Special Elections Over; CA Governor Heads to China (November 2005)

Special Elections Over; CA Governor Heads to China

Will human rights be part of his agenda?

By David Kute
Epoch Times Los Angeles and San Francisco Staff
November 10, 2005

Fresh from the results of a special election that consumed California political life for the last few months, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking a break from the local scene to lead a delegation to mainland China.

The governor’s trek to the Middle Kingdom on Nov. 14 reflects a willingness to promote California nationally and overseas. “It is certainly standard for this governor to travel around the country and around the globe to promote California,” said Vincent Soleto, a spokesperson from the governor’s press office.

Other trips have included places spanning as far from the borders of the Golden State as Israel, Japan, and the eastern U.S. seaboard.

Topping the governor’s agenda is trade, and promoting California tourism, agriculture, and raising the profile of intellectual property rights.

While China’s burgeoning economy and large market seem to be a target for Schwarzenegger’s wooing, some activists are saying that China’s dismal human rights record should be included on his agenda. Chime Lamo, Tibetan Association of Northern California president, is among them.

“Many countries who want to help relations with China will leave behind human rights issues and try to have good trade relations,” said Lamo. “For many the economy is very important, and of course, the economy is important, but the basic rights of human beings should go hand in hand with the economy,” she added.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of State released its annual Religious Freedom Report, listing China among those nations with the worst religious freedom.

Independent human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also noted many cases of torture, extrajudicial killings and other abuse perpetrated against underground Christians, Tibetans, democracy activists, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners in China.

While China’s government is among the worst violators of human rights, the governor’s spokesperson would not comment on whether or not Schwarzenegger would raise human rights in his discussions with Chinese officials.

But Schwarzenegger may have already hinted at where he stood on issues such as freedom and human rights a little over a year ago during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. In a nationally televised speech at the convention, Schwarzenegger mentioned the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and prisoners struggling in labor camps, expressing solidarity with the victims of oppression and his views that America served as a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world.

“When the lone, young, Chinese man stood in front of those Tiananmen Square, America stood with him,” he said. “We are still the lamp lighting the world especially for those who struggle. No matter in what labor camp they slave, no matter in what injustice they’re trapped – they hear our call…they see our light…and they feel the pull of our freedom. They come here as I did because they believe. They believe in us.”

Earlier this year, with special elections looming, Schwarzenegger backed out of a scheduled trade mission to China, resulting in criticism from members of the California State Legislature’s Asian Pacific Islander (API) caucus.

“The Governor is ditching a critical trade mission that could bring in desperately needed revenues so he could vacuum up the cash to fund his campaign,” said Assemblymember Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) back in March, part of the API caucus effort to call attention to the governor’s fundraising.

Additional reporting by Natasha Flowers and Aaron Nelson