Thursday, June 4, 2009
Statement before the US House of Representatives, June 3, 2009
I rise to oppose this unnecessary and counter-productive resolution regarding the 20th anniversary of the incident in China’s Tiananmen Square. In addition to my concerns over the content of this legislation, I strongly object to the manner in which it was brought to the floor for a vote. While the resolution was being debated on the House floor, I instructed my staff to obtain a copy so that I could read it before the vote. My staff was told by no less than four relevant bodies within the House of Representatives that the text was not available for review and would not be available for another 24 hours. It is unacceptable for Members of the House of Representatives to be asked to vote on legislation that is not available for them to read!
As to the substance of the resolution, I find it disturbing that the House is going out of its way to meddle in China’s domestic politics, which is none of our business, while ignoring the many pressing issues in our own country that definitely are our business.
This resolution “calls on the People’s Republic of China to invite full and independent investigations into the Tiananmen Square crackdown, assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross…” Where do we get the authority for such a demand? I wonder how the US government would respond if China demanded that the United Nations conduct a full and independent investigation into the treatment of detainees at the US-operated Guantanamo facility?
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The resolution “calls on the legal authorities of People’s Republic of China to review immediately the cases of those still imprisoned for participating in the 1989 protests for compliance with internationally recognized standards of fairness and due process in judicial proceedings.” In light of US government’s extraordinary renditions of possibly hundreds of individuals into numerous secret prisons abroad where they are held indefinitely without charge or trial, one wonders what the rest of the world makes of such US demands. It is hard to exercise credible moral authority in the world when our motto toward foreign governments seems to be “do as we say, not as we do.”
While we certainly do not condone government suppression of individual rights and liberties wherever they may occur, why are we not investigating these abuses closer to home and within our jurisdiction? It seems the House is not interested in investigating allegations that US government officials and employees approved and practiced torture against detainees. Where is the Congressional investigation of the US-operated “secret prisons” overseas? What about the administration’s assertion of the right to detain individuals indefinitely without trial? It may be easier to point out the abuses and shortcomings of governments overseas than to address government abuses here at home, but we have the constitutional obligation to exercise our oversight authority in such matters. I strongly believe that addressing these current issues would be a better use of our time than once again condemning China for an event that took place some 20 years ago.