[Update: Barack Obama endorses the rally and its cause with a nicely written letter. Read it here. Of course, it would be great to think that Obama will be as persistent and passionate on this issue as Sam Brownback, who introduced this resolution in the Senate. That’s two presidential candidates, one from each party. In a particularly bipartisan gesture, one prominent Republican staffer even sent me a copy of Obama’s letter(!). If the KCC turns out a good crowd tomorrow, their debut will have been an unqualified success. Finally, at the bottom of this post, I’m appending the text of a speech by Rep. Frank Wolf (thanks to his staff for sending). Though not directly on point to this rally in all of its many particulars, it’s a long series of reasons not to buy Chinese, the majority of which I agree with. The point here is that for these and other reasons, one gets the clear sense that the mood in Congress is turning against China.]
This move could — I repeat, could — infuse significant new momentum into this movement, which I don’t mind saying it sorely needs at a time when we don’t have the rapt attention of either political party. The KCC claims to represent 3,000 pastors and their churches, which is a lot of people.
The KCC’s contribution will face its first test on July 17th in Washington. At 9:45 a.m., it will hold a press conference at the National Press Club, followed by a noon rally on the Capitol’s West Lawn. They’ll conclude the day’s events with a prayer vigil at Pilgrim Church, Burke, Virginia at 7:00 p.m. There will be other rallies in Tokyo on August 13th, and in Seoul on August 15th. Here are some excepts from two press releases that were sent to me:
KCC announces formation of Jericho Institute, which will launch the “LET MY PEOPLE GO” Banner and 50 States Resolution project.
Irvine, CA ““Korean Church Coalition (KCC) for North Korea Freedom announces formation of Jericho Institute, which will launch the “LET MY PEOPLE GO Before 2008 Beijing Olympics” Banner and 50 States Resolution campaigns. These campaigns are intended to bring awareness to all 50 states and the world, the inhumane treatment of the North Korean refugees within China’s borders by the Government of China, and demand that China adopt a policy to allow the North Koreans within its borders be granted Refugee Status and be allowed to leave to a third country before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. [….]
The Noon rally will be attended by KCC representative from every state in the United States. The Korean American Community will not stop praying nor rest until freedom for all North Koreans is finally won.
You may be tempted, especially if you’re not religious, to dimiss the significance of this. That would be a mistake. On the opening night of Yoduk Story, the Korean churches played a large part in filling Strathmore Hall. In retrospect, that event was one of the movement’s greatest moments — the others being North Korea Freedom Day 2004 and the 2005 Freedom House conference. On each of those occasions, the politically powerful attended mostly to lend token support to the cause, but along the way, they saw its power, too. Although that power proved insufficient to keep the Bush Adminstration from selling the North Korean people down the river, the KCC enters the fight just in time to help set the agenda for the 2008 election. With its strong old-country connections, it might also wedge some of the South Korean churches into the fight, too.
‘For Years, the Korean Americans have sat in the sidelines and watched as the Government of China sat and watched the many Chinese criminals kidnap and sell the North Korean girls as sex slaves and others as slave laborers and treat the North Koreans in China as Criminals.’
‘On behalf of the millions of Korean Americans who reside in this great country, let me clearly and firmly state that We Will Stand By and Watch no More.’
‘Since the formation of KCC, one message came through with a consistent and moral clarity, from the prayers of millions of Koreans in the United States and around the world: “Let the North Koreans go Free”’. Statement by Peter I. Sohn, President, KCC
The KCC will be highlighting the role of states with early presidential contests: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Let’s hope they’re judicious enough to know which politicians mean what they say.
Another Christian organization that has been an important part of the movement is the Voice of the Martyrs. With a large, motivated network that’s mainly dispersed in The Real America (like, say, where I come from), VOM’s main impact has been to organize such grassroots activism as letter-writing campaigns. Today, they’re asking for letters and prayers on behalf of a condemned man:
Son Jong Nam, an underground Christian in North Korea, has spent more than a year in prison, awaiting public execution. He risked his life returning to North Korea to preach the gospel and VOM contacts believe he is still alive, although contact is limited. [Voice of the Martyrs]
More here. Other organizations are also appealing to North Korea to save Son Jong Nam, including this religious broadcasting site, which has much more biographical information and information about Son’s activities. NK Missions and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the latter having impressive diplomatic connections (including some access to Ban Ki Moon), are also appealing for Son to be spared. CSW tells us that it was one of those regular rations of brutality that turned Son against the regime:
Mr Son Jong Nam was born in Sadong, Soryongdong, Pyongyang and served his full military term as a non-commissioned officer at the Security Protection Headquarters from October 1975 – May 1983. On 20th January 1998 Mr Son’s sister-in-law was investigated by the secret police while pregnant. During the interrogation she was kicked in the stomach and she miscarried. Mr Son brought the matter before the Central People’s Committee, but he was put under pressure for his actions and told to leave. This led to his disillusionment with the regime and his decision to leave North Korea followed shortly afterwards. [NK Missions]
Men like these are dissidents whose courage vastly exceeds those with far more coffee-house appeal. Let’s be very clear: Son is as good as dead, and the best we can probably do for him is to honor his courage with our remembrance. The life we still might save is two or three arrests away, and only if enough of us show our rage this time and the next. The underground Christian network is the only resistance movement North Korea has, and by all accounts, it’s spreading its revolutionary roots faster than the regime can dig them out. You can’t resist a system as brutal at that one unless you believe in life after a very miserable death.
I wonder how much irreparable harm it would do to our great breakthrough in relations with Kim Jong Il if one of our diplomats — or maybe even that great Korean humanitarian, Ban Ki Moon — would politely ask him to spare this man’s life. The odds of that are lower than Son Jong Nam’s odds of attending his son’s wedding.
Text of Speech by Rep. Frank Wolf, R, Va.:
Congressman Frank Wolf – China Statement, 7/16/07
Imagine a country where factory workers have no workplace safety, labor or environmental protections and are required to work 80 hour-weeks for no more than $110 per month to produce goods for export.
Imagine a country which boldly supplies missiles and chemical weapons technology to countries that support or harbor terrorists.
Imagine a country that oversees a network of espionage operations against American companies and the U.S. government.
Imagine a country which tortures and imprisons Catholic bishops, Protestant church leaders, Muslim worshipers, Falun Gong followers, and Buddhist monks and nuns just because of their faith and systematically destroys churches and confiscates Bibles.
Imagine a country which has a thriving business of harvesting and selling for transplant kidneys, corneas and other human organs from executed prisoners who are thrown in prison with no trial or sentencing procedures.
Imagine a country which maintains an extensive system of gulags ““ slave labor camps, also known as the “laogai” ““ as large as existed in the former Soviet Union that are used for brainwashing and “reeducation through labor.”
Sadly, none of this is imaginary. Such a nation exists. It is the People’s Republic of China.
Sadly, too, that’s just part of the list of egregious actions.
In 2006, the Chinese government arrested 651 Christians that we know of. Currently, China has 6 Catholic bishops in jail and another 9 under house arrest. Renowned human rights advocate Rebiya Kadeer has watched from exile as the Chinese government arrests and beats her family members in her homeland.
Late last year, western mountain climbers captured on videotape a horrifying scene: Chinese police shooting from their North Face tents at a group of Tibetan refugees crossing Nangpa Pass. A 17-year old Buddhist nun was killed and several others were wounded.
There are some who assert that human rights are something that should come once stability has been attained. They say that protection of human rights comes second to attaining economic power and wealth. We must reject that notion.
During the debate over granting China permanent normal trade relations status, proponents argued that economic liberalization would lead to political liberalization in China, that exposing China to the West’s ideas and values would lead them to play a more constructive role in the international community, and that the U.S. and other industrialized nations could influence China through economic activity to better respect the rights of its citizens to fundamental human rights and the unfettered practice of their faith.
Instead, we have seen why the protection of basic liberties should not come second to economic growth. The China of today is worse than the China of yesterday, or of last year, or of the last decade. China is not progressing. It is regressing. It is more violent, more repressive, and more resistant to democratic values than it was before we opened our ports to freely accept Chinese products.
And now, in addition to all of the horrible things the Chinese government does to its own citizens, it does to other countries’ citizens as well. It poisons children in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Australia, with toothpaste containing an industrial solvent and prime ingredient in some antifreeze. This toothpaste was marketed under the brand name “Mr. Cool.”
Some 1.5 million wooden toys in the Thomas the Tank Engine line of children’s trains were recalled after manufacturers discovered that the Chinese-made toys were slathered in lead-based paint, a substance that is toxic if swallowed.
China continues to send American consumers adulterated and mislabeled food products, including prunes tinted with chemical dyes, dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical, scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria, and mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.
Food and Drug Administration inspectors who traveled across the world to investigate the recent mass poisoning of U.S. pets stemming from tainted pet food from China arrived at two suspected Chinese factories, only to find the factories had been cleaned out and all equipment dismantled.
On June 28, the FDA banned the import of five types of farm-raised shrimp and fish from China because they are so contaminated from unsafe drugs in China’s polluted waterways.
A recent NPR story described how garlic from China outsold garlic grown in California for the first time last year. China began dumping garlic at U.S. ports below cost in the 1990s. Hefty tariffs kept the garlic imports at bay for a few years, but since 2001, imports of Chinese garlic have increased fifteen-fold.
Several Fourth of July celebrations in my district, including in my hometown of Vienna, Virginia, included malfunctioning fireworks that injured 11 people, including children and an infant. These fireworks came from China.
Some 450,000 imported tires were recalled from Foreign Tire Sales after it was discovered that the Chinese-made tires were sold without a critical safety feature that prevents the tread from separating from the tire. A blown tire can cause the driver of the vehicle to lose control of his or her car and crash.
China is one of the world’s leading producers of unlicensed copies of goods ranging from movies and designer clothes to sporting goods and medications. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, 93 percent of DVDs sold in China are unlicensed copies. The MPAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups say that despite stricter Chinese enforcement, product piracy is growing amid China’s booming economic expansion.
China is building a new coal-fired power plant every week and within a year will be the biggest source in the world of greenhouse gases. It is building factories and infrastructure all over the developing world, but we have no solid data on China’s plans or programs. A recent editorial in The Washington Post reported that World Bank experts estimate that toxic air and water in China kill some 710,000 to 760,000 Chinese each year.
During a recent visit to Sudan, Chinese President Hu Jintao promised to build a new palace for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, despite Bashir’s role in orchestrating the ongoing genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. This is in addition to the recent Amnesty International report that China is selling weapons to the Sudanese government, which are then being used to kill and maim innocent civilians in Darfur.
China bullies neighboring Taiwan, repeatedly threatening to launch missiles from the mainland for Taiwan’s refusal to accept China’s claims of sovereignty over the democratically governed territory.
And despite all of these abhorrent acts, China was still awarded the honor of hosting the 2008 Olympics. The Olympic Games: an event designed to lift up “the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,” according to its own charter. Does China’s behavior sound like a “good example” to the rest of the world? Or that it is reflecting “fundamental ethical principles” that all nations should aspire to?
Amnesty International reports that the Chinese government is rounding up people in the streets of Beijing that might “threaten stability” during the Olympic Games, and is detaining them without trial. Human Rights Watch reports that the Chinese government is tightening restrictions on domestic and foreign media, in an effort to control what information leaks out about China’s repressive and violent nature during coverage of the Olympics.
China has even gone so far as to claim it will “force rain” in the days leading up to the Olympics, in order to have clear skies for the Games. They intend to fire rocket shells containing sticks of silver iodide into Beijing’s skies, provoking a chemical reaction that will force rain ““ despite mixed reviews on the soundness of this science.
China’s desperation to conceal its true character leading up to the Games smacks of the Nazi bid for the Olympic Games. Analysts are likening the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 1936 Olympics, in which Nazi Germany soft-pedaled its anti-Semitic agenda and plans for territorial expansion, fooling the international community with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany under the guise of the Olympic Games.
Like the Nazi regime in 1936 Berlin, the Chinese government is preparing for the Olympics by hiring U.S. firms to handle public relations and marketing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Where is the outrage over China’s unacceptable behavior? The facts are before us. The United States can no longer say that things are improving in China.
But China would have America and the world believe that is the case. China has hired a number of large lobbying firms in Washington, DC to push China’s agenda with the U.S. government. Documents from the Department of Justice show these lobbyists as having a significant presence on Capitol Hill, including almost 200 meetings with Member offices between July 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006.
America must be a country that stands up for basic decency and human rights. America must speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves ““ men and women who are being persecuted for their religious or political beliefs. Our foreign policy must be a policy that helps promote human rights and freedom. Not a policy that sides with dictators who oppress their own citizens.
Next time you make a purchase, and you see the words “Made in China,” think of the poisoned toothpaste, the contaminated food, the polluted waterways and airspace, the exploding tires, malfunctioning fireworks, the human rights abuses, and the intimidation of religious leaders. Remember that China poses a threat not only to its own citizens, but to the entire world. American businesses have an opportunity to capitalize on China’s failure to protect the safety of its food exports. American businesses should seize this opportunity by reclaiming their place in the global market. The United States government and American consumers must be vigilant about protecting the values that we hold dear.