Right words, wrong person
US President George W. Bush has “deep concerns” about the human rights situation in China, and he intends to say just that during a speech in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday, just before he arrives in China for the Olympic Games starting on Friday. “America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists,” Bush is expected to say, based on transcripts of his speech released by the White House on Wednesday. “We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly and labor rights … because trusting [Chinese] people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential.”
This is all nice and well, except for one thing: Bush is the one making the speech. Given his own atrocious track record on respecting human rights both at home and abroad — to wit, the imprisonment of thousands of Muslims, the great majority of whom were innocent, in the US following 9/11, domestic antiterrorism laws that have seriously undermined the liberties and freedoms of US citizens and people transiting through the US, the Guantanamo Bay prison system, the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, the illegal invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the normalization of torture — Bush is hardly the right person to lecture the Chinese Community Party (CCP) on freedoms and liberties.
This is not to say that China does not have a huge human rights mess on its hands — it certainly does — and the entire global community should be saying similar things to the CPP leadership. The problem with Bush’s plea it that it will fall on deaf ears, as he has no credibility whatsoever and no one in Beijing will take him seriously, just as Pakistani President (or dictator) Pervez Musharraf, or Uzbek President (or dictator) Islam Karimov, to name just two of the US’ allies in the “war on terror,” continue to ignore Bush’s lectures on democracy while his government continues to give them billions in military aid. It is akin to a mass murderer telling a prison cell mate “Thou shalt not kill,” or a bank robber telling a car thief that the latter’s chosen profession is reprehensible.
The Associated Press may editorialize that Bush’s speech is likely to “anger” China, and Beijing will likely oblige by expressing that “anger” and continue claiming that China’s behavior domestically is no one’s business, but in the end this is all shadow boxing, the games cynics — democratically elected and authoritarian alike — play over the heads of enfeebled populations.
The speech is fine. The lecturer is a fraud.