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A Boost for Democracy in China

Cox report: A proposal to curb sales or theft of U.S. military technology would limit power of communists.

June 04, 1999|CHRISTOPHER COX and WEI JINGSHENG | Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) was chairman of the House select committee that investigated Chinese espionage in the U.S. Wei Jingsheng, one of China's most prominent dissidents, now lives in the U.S

This 10th anniversary of the June 4 massacre at Tiananmen Square is an especially poignant one. In 1989, historic changes were being wrought by democracy activists, including Lech Walesa in Poland, Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia, Arpad Goncz in Hungary, Vytautas Landsbergis in Lithuania and Andrei Sakharov in Russia. Indeed, everywhere throughout the Soviet empire, people were throwing off shackles and gaining freedom.

But not in China. As the 30-foot Goddess of Democracy was erected in Tiananmen Square so that it stood eye to eye with the portrait of Mao over the entrance of the Forbidden City, hopes ran high that democracy could flourish in China. Just as Soviet tanks had earlier crushed the Prague Spring and the Hungarian revolution, the Chinese Communists crushed the lives of thousands, and the hopes of millions more.

Ten years later, another demonstration unfolded as groups of Chinese students mobilized by the government attacked the embassies and consulates of NATO's member states and attacked foreign businesses and exchange students. Chinese Communist Party propaganda called overseas Chinese dissidents "a bunch of evil traitors" and claimed they aided NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy.

The obvious goal of the mobilizers of these demonstrations was to foment a kind of nationalist fanaticism in which only a small group of ultranationalists can flourish.

In the wake of the unanimous, bipartisan report of a congressional select committee that the communist government in Beijing has stolen sensitive military technology from the U.S., the official response has been predictable: Deny everything, and attack foreign opponents of the communist government as "racist."

In fact, those fighting for freedom for the Chinese people are not "traitors" and "racists." But the Orwellian character of the attack reminds us that in many ways, little has changed since the Tiananmen massacre. Now, as then, the Communist Party refuses to acknowledge the truth.

Tarring opponents of communist rule in China as racist is a charge that could only be voiced in the West, among the credulous. After all, the slave laborers in China's laogoi camps are themselves Chinese. The brave leaders of the Chinese Democratic Party, jailed immediately after President Clinton's visit, are Chinese. The victims of communist arrest, show trials and imprisonment for thinking and speaking about freedom are Chinese. The men, women and children targeted by People's Liberation Army missiles across the Taiwan Strait are Chinese.

The House select committee's recommendation that America should prevent the sale or theft of military technology to China is designed not only to protect America's national security, but just as important, to help the Chinese people's struggle for freedom. It is designed to make the choice for democracy easier, rather than harder, for the people, by denying the Communists the means to expand the power and control of their police state.

And America can do more than this. The select committee's recommendation that America lead the world in enforcing multinational export controls is of vital importance. If the democracies are divided, this will only prolong Communist China's misrule and encourage its misadventure. We must build a new and unified alliance based on the values democracies share.

The exercise of joining the democracies together behind an international export-control regime, like the annual human rights resolution in the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, is important precisely because it is a dry run in building an alliance of all the nations that aspire to the value of human rights.

Obviously, whether and how freedom and democracy come to China are choices only the Chinese people can make. But creating the opportunity for such choices depends on wise leadership both inside and outside of China. If Tiananmen Square is ever to become a symbol of freedom--as it was 10 years ago on that shining June 4--Beijing's leadership must begin with the truth.

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