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7/14/03 - HUMAN RIGHTS SLIPPAGE IN CHINA - 2003-07-17

Not long ago, hopes were raised in China that a limited step might be taken toward an open political system. Chinese newspaper editors were told that officials of the one-party Communist regime would announce that voters would be allowed to choose among competing candidates in local legislative elections. But the announcement was never made and no explanation was given.

This is but one of many disappointments for Chinese citizens struggling or hoping for democracy and respect for fundamental rights. In the last several months, a number of activists have been jailed for advocating political reform in China. They include Xu Wei, Jin Haike, Yang Zili, and Zhang Honghai. These four young men were given long prison sentences by a Beijing court for organizing political discussions and posting essays on the Internet.

In addition, media outlets reporting on politically sensitive issues have been muzzled. The Beijing newspaper Xinbao was closed last month after publishing an essay criticizing China’s unelected parliament. And such magazines as Sanlian, Caijing, News Week, and Strategy & Management have been threatened with closure. The promotion of human rights is an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. As President George W. Bush said, America’s “Declaration of Independence holds a promise for all mankind”:

“Because Americans believe that freedom is an unalienable right, we value the freedom of every nation. Because we are committed to the God-given worth of every life, we work for human dignity in every land.”

Like people everywhere, China’s more than one-billion citizens deserve freedom, including the right to express their opinions freely and the right to choose their own government.