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An Invalid Equation

February 06, 1997

Sen. Dianne Feinstein thinks it would be a good idea to have a joint U.S.-China commission that would trace "the evolution of human rights in both countries over the last 20 or 30 years." On the surface, there's nothing wrong with that idea. It's the example of what the commission might consider that is bothersome. The California Democrat suggests the panel "would point out the success and failures--both Tiananmen Square and Kent State." Tiananmen and Kent State? The twinning of these two events implies a moral equivalency that does not exist.

Oppression in China is not a single event but part of a systematic and pervasive means of control that began decades before Tiananmen and continues to this day. The United States remains an imperfect society, but the rule of law does prevail.

At Kent State in 1970, badly trained National Guardsmen fired at and killed four anti-Vietnam War protesters. At Tiananmen Square in 1989 the regime used crushing force to kill hundreds who were peacefully challenging its claim to exercise total power over all of Chinese life.

Both incidents can be characterized as human rights abuses, but only in the sense that a fender scraped in a parking lot and a multi-fatality freeway crash are both auto accidents.

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