The Associated Press begins a story, “Chinese leader Hu Jintao is being feted in Washington this week with a lavish state banquet at the White House and other pomp usually reserved for close friends and allies . . .” Here is another passage, from later in the story:
“For the protocol-obsessed Chinese leadership, a highlight of the visit will be Wednesday’s state banquet — an honor denied Hu on his last trip to the White House in 2006. President George W. Bush thought state banquets should be reserved for allies and like-minded powers and instead gave Hu a lunch.”
Yes, that’s how a decent nation should treat a police state — lunch, at most.
The AP continues, “Even worse” — i.e., even worse than the insult of a mere lunch — “a member of Falun Gong, the spiritual movement banned by China, disrupted Hu and Bush’s joint appearance . . .”
“Worse”? Not in my book. That Falun Gong member’s “disruption” was just about the only ray of truth in that entire state visit. Hu’s government “disrupts” the lives of Falun Gong practitioners by kidnapping them, throwing them into camps and cells, and torturing them to death. I read reports of this every single week.
Here is a passage from a Bloomberg report: “While former President George W. Bush met with Hu in the U.S., the session wasn’t accorded the status of a state visit. That trip was marred by a demonstrator who criticized persecution of the Falun Gong religious group at Hu’s welcome ceremony at the White House.”
“Marred”? “Marred”? The demonstrator redeemed the whole awful affair: the head of a police state being received by the greatest democracy in the world.
China, to remind you, is a country with a gulag (laogai). The Chinese government is a regime that imprisons and tortures some of the most admirable people in all the world: the human-rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, for one. What he has endured is unimaginable, not to mention unendurable, by most people. The 2010 Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, sits in prison, while his wife is under house arrest.
There were two other Nobel peace laureates blocked from going to Oslo to collect their prize: Carl von Ossietzky, a political prisoner of the Nazis; and Andrei Sakharov, the heroic physicist-dissident in the Soviet Union. (Lech Walesa and Aung San Suu Kyi were different cases, as I’ve explained in the past. They could have gone, but did not want to run the risk of being prevented from returning home.) The Chinese Communists have well earned their position with the Nazis and the Soviets.
The demands of “realpolitik” do not include a “lavish state banquet,” to borrow the AP’s words. George W. Bush did not bow to the Chinese Communists in this way. (Remember, Obama has literally bowed to the Chinese.) He gave them a lunch. Sino-American relations proceeded normally in his eight years.
Let me get a little corny on you: America is a nation that’s supposed to stand for something — for freedom, and human dignity, above all. We’re not supposed to be like every other nation. We’re supposed to be exceptional. Different. A beacon unto man.
I’m not a babe in the woods, and I understand the necessity of getting along in a wicked world. But we don’t have to abase ourselves as we are doing now. We should not be honoring the PRC boss. We should be honoring, and standing with, the men and women in the camps and the cells. Are we America? (Does this sort of talk make you gag?) What is America? What are we supposed to celebrate on the Fourth of July? Is it just an excuse for fireworks and a picnic?
American honor has been stained this week. A degree of shame rests upon this nation. We should hope that the prisoners and the strugglers — who want nothing more than what you and I are damn lucky to have — forgive us.