“Give me a place to stand,” said Archimedes, “and with a lever I will move the world.”
Barack Obama has said some very fine-sounding things about human rights through the years. But when push has come to shove this past week, his Administration has not been able to find that all-important place to stand.
Secretary Clinton, in China for the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, didn’t even mention human rights activist Chen Guangcheng in her opening remarks Thursday. In a 13-paragraph speech she managed to get out two sentences on human rights:
Now of course, as part of our dialogue, the United States raises the importance of human rights and fundamental freedoms because we believe that all governments do have to answer to citizens’ aspirations for dignity and the rule of law, and that no nation can or should deny those rights. As President Obama said this week, a China that protects the rights of all its citizens will be a stronger and more prosperous nation, and of course, a stronger partner on behalf of our common goals.
Of course, and of course. Perfunctory and boiler-plate language, then back to our common goals. No reference to the man pleading with her to take him along when she leaves, to at least meet with him, because he fears for his life and the lives of his family.
If you’ve been living under a rock the past two weeks, here’s a pretty good summary of Chen’s dramatic escape from 19 months of house arrest–without charge or sentence.
And here is the explosive report that sent the Chinese activist to jail for four years before that. Chen documented 7,000 cases of forced abortion in one small part of Shantung province. Then he brought a class-action suit on behalf of the women involved. The report includes accounts of a woman forcibly aborted and sterilized at seven months. Of villagers sleeping in fields to evade Family Planning officials. Of the detention, fining and torture of the extended family of violators of China’s One Child policy.
The mainstream media has suggested that Clinton’s reticence about Chen is born simply of a desire not to derail the annual talks. That, when it comes right down to it, economics trumps human rights for the Obama Administration. That, in the words of The Daily Beast’s Kirsten Powers, in a scathing article last night entitled “Beacon No More: America Abandons Chen Guangcheng”:
trade and economic deals couldn’t be hampered by a human-rights nuisance.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Upon taking office, President Obama reinstated President Clinton’s funding (suspended under President Bush) of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The UNFPA staunchly denies any direct involvement in forced abortions in China. But in 2002, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell reported, after a fact-finding mission to China:
The UNFPA’s support of, and involvement in, China’s population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion.
Under President Obama, the U.S. sends $55 million a year to the UNFPA, an organization that for 30 years, in Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) words:
has unapologetically stood not with oppressed women but with the oppressors of women; an organization that has made the Chinese killing machine more efficacious and lethal; an organization that has systematically whitewashed and defended these crimes against humanity.
We fancy ourselves to be, as President Obama has written, a country that “stands up for human rights.” He says that:
we align ourselves with men and women around the world who struggle for the right to speak their minds, to choose their leaders, and to be treated with dignity and respect.
But actually, in this case, we can’t. To align ourselves with Chen with any moral authority, the Administration would have to renounce its financial support of China’s barbaric One Child policy.
Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers explains the One Child policy [**Warning**: This video contains images, between 2:12 and 2:22, and between 2:28 and 2:30, of a woman, forcibly aborted at seven months, with her dead baby.]:
Give me a place to stand, said Archimedes, and I can move the world. But until we acknowledge our complicity in the barbarism Chen is fighting, we have no place to stand.