The good news is that one of China’s most popular and militant state media outlets mentioned the 1989 Tiananmen massacre; the bad news is that it was only in the context of calling the U.S. Congress “a garbage heap” and “rascally varmints.” Yes, you read that right — “rascally varmints”.
The editorial from the state-run Global Times comes after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the U.S. to concentrate on human rights, Internet freedom, and democracy in its future dealings with China. The resolution — which passed 379 to one — brought together the polar opposites of House Republican leader John Boehner and Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who both stood with Chinese dissidents on Thursday.
Currently, China is conducting its annual crackdown on dissent ahead of the June 4 anniversary. Arrests of journalists and dissidents mount as the 25th anniversary approaches, yesterday claiming Yu Shiwen and his wife Chen Wei for attempting to commemorate Tiananmen in Hunan Province. No one knows how many have actually been arrested, but estimates are currently around 50 — largely respected journalists and human rights activists. As previously discussed, reporters and outspoken human rights activists are dropping like flies all over the Middle Kingdom, and the House of Representatives will not slow them down.
Considering it’s extremely difficult to arrest Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner for “subverting state power” (not to mention it would be the first time that the charges might actually be true) or “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” China is taking the whole of the U.S. Congress into an editorial black jail for some enhanced interrogation: “Now the U.S. Congress has become a garbage heap filled with various anti-China sentiments. It is necessary for the representatives to reflect on themselves and become fully aware of the bitter consequences of their actions.”
As a matter of tradition, the editorial hit out at democracy itself, taking a few shots at the less than stellar Arab Spring before saying, “For example, Ukraine is a pious follower of the West as well as a vivid tragedy, which, in addition to incidents in the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the Middle East, has touched the Chinese society more than any human rights resolution passed by the U.S. Congress.” The Chinese state run media are not fans of democracy; indeed, they are rabidly, vocally prejudicial to the concept of what they call “Western-style democracy” and hurriedly point to any problems in democratic nations to justify China’s extremely successful autocracy.
Rather than “revolution,” the Chinese media opts for “reform.” But according to Salil Shetty at Amnesty International, China can have neither: “The 25th Tiananmen anniversary was a critical test for President Xi’s claims to be delivering greater openness. But Xi has opted for repression over reform.” China rejects such criticism by accusing its critics of being “anti-China forces” — which, to the untrained eye, almost always look eerily like international human rights organizations.
The resolution from the House is superficial and cosmetic. As strange as it may seem, it is not unusual for normally intractable party differences to be laid aside on matters of international policy. The resolution itself is not as important as China’s reaction, particularly that of the state media, which has been nothing short of fanatical.
One wonders what response, if any, Beijing will have for the call to name the street where the Chinese embassy sits in Washington DC after imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo, a move U.S. lawmakers said in a letter to DC Mayor Vincent Gray “would undoubtedly give hope to the Chinese people who continue to yearn for basic human rights and representative democracy and would remind their oppressors that they are in fact on the wrong side of history.” This is, to put it mildly, incorrect; if the Chinese people hear about “Liu Xiaobo Street” at all, it’ll be through the vitriol of the Chinese state media. More likely, the news will be stomped out entirely.
The U.S., and many other countries, have absolutely nothing to gain by lambasting China over flagrant human rights abuses and stand to lose quite a lot, but it’s also, annoyingly, the right thing to do. If this trivial resolution is the U.S. House’s version of playing hardball on Chinese human rights, then they can expect some ire from Beijing but little change.