Democratic presidential hopeful Paul E. Tsongas criticized President Bush's benevolent Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) trade policy towards China Sunday night at the Harvard-Yenching Institute during a memorial ceremony for those killed at the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
Tsongas, a former Massachusetts senator, shared the June Fourth Memorial podium with an exiled Tiananmen Square participant and a Harvard post-doctorate fellow to decry the Chinese government's lack of respect for human rights--and the United States' weak stand against such injustice.
"When people around the world think about the United States, they think about human rights," Tsongas said to the crowd of more than 200 people. "But to give China Most-Favored-Nation status and forget Tiananmen Square is not what America is all about."
On June 4, 1989, the Chinese government opened fire in the streets of Beijing on students and citizens who were taking part in peaceful demonstrations to promote democracy in the country.
Tsongas, whose speech preceded a candlelight vigil, said the United States' continued friendly trade relations with China diminishes any hope of forcing Chinese leaders to alter their incessant mistreatment of Chinese citizens.
"President Bush wants to continue friendly trade relations with China to thank them for their involvement in the Gulf War, but we don't do the same for the Soviets who did much more than China," Tsongas said. "We ask [Chinese leaders] to change, and they just laugh. We need to let the world know that anyone who wants to have a relationship with the United States must honor human rights."
Sponsored in-part by Chinese student associations around the Boston area, the event attracted a large number of college students with strong ties to China.
"Tonight is my doing something for what I felt two years ago," said Ching Lee, 22, a first-year student at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. "I was in Hong Kong at the time, and I had strong feelings I had never felt before those moments. I felt like I belonged more to that piece of land, even though I hadn't lived there since I was four years old."
Dr. Zhao Haiching, a post-doctorate fellow who chairs the National Committee on Chinese Student Affairs, said the best way for the United States to force change in china would be to propose human rights conditions as a part of a new MNF policy.
"I've talked to people who have come over from China recently, and they say the situation today isn't any better than a couple years ago. The government will crash anyone showing protest this year," Haiching said. "We need to ask the United States to renew MFN but attach conditions including the release of prisoners, the freedom of speech and assembly...and a stop to the harassment of students."
Su Wei, a visiting scholar at Princeton who fled China after participating in the Tiananmen demonstrations, said that progress has already been made towards improving China as long as the Tiananmen incident remains strong in people's minds.
"I'm confident about China's future because June 4, 1989 laid the foundation for change," Wei said.