Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ast month, two US Congressmen visited Beijing to assess the human rights situation preceding the Olympics. Representatives Chris Smith and Frank Wolf had invited a number of Chinese civil rights lawyers and others to have dinner together and discuss the subject on the evening of June 29. A number of the prospective dinner attendees were then pre-emptively detained.
On the morning of June 29, police seized Teng Biao and confined him to Huairou, a Beijing suburb. Police also warned Li Baiguang that he was to remain in Huairou and not enter Beijing for the duration of the U.S. delegation’s visit. The same afternoon, two police officers intercepted Jiang Tianyong as he was leaving his home, and ordered him not to keep his appointment with the U.S. delegation. Jiang Tianyong attempted to persuade the officers that their actions were contrary to law, and that permitting him to meet with the delegation would demonstrate China’s openness; obstructing the meeting, he argued, would only tarnish China’s image. However, the officers forced him to return to his home at 8 p.m. rather than attend the meeting. Teng Biao was allowed to return home at 10 p.m. that same night, but was kept under constant surveillance by four police officers.
Other civil rights defense lawyers were kept under 24-hour police surveillance for the duration of Wolf and Smith's visit, and were given explicit warnings by police not to attend any meetings with the US delegation.

How did the Chinese authorities know exactly whom the congressmen were hoping to meet? The answer is simple: they were listening.

On July 23, the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on "China on the Eve of the Olympics." The complete hearing is available from the committee's website on video (direct video link). Rep. Chris Smith is a member of the committee, and he recounted something from his and Wolf's experience in Beijing in the closing minutes of the hearing. A transcription:
"Three weeks ago in Beijing, Mr. Wolf and I were riding in a van -- on contract to the US Embassy -- and we made in jest, a comment that we might unfurl a banner in Tiananmen Square. We also made a comment back in the States, that we were thinking about that, and it was all done in jest.

Within one hour, our DCM, Daniel Sakuda (ph.) called us and said that the Foreign Ministry of China had contacted them, to lodge a serious complaint that if we unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square, we would be arrested and immediately deported.

My question is, what is your view about the bugging, the surveillance of the Chinese people, and with the upcoming Olympics obviously, journalists and others who might say something that the government would find objectionable.
Chairman: And where are you going to rent your vans?
From whom we rent those vans... because it was amazing, we said this in a conversation. One hour, DCM contacts us, Foreign Ministry's outraged that we're even thinking about it, and they tell us -- with a great deal of threat behind it -- "You will be arrested."
And there you go. Two US government officials riding in a US embassy vehicle, and they were being monitored. And then threatened. For a flippant joke between them (or so they thought).

And China wants to project the image of a strong, confident uprising power? I don't think so. But this incident certainly does project that famous CCP insecurity everyone seems to be talking about lately.

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