Thu, Oct 01, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Dissidents say unhappy birthday at US Congress

AFP, , WASHINGTON

China’s leading dissidents are urging the world not to forget about human rights concerns as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) marks 60 years in power by showcasing the nation’s growing clout.

Some of the CCP’s prominent critics testified before a commission of the US Congress on Tuesday, hoping to draw attention to dark sides behind China’s rapid economic growth.

Wei Jingsheng (魏京生), a former electrician who spent 18 years in prison after calling for democracy, said that most Chinese workers still lived in dire conditions and lacked ways to express their grievances.

“We have only two choices — either help these workers and lower-class citizens of China to push for a peaceful evolution or leave it to fall into an unavoidable civil war,” said Wei, who was exiled to the US in 1997 after appeals from then-president Bill Clinton.

“We must understand — people cannot be satisfied for a long period of time living simply on the edge of survival,” Wei told the congressional Tom Lantos ­Commission on Human Rights.

His remarks were echoed by Harry Wu (吳弘達), who spent 19 years in China’s system of labor camps known as laogai (勞改).

Wu said even though US law forbids products made in the laogai, they were still making their way into the market for lack of compliance.

“While US trade relations with China are an integral part of the US economy, turning a blind eye to the injustice of the laogai system that we financially support fundamentally compromises our most basic ideals,” said Wu, now a US citizen.

Shen Ting (沈婷), a Shanghai-born, Hong Kong-based activist for Chinese seeking redress from the government through petitions, said today’s festivities were a “superficial” way to cover up realities.

“The government is staging a celebration to try to trick people and the world,” she said.

Shen urged policymakers in Washington and elsewhere to keep a close eye on next year’s Shanghai Expo, a giant display of technological wizardry that along with last year’s Beijing Olympics are meant to demonstrate China’s new clout.

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