Jewish World Review July 9, 2001/ 18 Tamuz 5761

Wesley Pruden

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We're hopping mad, we just can't hop far -- CHINA has put an American citizen and a Chinese citizen who is a resident of America on trial on trumped-up espionage charges, and the Bush administration is hopping mad about it.

Congress, too. Well, sort of. But nobody is hopping high enough for anyone to notice.

President Bush called Jiang Zemin yesterday to tell him about his displeasure, but the president of China shouldn't get the wrong idea.

"This administration continues to press for their fair treatment and release at every opportunity," the State Department spokesman said of the president's telephone call. He just didn't press very hard. He told Mr. Jiang that he's looking forward to visiting China in October.

The Chinese, who are a pretty clever lot, can easily plumb the depths of American anger. A minnow would have difficulty negotiating these shallows.

The American citizen on trial is Li Shaomin, who was formally charged in May after he disappeared after crossing the border into China in February to visit a friend. The permanent American resident on trial is Gao Zhan, an American University researcher who was detained a few days earlier. The suspect's 4-year-old son was held in custody, without his parents, for nearly a month, presumably in fear that he might damage state security. Everyone knows how destructive a 4-year-old can be.

The State Department says it has urged China to "resolve" the two cases as soon as possible. "We will continue to urge them to do that," the department's spokesman said. The State Department should choose its words more carefully. The Chinese government might be too happy to oblige. Shooting the two and harvesting their livers and lights would "resolve" the cases neatly.

The Republicans in Congress are mad, too, but Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, the majority leader, sent a signal to Beijing yesterday not to get excited about congressional anger, such as it may be. Mr. Armey quietly shelved a resolution urging the International Olympic Committee to award the 2008 games to France, to Canada, Japan or Turkey, any country other than China, where nobody would be safe from arrest and maybe even torture. China's cruel suppression of the Falun Gong, a fitness movement that among other threatening things practices deep breathing, continues with gathering intensity.

More than a dozen Falun Gong members in a labor camp in Heilongjiang Province were said to have committed "suicide." The quotation marks around "suicide" are necessary because suicide can be an imaginative exercise in China. Many prisoners beat themselves to death. If they get the 2008 Olympics the Chinese could consider making suicide an Olympic sport, since only they have perfected the techniques of suicide by self-beating.

The State Department yesterday said the incident was "particularly troublesome" and the United States government is "deeply disturbed" by reports of the intensification of the brutal repression of the Falun Gong. That's dip-speak for "naughty, naughty, but we're not particularly or deeply cross about it."

Thirty members of the House of Representatives, including both Democrats and Republicans, have written a letter to Juan Antonio Samaranch, urging the International Olympic Committee to demand, or whatever it is that such committees do, that the human rights of all be respected before and during the games. The Chinese would probably be happy to oblige them, too, since this would obligate the Chinese only to put their thumbscrews away and stuff the rack in the closet until the visitors leave town.

If the president and Congress were really concerned about the abuse of American citizens in China and the chilling suppression of the Falun Gong, genuine solutions are close at hand. China is desperate for the 2008 Olympics, imagining that hosting a lot of skinny athletes chasing each other around a race track in their underwear will validate China as an upstanding member of the family of nations. This is what the Soviet Union thought in 1980, and with splendid determination to do the right thing the United States said thanks but no thanks, and canceled its reservations to Moscow. A decade later the Soviet Union collapsed, and who says this was not a reason why?

That was a different America, of course. Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, our governments now are determined to suffer any affront, any outrage from despots lest we lose an opportunity to add to the trade deficit with China. The pols think there's still a small shred of shame to exploit during election campaigns. Bill Clinton did. George W. Bush did. But once elected, it's "hey, just kidding."

Nobody understands this better than the cruel old men in Beijing.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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