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He is an evil man, leading a truly evil empire, but he is also a very powerful man who holds the lives of hundreds of millions in his hands. For that reason alone, it is important to listen to what Chinese President Jiang Zemin has to say if he does come to Harvard. However, he should be heard in a forum where tasteful protesters are welcomed more warmly than the speaker himself. It is important to show Chinese citizens that in the U.S., we give people their say, and challenge them without fear for our lives or livelihoods. It is important to show the world we are not afraid to listen to lies, or fight against them.
The University must make it clear that is disapproves of any murderous regime--including Jiang's. If Jiang comes to Harvard, University administrators should not allow him to avoid the question and answer period everyone from Yasser Arafat to Mel Gibson has agreed to. Students, faculty and community members alike should fell comfortable in expressing their dissent. In addition, leaders of the Tiananmen Square protest who live in the Boston area should be invited to speak in as prominent a place and be equally if not more warmly welcomed by none less than those who welcome Jiang. In addition, Harvard should welcome all respectful protesters onto University property and ensure that there is room for a sizable demonstration.
China's gross and flagrant violations of human rights should be of concern to America ethically, economically, and even militarily. Several successive American administrations have played a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with China, trying to balance concerns over China's unfair trade policies with concerns for human rights abuses, all the while attempting not to offend China. It is time for America to understand that in the case of China, human rights and free trade are intimately linked issues.
China's extensive laogai ("reform through labor") political prison camp system more than rivals the horrors of the Soviet gulags. Not only does China use forced prisoner labor for megalomanical domestic infrastructure projects, the political prisoner population is also used as slave labor for the export market, producing products that range from mineral water to watchbands to rosaries to artificial Christmas trees, according to the Sept. 29 Weekly Standard.
The 1997 State Department Report on Human Rights found that through this slave labor, government-owned Chinese industries are able to undercut almost any foreign manufacturer. In addition, they consistently ignore the copyrights binding on their pirated goods produced by the slave labor of Chinese laogai system.
The revenue produced by this political slavery is the sole possession of the Chinese government and lines the pockets of China's political elites and military-industrial complex.
Nor is this the full extent of the exploitation of political prisoners. As the famed dissident Harry Wu has noted, the Chinese regime is so gain-hungry (as Deng Xiaoping's famous slogan runs, "It is glorious to get rich") that it ekes profit out of political prisoners even after their death. The sale of organs of executed prisoners to foreigners willing to put up cash for a quick transplant is an approved practice in China. In life as in death, Chinese citizens are treated as government chattel.
The United States must continue a critical dialogue with China. But America must have the courage to pay more than lip service to the symbiotic concerns of human rights and free trade. We must also express our disapproval of China's continued brutal occupation of Tibet and our concern over the future of Hong Kong and the freedom of religious groups. We hope that the University will make this clear to President Jiang, while displaying hospitality within the bounds of good taste.
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