24 Americans are held captive in Communist China, one American has
the opportunity to show the Chinese
that continuing lucrative trade with the United States is contingent
on obeying minimum standards of international law. But that one
American is doing just the opposite.
Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has been in China on a taxpayer-funded
trade mission since last week. Webb rejected
the idea of coming home early as "myopic" and said that it "is
appropriate" for him to keep on courting the Chinese government.
for staying bordered on the ludicrous. First, "I haven't seen any
changes (in the treatment of Americans in China)."
Of course Webb's 47-person delegation continues to enjoy fine treatment.
If Webb wants to see changes in how Americans are treated, he might
inquire about making a side trip to Hainan Island.
Second, Webb says, "I've not seen anyone at the State Department
ask Boeing to leave, or Ford or Starbucks or any other business."
But unlike Starbucks or other American companies with permanent
offices in China, Webb is just a temporary visitor, and he was planning
on leaving eventually anyway; the only question is whether he might
leave (or threaten to leave) a few days early. Webb, of course,
is free to leave China whenever he wants a right under international
law that is currently being denied to 24 other Americans.
Tuesday afternoon, while President Bush was announcing that American
patience was running out, Webb visited Tiananmen Square thus
allowing the Chinese media to show the Chinese people that Americans
have short memories about human rights violations and murder.
Not once since arriving in China (or while preparing for the trip),
has Webb said
a single word about human rights. "The federal government's
got to do that," he claims. "My goal is to enhance our business
Yet Mayor Webb has used his local office to campaign for human rights.
As Mayor, he enforced Denver's sanctions against the apartheid government
in South Africa. In 1992, he blasted the Colorado governor's trade
office for even contemplating a trip to South Africa.
What's the difference between South Africa and China? Well, South
Africa practiced racial discrimination. China practices
As Colorado AFL-CIO head Bob Greene points
out, "Most of the products coming into this country (from China)
are made with child labor or prison labor." Chinese dissident Harry
Wu explains: "The exploitation of forced labor in the Laogai [slave
labor camps] has remained an integral part of China's modernization
drive. The Laogai itself has benefited greatly form the opening
of China to international commerce and access to hard currency through
the export of its products: everything from socks to diesel engines,
raw cotton to processed graphite."
Although the Chinese dictatorship signed a 1992 agreement pledging
not to export prison labor, that agreement has been routinely ignored,
in part because the Chinese claim that it does not apply to concentration
camps for political prisoners, many of which are controlled
by the Chinese army.
The Rocky Mountain News notes that Webb urged the metro Denver
transit agency (over which Webb has no legal authority), not to
buy rails from a Colorado company which is engaged in long-standing
battle with the United Steelworkers. Yet according to the March
22 Denver Post, Webb envisions "Denver innovators launching
new companies by tapping cheap labor in China." You can be sure
that Chinese labor costs a lot less than what the United Steelworkers
make, partly because, as the AFL-CIO's Greene puts it, "In China,
if you try to organize workers, you're shot or put into jail."
On the Rocky Mountain News website, one
Denverite wrote, "If the Tibetans and Christians being persecuted
in China were black, Webb would be leading the charge for sanctions
and trade embargo. A double standard? No, a hypocritical racist."
Whatever his feelings about Asians (and Webb has never been known
to make racist comments about any group), Wellington Webb is doing
an excellent job of confirming to the Chinese government and people
what the Communists have said all along: All the Americans care
about is money; everything they say about human rights is domestic
One of the greatest long-term threats to the Chinese Communist dictatorship
is the American ideal of freedom. How pleased the Chinese dictatorship
must be to show the Chinese people a powerful American politician
a black man whose ancestors were slaves currying the
favor of the largest slave empire in the world, never daring to
utter a sentence about freedom. How pleased the Chinese military
must be to watch a visiting American delegation that apparently
shares the military's belief that the military taking of American
hostages should not interfere with the military export of slave
labor products to the United States.
Wednesday, April 4, Mayor Webb finally did speak out about the American
hostages. He told Chinese media "the sooner the aircraft and crew
are released, it allows the focus to return to business."
said that he had been advised by the American Ambassador to
China to go ahead with the scheduled dinner party at Tienanmen Square:
"He said not to do so would be worse than going ahead with the plans."
than urging the release of the 24 Americans, Webb has remained silent
on human rights issues in China.