Press Conference With Rep. S Christopher Smith; Rep. Frank Wolf; and Rep. Joe Pitts - Human Rights In China and Secretary Clinton's Recent Remarks Regarding Human Rights In China
Copyright ©2009 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500, 1000 Vermont Ave, Washington, DC 20005 USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service at www.fednews.com, please email Carina Nyberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-202-216-2706.
REP. SMITH: Good morning. My name is Chris Smith. I'm a congressman from the 4th District of New Jersey. I'm currently serving in my 15th term -- 29 years in the House. I'm joined by Congressman Frank Wolf and Congressman Joe Pitts.
I have a very brief opening comment and then all of us will give opening comments and then we would be more than happy to entertain your questions.
Last week the Obama administration effectively dismissed, devalued and debased human rights -- especially women's rights -- in the People's Republic of China.
Today we have learned that the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership is poised to lavishly fund the U.N. population fund with $50 million of U.S. taxpayer money, this despite the fact that the UNFPA has shamelessly and systematically aided and abetted the Chinese government's one-child per couple forced abortion policy. That cruel anti-family policy has made brothers and sisters illegal in China and murdered tens of millions of children and wounded countless Chinese women.
In a shocking display of pandering, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear in Beijing last week that the Obama administration has chosen to peddle U.S. debt to the largest dictatorship in the world over combating torture, forced abortions, forced labor, religious persecution, human sex trafficking, gendercide and genocide.
Secretary Clinton said concern for the protection of human rights for the Chinese people can't, and I quote her here, "interfere with the economic crisis, the climate change issue and security", as if human rights were somehow disconnected and irrelevant to those issues.
The protection and promotion of human rights ought to be at the core of our relationship with an egregious violator like China -- not an afterthought. Every day, brave Chinese risk their lives and liberty in the pursuit of freedom, democracy, protection of the family and respect for human rights.
Chinese political prisoners languish in gulags, laogai concentration camps facing unspeakable torture and abuse. As a matter of fact, approximately half-a-million people each day endure the cruelty and humiliation of the labor camps.
Is it too much to ask that our secretary of State firmly and boldly raise human rights rather than a tin cup?
REP. WOLF: Thank you, Chris.
I'm Congressman Wolf from Virginia.
Last summer on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, Congressman Chris Smith and I traveled to China to assess the human rights situation, to meet with dissidents, worship with a house church and press for the release by name of political prisoners.
During our time in China, we were followed to meetings and every dissident but one we tried to meet with was detained or put under house arrest. And our attempts to access a number of different websites, including "Voice of America", were all blocked.
Since our visit, the known numbers of detained or imprisoned political prisoners has skyrocketed from 734 to over 1,000, and that was before thousands of brave Chinese citizens joined the Charter 08 movement, which Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post characterized as the biggest political protest group in years.
This is the environment in which Secretary Clinton traveled just last week and amazingly failed to put even cursory pressure on the Chinese government to end its ongoing, widespread and everyone knows, human rights abuses.
While the human rights groups at home have expressed understandable shock and disappointment, we can only guess at what the imprisoned Catholic bishops, the persecuted house church leaders, the Muslim Uighurs, the falun gong followers and the Buddhist monks must have thought when the Chinese guards came by and said, the secretary of State was in town today and never raised your case. And their voices, unfortunately, have been quieted years ago when they were put in prison.
Secretary Clinton's silence and the logic that we ought not to raise human rights issues with repressive governments, because we know what they're going to say, had very far-reaching implications. What of the Baha'i in Iran or the refugees in Darfur? I suspect we could guess at the protests of Ahmadinejad and Bashir -- so will we simply be silent in the face injustice around the world? Will there be no special envoy for Sudan, because this may offend the Chinese to buy our paper?
History teaches us that bold and public proclamations on the importance of liberty and freedom and the absence of repression are cause for great hope for those political prisoners who languish behind bars. Words -- and the secretary should understand this -- words have power. They have the power to inspire or the power to deflate. They have the power to give vision or they have the power to stifle hope.
But for words to inspire the hope for a day when the Chinese people can worship freely, where the press is not censored, where political dissent is permitted, they first must be spoken! Silence itself is really a message. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, and I quote, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
The silence of your friend! If you're in difficulty and your friend won't speak out for you, that is unbelievably -- and that's what's happened! America has always been -- always been a friend to the oppressed and the persecuted, the forgotten. And has our allegiance now changed in the Obama administration?
With the passage of permanent, normal trade relations for China, we were promised that economic liberalization would lead to political liberalization in China and the U.S. could influence China through economic activity to better respect the fundamental human rights of its people. Instead, we see the Chinese government is unmoved, in fact, emboldened in its repression, while at the same time experience explosive economic growth.
We see our own secretary of State standing side by side with the butchers of Beijing saying, quote, "that America and China will rise or fall together." It seems that America has changed rather than China.
I'm reminded of the story told by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel of a rabbi who came to Sodom to save it from destruction. He preached to the people and called to them not to be indifferent -- as the secretary should have done when she was there -- but no one listened.
Finally, someone asked the rabbi, don't you see it's of no use? And he said, quote, "I know it's of no use, but I must! I will tell you why. In the beginning, I thought I had to protest and shout in order to change them. I have given up this hope. Now, I know I must picket and scream and shout so they will not change me!"
Secretary Clinton has a number of important decisions before her which could signal that America has not been irreversibly changed.
Will the new ambassador in China be committed to ensure the American embassy is an island of freedom in a sea of repression? Right now, based on her statement of her lack of activity, I doubt it. I doubt that the American embassy will be an island of freedom.
Will the new assistant secretary for Democracy and Human Rights and Labor be someone who is known and trusted by the human rights community? I doubt -- in fact, if you check over at the State Department, they are moving Democracy and Human Rights out of the State Department building -- I got a call yesterday -- into the old Red Cross building. They were on the 7th floor. Now they're going to be out of the building.
Will the new ambassador for international religious freedom be unafraid to worship with the underground house church and press the Chinese government to respect freedom? I doubt it. And this June will mark 20 years since the Tiananmen Massacre where student protesters held up a paper mache model of the Statue of Liberty.
Chris and I were in Beijing Prison Number One where we saw Tiananmen demonstrators making socks for export to the West. And of course, the Clinton administration in those days failed to deal with that issue. And some of those Tiananmen demonstrators are still there.
What does this say about America if two decades later their cries for freedom have gone unanswered? Will they still, today, look to our Statue of Liberty -- to America -- as a symbol of hope and freedom?
I think the secretary ought to clean this act up. She ought to say something and she ought to make it clear that from now and from this day on human rights, religious freedom and persecution will be at the top of her list.
REP. PITTS: I'm Congressman Joe Pitts of the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania.
As my colleagues here have noted, we have come here today to voice our opposition and concern to the recent comments made by Secretary of State Clinton during her recent visit to Asia where she said that human rights issues in China, quote, "can't interfere", end quote, with other priorities such as, quote, "the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis". End quote.
I am saddened by what this seems to indicate -- that human rights is apparently not a priority with this administration and this State Department. But even more than the implications for the outlook of this administration, the secretary's comments send a disturbing message from those suffering from human rights abuses under a repressive regime. I'm referring to the hundreds of millions of Chinese who continue to have their basic human rights trampled upon by the dictatorship there -- despite what you hear about economic reforms.
From religious oppression to forced abortions to the detainment of political dissidents, the Chinese record on human rights remains abhorrent.
This is the ugly truth behind the economic progress we so often read about in the papers and we see on television. And, sadly, Senator Clinton's comments -- or Secretary Clinton's comments say to all of those courageous individuals fighting for human rights throughout China that they are merely an interference.
This comes just days after we receive reports about Gao Zhisheng, a human rights defender who released an open letter describing brutal torture he suffered because of his criticism of the Chinese government's torture of Falun Gong members. Gao was detained for 50 days during 2007, and subjected to brutal torture -- 50 days of continual beating and electric shocks to sensitive areas of his body. And this is the kind of behavior that Senator (sic) Clinton is describing as a mere interference in negotiations on other issues.
For 200 years people living in oppression around the world have looked to the United States for inspiration and support for their cause. Are we really now abandoning this tradition? The U.S. has always defended oppressed people everywhere in the world. The universal human rights principles is one of the principles our country was founded upon, and we should not abandon these people just because of our economic recession.
We're here today to tell those individuals that they still have an ally in the United States. We must not let human rights become trivialized. I urge Secretary Clinton to repair the damage she has done with her comments by expressing the importance of human rights in the U.S. relationship with other nations, especially with China.
REP. SMITH: Thank you.
Any questions? Yes sir.
Q (Inaudible) -- with Radio Free Asia.
Thank you for your keen points on the human rights issues, first of all.
Congressman Smith, after today's conference and criticizing the Obama administration's legal action on human rights, what would be your next step -- or words -- (inaudible)?
REP. SMITH: Well, we will continue to raise this issue with the Secretary, with President Obama himself, if he gives us that opportunity. Hopefully, through the media there will be some cooler heads and some more compassionate hearts within the White House who will say this act of betrayal and act of abandonment cannot continue.
I remember Wei Jingsheng. I met with him in Beijing before he actually was released and came to the United States -- before he was rearrested, when the Chinese government was seeking Olympics 2000, and he said, "This may sound contrarian, but when the United States panders and grovels and kowtows, they beat us more in prison. When you are strong, predictable, transparent, honest about your human rights concerns, they beat us less."
I am very fearful, as are my colleagues, that right now all over China in the laogai prison camp system, and in other detention camps, the prisoners are being beaten much more harshly than they were just a week ago, because now they are not only being -- there's more of an open door to the torturers to do as they will.
They are also taunting them and saying, as Frank Wolf said, "You have been abandoned by the United States. They don't care." And we are trying to convey -- again, through you, the media, and any means possible, that there is a large number of congressmen and senators, and above all, the American people who are in solidarity with them. We will look for other ways to raise the issue through resolutions, through hearings.
When I was chairman of the Human Rights Subcommittee, International Operations and Human Rights, I chaired 26 hearings on human rights in China alone -- 300 hearings in total, 26 on China alone, looking at forced abortion; looking at religious persecution; workers rights, which are routines trashed, there are no trade unions in, you know -- What brought human rights to Poland? There was the trade union movement, Lech Walesa.
Let me also say -- and Frank mentioned the Charter 08, which I put in the record twice now, and I would welcome all Americans to read it. It reads just like Charter 77, and many of the great documents produced during the Cold War with the Soviet Union when brave souls, like Vaclav Havel and others, came forward, wrote out declarations of human rights through nonviolent means, and said "We should have our universally recognized human rights."
That's what the Chinese dissidents have done, and for that they were being tortured, as Joe Pitts said, with the application of cattle prods in the most unspeakable ways in private areas. This is systematic. Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, looked at torture in China and said, without a doubt, it is systematic; it is pervasive; that's how they get individual dissidents to come up with additional names and to confess, because at some point people break.
Q And in Congress --
REP. SMITH: So more -- let me just say, hearings. I would call on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House; the Human Rights Committee, of which Mr. Wolf is the co-chair -- and I'm sure, as that committee is configured, China will be a major focus; the Commission on Human Rights, of which I am the ranking member, to hold a whole series of hearings about taking back the human rights ground that has been, not irreplaceably, but sadly lost through Secretary Clinton's statement.
Wei Jingsheng made a very strong statement in his open letter on Saturday, which many of you probably have read, which he made it very clear that it was during the Clinton administration -- his first two years in office, when President Clinton laid out in his Executive Order linking Most-Favored Nation status with human rights observance.
And he put down markers and said there had to be serious progress in each of these areas. There was serious regression. What did Bill Clinton do? He ripped up his Executive Order, and that sent the message to every dictatorship, but particularly to Beijing, that human rights are nothing but paper promises that can be shredded, you know, in the nearest shredder.
Unfortunately, it's deja vu all over again with Mrs. Clinton. She has done the same thing -- abandoned the best and the bravest and the brightest in China.
Q Adding on Congressional response on Chinese government's abuses and human rights issues, Congressman Wolf, you being a strong advocate for the Chinese and North Korean human rights issues. And, as you know, one of the most thorniest issue of Chinese human rights abuses -- their abuses of human -- North Korean refugees in North Korea.
But, up to now, State Department didn't -- doesn't appoint a special envoy for North Korean human rights. How would you accelerate the appointment of that special envoy, and -- (inaudible)?
REP. WOLF: Well, I think the Secretary's conduct and words in Beijing have a bigger impact throughout the entire world, other than just Beijing, certainly with regard to the North -- to North Korea. And Chris Hill, who has now been appointed our ambassador of Iraq, never raised human rights with regard to North Korea -- never. It was almost -- he didn't even want to talk about it.
And now we're going to see he will go to Baghdad where human rights and religious freedom are important because they're persecuting Christians. They're driving the Christians out. Can you imagine what this message sends to Mubarak, who persecuting the Bahais and persecuting the Coptic Christians? I mean, they're probably saying in Egypt today, "Well, the secretary said it doesn't matter there. If it doesn't matter in China -- which is almost the number one violator, it won't matter for us here." And you just go on and on and on.
Why haven't a -- to the Obama administration's credit, they put Senator Mitchell in as a special envoy for the Middle East, and Holbrooke for Afghanistan and Pakistan, both good people. Why haven't they put somebody in with regard to Darfur? And now China holds the link as to the -- what takes place in Darfur.
There are two other points. Can you imagine the message this is going to send to the American employee in the Beijing embassy, or in the embassy in Vietnam, or in the embassy in Egypt? They're going to say, "Well, the secretary, who is my boss, doesn't really care about these things, I'm not going to really raise these issues."
The way to do it is the way that Ronald Reagan did it. Ronald Reagan spoke out. Ronald Reagan still had good negotiations with the Soviet Union. If you recall, Ronald Reagan gave that classic speech in Orlando, but he also went to the Danilov Monastery where he spoke out for human rights and religious freedom -- and Gorbachev came to his funeral. So you can do both. You don't have to just do one or the other, you can do both.
What -- the secretary has made a decision, business is going to be her number one thing, and she's going to give up -- But it isn't only there, it's North Korea, it's Egypt, it's Iran, it's all over the world. And she better collect this and change this quickly, because that message will be embedded in dictators around the world.
Q So any plan to have Secretary Clinton to tap a North Korean -- a special envoy for North Korean on human rights issues?
REP. WOLF: Well, we -- (chuckles) -- I mean, it's -- if you can't -- if you can't speak out for the Catholic bishops who are in jail, or the Uighurs, who have been -- I mean, Rebiya Kadeer's kids are still in prison. Her sons are still in prison. So when the secretary made that, can you imagine that will have -- So, to go to the North Korean issue, with regard to them, they got to come back -- she has to clean this statement up and have a press conference and make it clear that human rights and religious freedom will be, as it has been in the past, a top priority of this administration. Yes, they should do it with regard to North Korea.
They should also do something with regard to Darfur. Since they've done a good thing on the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, there's genocide. And I believe when she was a senator, I believe they had a roll call vote on the genocide effort when she was in the Senate. It was Bill Frist.
So all of these things, but you have to come back and clean this thing up of what she said.
REP. SMITH: Can I just add one other thing? During her visit, she met with a little over 20 women to speak about women's issues at a women's forum. Frankly, that was a Potemkin Village. I've met with some of the so-called women's activists in China. They're part of the state government situation. They all have cars. They say they're with NGOs and yet they have government cards and the state pays for their salaries. And maybe not all of them, but many of them fit that category.
Not once during that meeting did she raise human rights. Forced abortion and forced sterilization at the Nuremburg war crimes tribunal was properly construed to be a crime against humanity. The number of women who have been severely hurt, broken emotionally, psychologically and physically, and some have died, because of this one-child-per- couple policy far eclipses anything the Nazis did to the Polish women in terms of numbers and magnitude in terms of victims. She never mentioned it, not once. I mean, I find that astonishing.
You know, silence is not an option. She should have been speaking out and raising the issue of women who are being coerced involuntarily, sterilized against their will. Obviously, it is commonplace in China.
So to talk about women's rights and lay all of that aside -- before she led -- she being the secretary -- then the first lady, Mrs. Clinton, a delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women, the U.N. conference in Beijing, I held four hearings. I was chairman of the committee and asked her to raise those issues of forced abortion and to do so boldly. Instead, she gave a paragraph or two and obliquely mentioned that this isn't a good thing but never mentioned the word China. And she gets kudos in the press for it. But the Chinese government was clapping just like everybody else who was at that because it didn't apply to them. They were not singled out.
And I made the point then, and it's equally applicable today. That's like going to South Africa during the years of apartheid at a racism conference and never mentioning South Africa; you would be laughed right out of the room. China violates women's rights with impunity, and our secretary of State was silent. That's unconscionable.
REP. WOLF: Let me just add to that. We had a hearing in the Human Rights Caucus a few weeks ago, and Harry Wu was one of the witnesses. And he first addressed the issue of having a child in China. He said, having a child in China is not a human right. You must have a government permit before you can have a child in China. If you had more than one, they will fine you, they will arrest you, they will tear down your house. And he said, when we talk about human rights, we should not neglect the human right of having a child. And forced abortion and forced sterilization results with the second child -- after their second child.
I met with a pastor a couple of weeks ago who was a pastor of the house church movement in China. He was arrested and imprisoned for seven months for distributing Bibles. We want the 120 million people that are estimated in unregistered churches in China to know they are not alone. We will continue to speak up and advocate on behalf of their religious freedom and their human rights and the women who are being forcibly aborted and sterilized because they want to have more than one child.
REP. PITTS: I would hope, too, that when the press goes to the White House today that they ask Gibbs, does President Obama agree with what Secretary Clinton said? And I urge those of you in the press who go to the State Department briefing to ask the spokesman for the State Department, is this what the secretary really meant.
I think this can be reversed. If the president and the secretary do something quickly, this will all go away because everyone makes mistakes. But the opportunity should be both when Gibbs comes out before the White House, he has to be asked does the president agree with what the secretary said? And when you all go to the State Department, it should be asked there also.
Q Congressmen Smith and Wolf and -- (inaudible) -- thank you so much for your dedication to human rights. Tonight, President Obama is coming to the Congress to have the State of the Union address. Do you expect him to -- what's your expectation with regard to human rights? He didn't mention it -- (inaudible).
REP. SMITH: It would be nice if he mentioned it. But what we're looking for, in addition to words, are deeds. There has to be -- I mean, anybody can say, I'm for human rights. We found that when we were writing the trafficking laws, the religious freedom laws. Everybody says they're for religious freedom. Everyone says they're against human trafficking. But when you put something on the table and say, we're going to take some meaningful action, all of a sudden you find people disappearing into the woodwork. We want words and deeds out of the administration, not a lot of lip service.
And again, today and tomorrow -- and I have an amendment that I'm bringing to the Rules Committee, which will probably not be made an order, that would take away the funding for the UNFPA or make it conditional on whether or not they are co-managing and supporting a coercive population control program in China. That will probably be disallowed. Again, actions speak a lot louder than words. We'll hear lip service about everybody is against coercion and forced abortion. But the reality is, when it comes down to doing something -- and the group that has done more to whitewash crimes against humanity has been the U.N. Population Fund. They were there right from the start in 1979.
There are missing in China today about 100 million girls through gendercide, forced abortion. You're only allowed one child per couple. In a male-preference-dominated society, ultrasounds, obviously, you can determine whether or not it's a boy or a girl. And little girls, the girl child is singled out and systematically destroyed. As many as 40 million men will not be able to find wives because they don't exist anymore in China by 2020. That's according to a Chinese demographer. It is a serious, serious problem, the consequence of which is a human rights abuse that has been compounded year in and year out. The U.N. Population Fund has been complicit in that from the get go.
Today, the Obama administration, Secretary Clinton and the Democratic leadership will be looking to fund the organization that has been the best friend of the dictatorship in China when it comes to coercion and population control. That speaks volumes.
Q Have you guys tried to have a meeting with Secretary Clinton?
REP. SMITH: She will be meeting on the Hill with members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I know. I think it's on Thursday. I plan on raising these issues. You know, obviously, we're trying to reach her through all of you. Frank Wolf and I sent a letter asking that she raise Darfur and the fact that the ongoing genocide against the Darfurians in Sudan is a direct result of the funding and the support that comes from Beijing. To the best of my knowledge, it wasn't even on her talking points.
REP. WOLF: Right. And the helicopters that fly over the refugee camps and fly over the camps and villages in Darfur are coming from China. The (Fantan ?) bombers are being paid for by China. The weapons that the Janjawid use are coming from China. China has the largest embassy in Khartoum. I was the first member of the House to go to Darfur. I mean, China is the key. And so to go there and all you care about is, are they going to buy are paper? So yeah, we'll try to meet with her. I think the best thing is for the media to make the case and ask Gibbs and ask the State Department spokesman. Get them to tell us, is this their new position, or did they just make a mistake?
Q Last year, Barack Obama promised that if he were to be elected, one of his main priorities would be to improve the reputation of the United States abroad. To what degree do you think Secretary Clinton's trip has done that, and how much of setback --
REP. SMITH: That's a great question. I think she's done just the opposite. I read papers from all over the world -- and throughout all of England, the London papers, The Guardian, The Telegraph, all these papers, Hillary panders. You know, there were words to that effect all over the world. I think people get it that this has been a capitulation on human rights. And the Chinese government and the leadership of the Chinese government couldn't be more happy and pleased. So they'll look gracious, they'll say kind words about the United States while they continue to increase their repression inside their borders, and that includes the Tibetans.
You know, Frank mentioned the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, which is coming up in June. Also the 50th anniversary of the conquering of Tibet is also coming up this year. The Chinese government wants to not only tamper that down, they want to put it in the back room so no one can bring it forward. We don't want to aid and abet that.
So I think on human rights, this administration, coming out of the blocks, has made a serious, serious error, and I think people all over the world are looking at that. Certainly, the British papers get it, and I think some of the other papers abroad are saying, wait a minute, human rights should be at the core, not an afterthought and, in this case, not even a non-thought at all.
Thank you very much.
REP. PITTS: Thank you very much.