Another long march: China's human rights struggles
A week before he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, President Obama met with groups concerned with human rights abuses in China.
January 19th, 2011
05:27 PM ET

Another long march: China's human rights struggles

Last week, without it being on his public schedule, President Barack Obama met with four people interested in promoting humans rights and democracy in China. Ahead of Hu Jintao's state visit, the White House wanted to get the word out, but not make a big splash.

And the message the president heard included the thinking of some that China is already on a slow journey to more personal freedoms.

The guests included 51-year-old Zha Jianying, a writer who lives in New York. She was the author of 1996's "China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids and Bestsellers are Transforming a Culture."

Able to travel between the U.S. and China, Zha has studied the cultural changes wrought by greater contact with the West. Still, she has a brother who was imprisoned for helping found the China Democracy Party.

Zha told Obama that below the state-controlled media, there is significant debate over human rights in China and how the nation can stay on a path toward more personal freedoms.

There's "debate and anxiety in China about not just human rights, but a whole range of issues like equality, corruption, inflation - people are really more worried about housing prices, inflation and how they suffer" from China's rapid economic expansion, Zha said.

Chairman Mao was still running China when Zha was born. By the time she came to the United States for university, major economic changes had started, along with a push for individual freedoms, led by her generation right into the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising and subsequent deadly government crackdown.

"Afterward, we really matured into a more moderate, gradualist reform vision," said Zha, who describes herself as "cautiously optimistic" that eventually as more of her generation take the reins of power in China, their influence will bring greater openness.

"It's just a matter of time and pace," she said.

To make her point, Zha notes her brother was not summarily executed, as he might have been decades ago.

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. RUFFNUTT

    yep.. china is doing ok but china needs to be more like us. were doing great!! look at are economy were doing totally awesome

    January 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank

    Yep. We're $982 Billion dollars "in debt to" China, of all things. I wonder why. Hu Jintao comes here about human rights "knowing we're a day late and a dollar short". And the "ruling class" here wants to raise the debt ceiling, plus endorse national health care with 142 million americans with pre-existing conditions? 2012 presidential elections are right around the corner.

    January 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RUFFNUTT

    ah.. just give those china-men some KFC and tell shuda uppa about human rights..

    January 19, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. COL. BAT GUANO

    Openness kills.

    January 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      ...so you wear a bullet-proof vest where ever you go...

      January 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Carlos

    Trying to convince China to turn a new leaf on this issue is utterly pointless. We're talkin about a country who has been around for God knows when. Who are we to tell them what to do. As long as they show no MAJOR hostile intentions, then we should be cool in the gang.

    January 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff Frank

    I seen the picture of Obama shaking hands with Hu Jintao. He seems so happy being around the communists. Does'nt it make you tingly all over. Kinda puts me in the mood to blow another paycheck on a Roll Back sale.

    January 19, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tammy Scott

    NEED HELP FINDING A YOUNG GIRL FROM MICHIGAN BEEN MISSING FOR 8 MONTHS PLEASE LOOK AT THE LINK TO HER MISSING PAGE ON FACEBOOK, ALL LINKS TO THE POLICE ARE INCLUDED THERE.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tammy Scott

      http://www.facebook.com/pages/MISSING-KRISTIN-LOUISE-SPIRES/122144791154846

      January 19, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Daniel

    As Americans,who are we to lecture anybody on human rights while we have troops in Afghanistan killing people and our ungodly drones are slaughtering people like pigs in a pen in both Afghanistan and Pakistan? Before we stop this war,let's just stay quiet on the issue.

    January 20, 2011 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
    • UticaNY

      @Daniel, thank you Daniel for pointing it out to the public. Sin is Sin.

      January 20, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |