is unnecessary. Like a broken record, I quote Vladimir Bukovsky, the great Soviet-era dissident. He said something like this: As democratic governments go about their business, dealing with dictatorships, they should occasionally pause to wonder, How will it look to the boys in the camps?

My piece today is entitled “A Hero’s Daughter.” The subtitle says that she has led “a hard life.” That’s putting it mildly. The piece concludes with these sentences: “The Communist system — wherever it is installed — is evil in a thousand ways. But not least in what it does to girls like Grace, and to families like Gao Zhisheng’s.”