|THE HUMAN FACTOR|
June 24, 1998
President Clinton's visit to China has generated a great deal of debate on the issues of human rights and democratic reform in the world's most populous nation. On the eve of the president's arrival in China, three Chinese dissidents discuss the meaning of the visit.
JIM LEHRER: Now three Chinese dissident views. Harry Wu spent more than 19 years in Chinese prisons for criticizing the government. He came to the U.S. in 1985, now runs a non-profit organization committed to documenting abuses in China's prison system. Li Lu was a student leader in the pro-democracy movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989. He was on the "most wanted" list, escaped from China later that year. He is now an investment banker in New York. Xiao Qiang is the executive director of the non-profit organization Human Rights in China. He's been in the U.S. since 1986.
Mr. Li, do you agree with President Clinton's view of how to deal with China?
|President Clinton' s "wonderful" opportunity.|
LI LU, Former Student Leader: Well, I agree with him on words. I'm just afraid that it is not followed by action, for instance. He has a wonderful opportunity now that he decided to go to China to really tell the Chinese people that he is really with them. You know, Chinese people during the next few days are really going to follow his move, every step. He should really use this opportunity to tell the Chinese people that the American people support full the democracy movement, that the Chinese Government must reverse the verdict on June 4th and free all the political prisoners. So far, we have not seen that kind of a commitment from him. Rather, that he's going to China really to legitimize the Chinese Government, the present leadership, which totally lost its legitimacy by the brutal crackdown nine years ago on Tiananmen Square.
JIM LEHRER: But you don't think he should not go. You're just concerned about what he does when he gets there, is that right?
LI LU: I agree with, on principle, engagement, but there are all kinds of different engagements. There has to be principle engagement, not just a signing off. I'm afraid that he's pursuing the latter course.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Wu, what's your view, first of all, whether or not the president should even go to China?
HARRY WU, Laogai Research Foundation: First of all, I want to make comment about Clinton's statement about China. He said we want to see a stable, open, prosperous China. I want to explain what is the term of stable. The term of stability we never apply to Cuba, former Soviet Union. Today we apply the term stability to communist China. If we want to see a stable China as no chaos, no civil war, no starvation, everybody want to see it. But we don't want to see a stable communist regime. Those are very different things. Clinton now is going to over there say we are seeking a kind of agreement, don't end each other by our continental missile. We know that.
JIM LEHRER: Those missiles are now aimed at each other, don't do that anymore?
HARRY WU: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: Okay.
HARRY WU: But we find the French and British also have the same missiles. We don't need that. We don't need agreement with the French and British. So what is Chinese situation in American policy? We want to get in this position like-confronted to each other-actually it is right there. For example-
JIM LEHRER: We're already in a state of confrontation with China?
HARRY WU: Yes. Two years ago our navy flew to Taiwan strait. For what? For response to Chinese military maneuver. The four parties talk in Korean Peninsula two by two-North Korea with China. That is right over there. But in Clinton's speech he never tell of what is China's current situation. China is a communist country.
JIM LEHRER: All right. So if we're in a state of confrontation with China then, he shouldn't go, are you saying, or he should go and confront them there on their own ground?
|Harry Wu: "You have to tell the Chinese very clearly we want to see an open, peaceful, prosperous China...."|
HARRY WU: Well, communication between the government leaders I think is a good thing. Even if today Clinton wanted to talk to Saddam Hussein, I say, why not? The problem is what you want to tell them. You have to tell the Chinese very clearly we want to see an open, peaceful, prosperous China, but it's not communist China; it's a democracy and free China.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Xiao, how do you view this?
XIAO QIANG, Human Rights in China: Well, let me say that let's see that China is not a still country. It has been going through and continues going through rapid and profound changes. China is at a critical historical junction that it's inevitable those economic liberalization will have to come with political reform. But the problem is current leadership has no vision and no agenda for the political liberalization. So that President Clinton's trip to China can definitely facilitate the changes in China toward a positive direction, in other words, supports the grassroots human rights and democracy activism, and the reform minded people to bring China to a more open humane society, the same time make message absolutely clear that China should not have gone to another side of history, became-continue to become a totalitarian or authoritarian regime. There's a difference. President Clinton has to make his message not only clear but also bring with the concrete action make a strong, effective human rights policy.
JIM LEHRER: Now, all three of you have said that, that he has a message that he must deliver. Mr. Xiao, how does he deliver that message in nine days as a guest of the government of China?
XIAO QIANG: He has many opportunities and many leverages to do so. He can refuse to go to Tiananmen Square to receive that state ceremony. By that he's saying he's not approving, he's condemning what happened nine years ago in Tiananmen Square, which has remained a center issue of China's political reform. But if he has to go, he must make absolutely clear speeches before that, after that, right on that very square to express what he-on behalf of American people that his position on China's democracy and his condemnation of that event. But more than that he should bring some real changes, such as asking Chinese Government to release political prisoners, and that by supporting the Chinese people stand up against regime and transform the society and President Clinton would do a good job to help China to become-engage in a peaceful, gradual, but fundamental political transformation.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Li, do you see the president doing that, that he should go there-to repeat what I said-he's there as the guest of the government of China-to go there and take 'em on head on, in front of everybody?
|Li Lu: "They have put their life on the line fighting for democracy nine years ago, and will continue to do so in the future...."|
LI LU: Jim, you know, in this country there is a view that China is an important country. It's growing. It's powerful. And the current leadership is in full control, and, therefore, we have to deal with Chinese Government under its own terms. It is completely wrong. China is changing rapidly. There are divergent views. Chinese people support democracy. They have put their life on the line fighting for democracy nine years ago, and will continue to do so in the future, and within the party there are many different views. For instance, just yesterday, a former party chief, the secretary-general of the Communist Party, Xiao Ziang, openly demanded the current leadership to reverse the verdict on the Tiananmen massacre nine years ago. Now we have begun to see evidence from all sectors, from all walks of life, that China is truly at a crossroads for democracy and there are whole different forces, internal forces demanding for democracy, and the current leadership is not in full control and does not represent the view, the majority views of the Chinese people, and, therefore, I think it is critical for the president to be in China to be on the right side of history, to be on the side of the people, and really communicate that message clearly, and rather than being used by the present leadership to legitimize, totally discredit regime.
JIM LEHRER: But how does he do that, Mr. Li?
LI LU: The best way to do that, in my view, is that he should really make a very clear message on the issue of Tiananmen massacre in 1989. Very very important. He must say, you know, just like Reagan would say tear that wall down, Mr. Gorbachev. He should go to China and tell the present leadership reverse the massacre verdict on Tiananmen nine years ago. By saying that, he would have the whole support of all people in China and also the majority of the reformers of the current Communist Party and the current government and that he would really push into a major milestone of political and social liberalization. He can do that.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Wu, can he do that?
HARRY WU: I don't think Clinton will do that.
JIM LEHRER: But can he do that?
HARRY WU: Yes, he can, if he will do it.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree? Hold on. I want to ask Mr. Wu about this. Now, if President Clinton did do that, in other words he did do in a public way, challenge the current government of China, what do you think the result of that would be, the end result?
HARRY WU: The result is the people of China will stand together with Clinton, not Communist government stand with Clinton. If at Tiananmen ceremony, if Clinton point his hand and say we remember sometime ago the massacre happened over there, we will not forget it, we will all the time remember that, we want to see a freedom and democracy China-the majority of Chinese will stand together with President Clinton.
JIM LEHRER: So you feel that-all three of you feel and you would agree that the other two as well-that he can speak directly to the Chinese people, he doesn't have to talk to the government? Hold on just a second.
Mr. Wu, I want to finish Mr. Wu a moment, and then I'll come back to you, sir. Go ahead.
HARRY WU: Well, of course, we have lot of opportunity to talk to the people, maybe go to the university, maybe go to people's commune. He's going to have the right to say something. And he's American president. He really has the position and the opportunity, if he's willing.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Xiao.
XIAO QIANG: Sorry for trying to cut in.
JIM LEHRER: No, that's all right. Mr. Wu hadn't had as much time as the two of you and I wanted to come back to him. So go right ahead, sir.
XIAO QIANG: I think it's a very concrete thing that President Clinton should do when he's in China right now. He should publicly asking to meet not only those top Chinese leadership but also the voices representing the different sectors of society, including the victims of the Tiananmen massacre nine years ago. There's professor-in people's university-her son was killed 17 years-17 years old son was killed nine years ago, and she has been a representative, the voice of those victims of the massacre, and other person was former communist official who because he was sympathetic to students was sentenced for six years and still living under house arrest and both of these two people are publicly bravely speaking out about political reform, about basic human rights and humanitarian more justice in Chinese society. President Clinton should and can ask to see them.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Wu, if he does not do some of these things that you all have been talking about, this trip will do more harm than good?
HARRY WU: And then President Clinton going to the wrong side of history.
JIM LEHRER: The wrong side of history.
HARRY WU: Because he credit the Communist leaders and-
LI LU: Can I just say one thing.
JIM LEHRER: Let Mr. Wu finish.
|The importance of President Clinton's words.|
LI LU: I just want to add one thing. On the issue of whether people would hear him, you know, we're really living in a global age, China included, between Voice of America, Chinese desk, and BBC, Chinese-and Radio Free French-Radio French-Chinese surface-they approximately reach about 100 million people-100 million people tuning in every day. So every word that President Clinton is going to say in China is going to be heard by at least 100 million people and through word of mouth by most of the Chinese people, so he must be aware that when he goes to China he will be followed closely by all the Chinese people so he really-it's a very critical time, and you know, has a great opportunity.
JIM LEHRER: I just wanted Mr. Wu to finish your point that if he does not do that, then the trip will be a harmful trip.
HARRY WU: You have to know Chinese leaders waiting for Clinton. If they have the pictures or have the Communist leader with Clinton at TV screen, this is big political access for these Communist butchers. They just want to show the picture to the people in China and the people of the world, it means Tiananmen massacre is over, we are stable, we really in the right position.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you all three very much.