CHINA'S abstention on the Security Council resolution permitting military action in the Gulf crisis was rewarded by an invitation for its foreign minister to meet with President Bush. Though a White House spokesman tried to differentiate ``exchange'' from ``contact'' to assure the world that the invitation did not contravene the administration's ban on high-level meetings with Chinese officials, such an invitation violates the sanction imposed following the 1989 massacre in Beijing. Any relaxation of the sanctions imposed against China because of its human rights violations would be undeserved. China has not stopped persecuting pro-democracy dissidents. It has not released students, intellectuals and workers who have been imprisoned since June 1989. China continues to sentence political defendants in unfair trials.
In fact, China has begun a new round of political persecutions, encouraged by Washington's praise of its ``responsible and principled'' role in the Gulf crisis. The Chinese leaders did not overestimate Bush's willingness to overlook China's human rights record to gain its support in the United Nations. Recently, the Chinese government has confidently speeded up its political repression without fearing retaliation from the US and the West:
Two intellectuals branded as ``black hands,'' (liaisons between the students, workers, and the intellectuals), Wang Juntao, a 32 year-old former editor of Economics Studies Weekly, and Chen Ziming, a 38 year-old economist, were charged last week with plotting to overthrow the government, the most serious charge so far against Tiananmen activists. Conviction carries penalities ranging from long prison terms to death. Their families were notified that the trials will come soon. A death sentence can be carried out in 72 hours.
Zhang Ming and Zheng Xuguang, both student leaders on the ``21 most wanted list,'' reportedly went on trial November 27, charged with counter-revolutionary agitation and propaganda. Beijing University has been notified that charges will soon be filed against Wang Dan, one of the top student leaders of last year's movement. And Li Haitao, a philosophy graduate student from Wuhan University, was sentenced to four years.
Liu Xiaobo, a prominent literary critic, and Liu Suli, a lecturer at China Politics and Law University, who served as the head of the liaison group among students and workers, were charged this week with the crime of spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda; Chen Xiaoping and Li Jinjin, both law instructors, were recently given heavy sentences of 15 and 14 years respectively.
Thousands of workers, students, and intellectuals remain in jail without charge, despite the fact that Criminal Law, Article 92, permits a maximum of 3 months detention before trial.
It is depressing to realize that even for the US and the West, the human rights standards are made to serve political and strategic interests. There is an unmistakable pattern in China's human rights behavior: It makes token improvements when the West puts on the pressure, then cracks down when the West wants to make a deal. China releases detained dissidents just before debates on sanctions. Dissidents were released before the bill in Congress granting Chinese students' extended stay; before the decision on most-favored-nation status; and before the G-7 economic summit in Houston.
There might be hope. According to reports on Friday's meetings of Mr. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker, with China's Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, human rights issues were privately raised. In fact, Baker should publicly demand the release of all political prisoners. The Chinese people, including students and dissidents in this country, are watching closely. We want to ensure that the Chinese government understands that major improvements in human rights are required by the Bush administration for any further contacts or relaxation of sanctions.