Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Morning Bell: A Force for Liberty from China to Cuba

Morning Bell: A Force for Liberty from China to Cuba
Mike Brownfield
May 21, 2012 at 8:44 am

On Saturday night, blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng arrived
in Newark, N.J., after escaping seven years of persecution in China.
With the sweet land of liberty under his feet, Chen breathed the free
air and remarked, "We should link our arms to continue in the fight for
the goodness in the world and to fight against injustice." Chen's
newfound freedom is a cause for celebration, but it is also a reminder
that America must continue to be a force for liberty in the world,
whether on the other side of the world or 90 miles off the shores of

A 40-year-old self-taught lawyer, Chen was imprisoned for four years,
placed under house arrest and suffered beatings after voicing opposition
to communist China's one-child policy, which brings with it
government-forced abortions, coerced sterilizations, and fines or
physical abuse for neighbors and family members of women with
unauthorized pregnancies. Last month, he escaped the grip of Chinese
authorities and found refuge in the U.S. Embassy. After a series of
negotiations, Chen and his immediate family won their freedom — he is
now a legal fellow at New York University Law School.

Chen's case brings to light the reality of modern-day China — a country
that has been radically transformed over the last 30 years thanks to
economic development. But as much as the country has changed, much
remains the same. Heritage's Walter Lohman explains:

China is a place that has not changed since the Tiananmen Square
Massacre in 1989 when it comes to respect for the fundamental rights of
its people. This is sometimes hard for the diplomats, scholars,
businessmen, and tourists who spend time there to believe. Likewise,
there are many privileged, worldly Chinese who fail to see it.

The People's Republic of China is an authoritarian, yes,
'communist' nation. This China is Chen's day-to-day reality. And it is a
brutal reality for many hundreds of millions more. U.S.-China relations
will never be normal as long as the Chinese regime is what it is.

Chen sees the Chinese government for the authoritarian beast that it is,
and he has won international acclaim for his activism. "I am not a
hero," he said. "I'm just doing what my conscience asks me to do. I
cannot be silent when facing these evils against women and children."
The United States should not be silent, either.

China, though, is not the only communist government standing in the way
of freedom. Just off the Florida Keys, the Castro regime continues to
hold an iron grip on the Cuban people. Yesterday marked the 110th year
of Cuba's independence, but sadly 53 of those years have been spent
under the Castros' dictatorship. Political opposition is not tolerated,
those who stand against the regime are harassed and persecuted, all
forms of media and communications are under government control, and
freedoms of speech and association are suppressed.

There is hope for Cuba. In a new paper, Heritage's Ray Walser writes
that the Castro regime is on the verge of extinction but is working to
ensure the country's communist system continues. He advises that the
United States should stand for freedom and press for genuine democracy
in Cuba. That means not appeasing the dictatorial regime, backing
genuine economic transformation, challenging Cuba's information
blockade, and establishing clear yardsticks for democratic change,
including independent political parties, free and fair elections,
freedom of information, expression, and association, and respect for
human rights.

"Failure to stand with the advocates of genuine economic and political
change in Cuba and to press for a policy of true transition and genuine
democracy could condemn yet another generation of Cubans to lives
without freedom, opportunity, or hope," Walser writes. Indeed, the
United States can be a powerful force for freedom — whether it's for one
Chinese activist standing up in a country of one billion, or if it's for
one tiny island surrounded by a vast ocean. But America must choose to
stand up for the light of liberty, not turn away from the darkness.


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