Something For The State Department To Take Note Of

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 14, 2009

I recognize that the Sino-American relationship is affected by a whole host of complicating factors. Realpolitik plays a tremendously important role in influencing the nature of the relationship, and as a consequence, the issue of human rights will be but one factor affecting the relationship. But there is no reason whatsoever why the State Department ought to remain silent over this:

China has detained several dissidents and campaigners ahead of US President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated first visit to the country, their relatives and close contacts told AFP Saturday.

Obama arrives in Shanghai on Sunday and moves onto Beijing the next day for a four-day maiden presidential trip during which he has been urged to raise human rights with the Asian giant’s top leadership.

But as the visit drew close, the head of an activist group for parents whose children were sickened by tainted milk in China had been detained, his wife told AFP.

“Zhao Lianhai was criminally detained for ‘provoking an incident’,” Li Xuemei said in a text, without giving further details.

According to activist group Human Rights in China, Zhao was handcuffed and taken away late Friday night by police officers who searched his house and took away computers, a video recorder, a camera and an address book.

When Zhao refused to go with them, as the summons did not state a cause, the police officers filled in “provoking an incident” in the summons, the group said. Police in Beijing would not comment on the case.

Of course, it may come as no surprise whatsoever that the Chinese feel they can do this kind of thing in advance of the Obama visit. Doubtless, they noted the Obama Administration’s refusal to meet with the Dalai Lama a month ago when the latter was in Washington, and felt as though they could get away with a variety of distasteful actions on the human rights scene. The Obama Administration seems to be giving the Chinese a wide berth to do so, after all.

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