First Lady Michelle Obama plans to steer clear of controversy during her trip to China, which begins next week, begging the question: Why go?
Other than that this is a unique chance for Michelle, her mother and her daughters to see China.
China has one of the most repressive regimes on earth, ranking among the least free countries in the Freedom House annual survey for 2014. Since Mrs. Obama is not qualified to engage in international diplomacy – not that this stopped Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – what’s the point of going there if not to make a stand against tyranny?
According to the Washington Post, Michelle will veer from the practice of recent first ladies and shun political statements:
When Laura Bush ventured to the Thailand-Burma border six years ago, the first lady accused China of not doing enough to pressure the brutal Burmese regime. When Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Beijing in 1995, she delivered a blunt assessment of China’s human rights record that reverberated as far away as South Africa.
But as Michelle Obama prepares to journey to China next week with her mother and daughters in tow, one thing is clear: The current first lady does not plan to deliver a similar performance.
Instead, Michelle will talk about educating young people
I’m just wondering to myself, thinkin’ out loud here . . . WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT THE EDUCATION OF CHINESE YOUNG PEOPLE?
We’re spending perhaps millions of dollars to send Michelle to China so she can educate Chinese kids?
But this is not some kind of Nixon goes to China and Pat comes along outreach thing. We’ve been there and done that. The Chinese will take Michelle’s outreach and pocket it as some first-rate PR, some de facto acceptance of their odious political system. The students she meets will be the children of cynical Party leaders who will already be programmed not to digest any U.S. propaganda.
China is a human rights disaster zone and needs a good talking to, not a pat on the ass. According to Freedom House, the abuses run wide and deep.
China became increasingly intolerant of dissent in 2013, as officials expanded the criminalization of online speech and police arrested dozens of activists who had advocated anticorruption reforms.
Citizens who attempt to form opposition parties or advocate for democratic reforms have been sentenced to long prison terms in recent years.
In addition to democracy advocates, tens of thousands of grassroots activists, petitioners, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, Tibetans, and Uighurs are believed to be in prison or extrajudicial forms of detention for their political or religious views, although complete figures are unavailable. In October, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China published a partial list of over 1,400 political prisoners.
According to international watchdog groups, at least 67 journalists and online activists were behind bars in China in 2012, including many Uighurs and Tibetans, though the actual number was likely much higher.
Religious freedom is sharply curtailed. Religious and ethnic minorities remained a key target of repression in 2012, with several deaths in custody reported.
In the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, an increased security presence that followed ethnic clashes in 2009 remained in place for much of 2012, and many of the hundreds of people detained in 2009 remained imprisoned or unaccounted for.
Real people will be suffering for their beliefs while Mrs. Obama does her Let’s Move: China Edition thing. If she must go on this trip, she ought to rethink her approach.