Rep. Chris Smith Crusades for Freedom in China

“Over the years, I have held 25 hearings on human rights abuses in China, and while China’s economy has improved somewhat, the human rights situation remains abysmal. So-called economic reform has utterly failed to result in the protection of freedom of speech, expression, or assembly,” a frustrated Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees global human rights, said at a hearing yesterday before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington.

Hu’s visit provides Congress an opportunity to look at human rights violations in China. According to State Department human rights reports, China’s government continues to repress its citizens. Among the most egregious acts: Religious persecution is among the worst in the world; and citizens practicing faith other than an officially sanctioned religion are subject to torture, imprisonment, death, and concentration camps.

“I have eternal hope that President Bush will raise these fundamental human rights concerns in his meetings with President Hu,” said Smith. “The Chinese government simply cannot let their population increasingly experience the freedom to buy, sell and produce while denying them the right to assemble, speak and worship as they choose.”

Hu is meeting with President Bush today, and they are expected to talk about global security, specifically concerns of Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. (Click here for video of a heckler at the White House.)

Another issue is Internet censorship. PBS NewsHour Correspondent Spencer Michels reported, “For now, the Chinese are keeping the pressure on. They are requiring that Internet companies operating in China, like Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo, keep Chinese users from forbidden sites. Google’s announcement in January that it would play by the Chinese rules, eliminating offending Web sites on its Chinese service, provoked a storm of criticism.”

Here is Smith’s take:

“Google, for its part, created an exclusively Chinese search engine that only a Joseph Goebbels could love. Type in any number of vile words like human rights, or Tian An Men Square massacre, or Falun Gong, and you will get rerouted to government propaganda — much of it heavily anti-American and anti- President Bush, and filled with hate, especially for the Falun Gong. How did Google respond to our deep concern about their enabling a dictatorship to expand its hate message? They hired big-time Washington lobbying firms like Podesta-Mattoon and the DCI group to put a good face on it all — and presumably kill my pending legislation, the Global Online Freedom Act of 2006.”

“It is important to note that the freedoms that we enjoy in America allow individuals to publish information and news on the Web unfiltered — even from within the walls of Congress. Those freedoms do not exist in China and individuals who attempt to speak freely are imprisoned and even tortured, and US corporations should not be aiding in that process … human rights aren’t privileges. Human rights are worth fighting for, even when inconvenient.”