Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pasadena’s China Road

Why on earth is Communist China part of the Rose Parade?

Pasadena Weekly: Editorial - July 12, 2007

et's get one thing straight: Americans are no angels.

One look at The Count on page 6 of this week's paper tells us that the United States is willing to brutalize its own and other people with oppressive policies in order to carry out preemptive wars in faraway lands to fulfill undefined objectives that necessarily involve the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of people.

No. This country's leaders are in no position to chuck rocks at other countries, especially over human rights abuses.

But let's also remember that no right-thinking person in this or any other country wanted this war, with millions of people protesting in the streets of cities around the world at the start of the conflict four years ago. They believed that such brutal behavior should not be tolerated by this or any other country. And we agree.

It is in that spirit — that of world citizens — that we level criticism this week at the People's Republic of China, which was recently awarded hosting duties for the 2008 Olympics.

There seems to be nothing wrong, per se, with that honor, except for a number of internal problems that China does not share with the US, which leads us to another thing we need to get straight: The United States is not by any stretch of the imagination as bad as communist China.

At once one of the most oppressive regimes in modern times and a major global economic power, China is both sought after for trade and reviled for not only how it does business — dumping contaminated produce and other defective goods on the US and other countries, then executing the bureaucrat responsible — but also how it cracks down on everyday things that we take for granted, such as unfiltered Internet access, the right to take to the streets and religious freedom.

Unless they live in major cities with considerable Chinese-American influence, many people in this country might be unfamiliar with Falun Gong, a sort of exercise-driven secular Buddhism (think tai chi with an attitude) that is practiced by tens of millions of people in China, where it is illegal.

Chinese leaders have deemed Falun Gong a political entity, therefore an enemy of the state. People in China who practice Falun Gong are imprisoned and, say many of its followers, suffer torture in which their organs are harvested for sale while they are alive.

Even absent that grisly accusation, which has become the subject of some dispute, there is no question that Falun Gong members have been systematically terrorized by the Chinese government, which is not only being honored with the Olympics, but is helping to sponsor an Olympic-themed float in the upcoming Rose Parade.

This is not the first time that the Tournament of Roses has unwittingly opened a Pandora's Box of international controversy. Back in 1991, the Tournament selected a descendant of Christopher Columbus to lead the parade the following year, touching off months of protests by people who believed Columbus was more of a rapist and pillager than a mere explorer.

However, to their credit, Tournament officials faced the issue head on and selected a co-grand marshal, former Congressman Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Native American.

Hindsight is always 20-20. Maybe the Tournament should have known better. But it didn't. Mistakes happen. But it did the next best thing, and that was to be as inclusive as possible of other people and ideas.

We believe the controversy swirling around this year's parade should be managed in much the same manner. We don't know exactly how these problems will be resolved, but we believe, as a Supreme Court justice once said, the best cure for bad speech is more speech, and we are confident they will be before New Year's Day.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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