Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday June 25, 1998
Tiananmen clouding Clinton trip
For months leading up to Bill Clinton’s hotly debated trip to China, Harry Wu has stood as the last line of moral defence for the U.S. president.
The long-imprisoned Chinese dissident has continued to rail against the “Butchers in Beijing” from his new home-in-exile in the United States, but he has also spoken out in favour of Clinton’s trip, which begins tomorrow, in the face of stinging attacks from Clinton’s critics in Congress.
But on the issue of Tiananmen Square, Wu offers no encouragement.
“He should not show himself on the Tiananmen Square, ” Wu says. “The president of the United States is very different from other leaders of the world.”
Nine years after Chinese soldiers gunned down hundreds of protesters, Tiananmen Square continues to resonate in the U.S. and around the world as the singular demonstration of Beijing’s arrogant authority.
So much so that how the U.S. president handles the controversial welcoming ceremony there Saturday, as well as the gamut of human rights issues in China, could determine whether Clinton returns to Washington on Independence Day next month in triumph or disgrace.
A recent poll found that 64 per cent of Americans believe Clinton should not go to Tiananmen Square, even though that is the traditional location for welcoming foreign leaders.
Debunking the so-called “Beijing spring, ” Amnesty International released an open letter to the president last week listing 50 Chinese dissidents who have been “harassed” in the past year and called on Clinton to meet with dissidents — pointedly noting that Ronald Reagan met with a similar group during his trip to the Soviet Union.
The human rights group also called on Clinton to forcefully request amnesty for hundreds of political prisoners.
While offering an opportunity to put his stamp on China, Clinton knows too well the trip is strewn with pitfalls.
The visit could not have come at a worse time for Clinton.
Two congressional committees began hearings on whether the Chinese illegally funneled contributions into Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and whether he improperly permitted the transfer of sensitive satellite technology that the Chinese can use to improve guidance systems for their intercontinental ballistic missiles.
As well, the Chinese have been accused of helping Pakistan develop nuclear weapons and sending missile technology to Iran. (Hamilton Spectator, C1, 6/24/1998)