Trump meets with Chinese president in Florida
China | The meeting comes amid reports of the worst crackdown on human rights in China since 1989
by June Cheng
Posted 4/07/17, 12:00 pm
The leaders of the world’s two largest economies met for the first time Thursday night, kicking off a two-day summit at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. The highly anticipated event was quickly overshadowed by news that the United States had fired missiles at an air base in Syria.
Before the dinner Trump said he “developed a friendship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and looked forward to “a very, very great relationship.” The two meet again today to discuss actions to take against North Korea, the U.S.-China trade imbalance, and Taiwan.
But back home in China, Xi is responsible for the worst crackdowns on human rights since the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, when the Chinese army killed hundreds or even thousands of student democracy protesters.
Authorities silence anyone considered a threat to China’s one-party Communist rule—including lawyers, writers, pastors—through disappearances, detentions, or imprisonment. The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which documents human rights abuses in the Communist nation, maintains a database of known political prisoners that currently totals more than 1,400.
That number includes 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” Liu, a professor and writer, drafted the Charter 08, a document calling for political reform and protection of human rights. His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize, unable to communicate with the outside world.
Authorities targeted human rights lawyers and activists during the 709 Crackdown (the name is the date, July 9, the roundup began) in 2015 in an effort to quash the growing movement. Li , a Christian human rights lawyer who represented unregistered churches and the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, recently revealed he was tortured in prison: Interrogators used electric batons on Li until he fainted from the pain. In an interview with the , Li’s wife, Wang Qiaoling, said she found comfort in the Bible, and quoted to the reporter Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Even pastors of government-sanctioned churches have felt the wrath of Beijing. While in the past only unregistered house churches faced persecution, under Xi, official Three-Self church leaders are equally vulnerable. Last February, China detained Pastor Gu Yuese of Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, the largest church in China with 10,000 congregants. His crime: Gu spoke out against the government’s demolition of church crosses in the province of Zhejiang. He is held at the Hangzhou Detention Center on suspicion of “embezzlement.”
The crackdown has also stretched into the special administrative region of Hong Kong, which China promised a high degree of autonomy after the British handover. Yet today, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai remains in detention for publishing gossipy books about China’s top leaders. Gui had been set to publish a book on Xi and his love life, entitled Xi Jinping and His Six Women, before Chinese officials abducted him from Thailand. He later gave a televised confession, which was most likely made under duress.
“Perhaps those countries that are usually so quick to assert their democratic values will take responsibility toward their citizens and demand concrete actions of China, instead of repeating empty condemnations,” she wrote. “Or perhaps the world will stand by as more foreign citizens will disappear—because they don’t fit into China’s increasingly narrow political agenda.”