Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi, speaking out for the first time since fleeing Beijing, complained in televised interviews last night that the United States has a "double standard" on human rights, treating China more generously than the Soviet Union and nations in Eastern Europe that have eased repression.
He also predicted that the pro-democracy movement would rise again in China despite last year's crackdown.
Fang made his comments in interviews in London with NBC and CBS as his youngest son arrived in Great Britain after being permitted to leave China. Fang and his wife, Li Shuxian, took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for more than a year following the Tiananmen Square crackdown on demonstrators last year. China permitted them to leave for Great Britain on June 25, where they were joined by an older son who had been studying in the United States. Chinese authorities had delayed the departure of the couple's younger son from China until this week.
In the interviews, Fang urged the United States to continue to press China to release students and dissidents held in custody, including Wei Jingsheng, the most prominent activist of the Democracy Wall movement, who has been imprisoned more than 10 years. Fang suggested that new sanctions be imposed "to push China to go to more freedom" and democracy.
"I think without doubt there is still some double standard there," Fang said of the U.S. approach to human rights in China. But he said the West's "understanding of human rights problems in China is nowhere near as clear or detailed" as it was of human rights in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Bush, questioned about Fang's statements at a news conference in London yesterday, responded, "I'd say that he's wrong. He's got a little time warp here." Bush recalled that the major western democracies expressed indignation at the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and said the U.S. has kept sanctions against China.
"I am heartened that Fang Lizhi is free, and free now to say what's on his mind like this," Bush added. "So I would say if he feels that way, he's simply not expressing the facts as they are. . . . "
Bush recently granted most favored nation trading status to China. At the economic summit in Houston that opens Monday, Japan is expected to seek eased sanctions against China.
Fang said last year's crackdown would only make Chinese people more determined to rise up against repression in the future and that "Eastern Europe offers some clear examples." "In the short run, people will be intimidated, but in the long run, more and more will join."
Fang, an astrophysicist who has accepted a Cambridge post, said Bush was correct not to isolate Beijing. But, he added, "I don't think it was a good idea" to send National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft to meet with China's leaders.
Fang said he and his wife took refuge in the U.S. Embassy on June 4, 1989, in the midst of the crackdown because friends had telephoned him and warned that "we were in an extremely dangerous position." They left the embassy for two days because "Beijing was in chaos," and they thought they could "lie low for a few days and wait for the chaos to subside." But they returned to the embassy out of fear they could "have been arrested as 'criminals,' " as were many other students and intellectuals, he said.
Fang said the isolation in the U.S. Embassy was "most difficult," but he and his wife were able to maintain their taste for Chinese food, learning to use an embassy microwave. Fang said he remains a Chinese citizen with a Chinese passport and would someday like to return. He attributed China's decision to let him leave to "pressure from the outside," and said "it won't be too long" before he visits the U.S.