Chinese officials denied a visa to a top State Department envoy and refused to meet with her to discuss issues of religious freedom days before this week’s high-profile visit to Washington by China’s vice president, according to rights advocates and others.
Suzan Johnson Cook, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, was scheduled to travel to China on Feb. 8, according to several rights advocates who were invited to brief her ahead of the visit. But as the date drew near, Chinese leaders refused to grant her meetings with government officials.
They then cited her lack of scheduled meetings as a reason for denying her visa application, according to the advocates and a congressional aide, who were briefed on the situation.
The report dryly adds: “President Obama, who met with Xi [Jinping] on Tuesday, has been criticized by human rights groups, religious leaders and Republican lawmakers who say he has not been forceful enough in challenging China on issues such as its crackdown on Tibetans and the recent imprisonment of several religious and dissident leaders.” Actually, such groups and individuals are appalled by Obama’s subservience to the First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Communist Party. Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, tell me; “If this report is correct, it is a frightening display of naiveté about the state of the world, the threats we face, and an obvious elevation of a political goal – advancing the President’s pledge to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons -- over our national security interests.” When I asked several human rights and other foreign policy experts this morning about their reaction, I received responses that I couldn’t reprint in a family blog. The most restrained of these was this: “I am so grossed out by the optics of this Xi visit.” We should all be.
For if this most recent snubbing of our ambassador (who, by the way, was a belated appointee after religious freedom advocates decried the administration’s delay in filling the post) was shocking, another incident, also largely ignored by the administration, was far worse. This report describes “the recent detention of a California physicist who says he was beaten by Chinese security agents seeking the password for his Twitter account suggests how far the government will go in its battle against a freewheeling Internet available only beyond its borders”:
The man, Ge Xun, 53, a naturalized American citizen who moved to the United States from China in 1986, said he was abducted from a street in Beijing this month and was roughly questioned by public security officers at a secret location. During 21 hours of interrogation, Mr Ge said, the agents peppered him with questions about his blogging activity, his membership in an organization that promotes dialogue between Tibetans and Chinese and his role in maintaining a Web site that supports a blind lawyer living under house arrest in China’s rural northeast.
But Mr Ge’s greatest sin, it appears, was his zealous embrace of Twitter, which has long been blocked in China along with Facebook, YouTube and tens of thousands of other Web sites that the government deems a threat to its hold on power.
In a phone interview on Monday from his home in Fremont, California, Mr Ge described how the agents, infuriated by his assertion that bloggers in the United States were volunteers and not government-sponsored agitators, demanded that he turn over his Twitter password. When he refused, two of them unleashed a torrent of kicks and punches that lasted 30 minutes, he said. “The more they beat me, the less I felt like cooperating,” he said.
Let’s be clear: This is a U.S. citizen who was abused in this fashion.
By continuing on with his meeting, Obama is not only giving Xi a propaganda coup ( Look I can abuse my people and still be feted in polite society!) but communicates to the Chinese Communists that they can tyrannize their own people, deny our diplomats entry and even kidnap Americans without adverse consequences. This is shameful. Worse, it’s the sort of behavior not of a superpower that is supposed to lead the Free World but of a limping, sniveling giant fading from the international scene. There is no better example of “choosing decline” than this.