Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) came under an unprecedented personal attack at a US congressional briefing on Wednesday at the very same time he was being welcomed with a 21-gun salute at the White House.
Members of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs referred to him as a “monster” and the committee chair, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said that it was estimated that his regime was holding close to 7 million people in labor camps.
“It is as if the entire population of Switzerland were being held behind barbed wire,” she said.
It is highly unusual for visiting heads of state to be subjected to such biting criticism while they are guests in the same city.
However, analysts said that feelings were running so high about Hu’s human rights record that some US lawmakers simply couldn’t contain themselves.
Representative Christopher Smith, a Republican who on Tuesday held his own conference on Chinese human rights abuses, said: “Who is Hu Jintao? In 1989, just a few months before the massacre in Tiananmen Square, Hu was Beijing’s iron fist in Tibet.”
“This was the man who ordered the savage beating of Tibetan nuns and even children were pummeled to death. He presides over a gulag state — clearly a dictatorship. He has been directly responsible for the systematic detention and torture of millions of Chinese,” Smith said. “Cattle prods are put into prisoners’ armpits and at their genitals.”
“I believe Hu ought to be at The Hague being made to account for his crimes rather than being treated with a state dinner,” said Smith.
“We should not be welcoming the world’s worst human rights abuser to our White House. It is wrong. We should not be granting respect to this monstrous regime,” Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, added.
“I think the Chinese have a hidden agenda — world domination. We seem to be helping them in their goals. We just don’t seem to get it,” said Representative Albio Sires, a Democrat. “There is this monster developing right before our eyes.”
Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly asked if it was a mistake for US President Barack Obama to receive Hu at all.
China expert Robert Sutter, a professor at Georgetown University, testifying before the committee replied: “We have a very complicated and interdependent type of relationship with many priorities and we have to balance them.”
“People can object and have very good reasons, but presidents prioritize these things and they have determined this is the best way to go,” Sutter added.
“It’s not that you don’t meet with, or receive, someone like Hu. It’s how you do it. You don’t have a state dinner for the jailer of Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波),” Smith said. “When all of the hoopla simmers into the background, what message have we sent?”
Yang Jianli (楊建利), president of the human rights group Initiatives for China and a former Chinese political prisoner, said: “I am personally upset about the honor that Hu is receiving. Giving him this honor will send two messages to China.”
He said the message to Beijing was that it could get away with human rights violations, and the message to the people of China was that the US was not sincere about human rights.