Will Obama broach the subject of human rights with China's president?
The Chinese government boasts that it has "prevented" more than 400 million lives and plans to keep its One-Child Policy in place "for decades to come."
With the recent tragedies of Ma Jihong, a mother pregnant with her second child who was killed, along with her unborn child, for lack of a birth permit, and Chen Guangcheng, a man who remains on house arrest and is regularly beaten for creating a report that exposed 130,000 forced abortions and sterilizations (in 2005) and whose current condition is unknown -- it is apparent that the One-Child Policy is not loosening as many would like to assume, but is instead tightening the party's grip of control on families in China.
Just last week, China's human rights abuses were highlighted through three Congressional hearings focusing heavily on China's One-Child Policy, its forced abortions, sterilizations and vast negative effects. This three-day emphasis has never happened in history, and was truly a benchmark for U.S.-China relations.
With the forthcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao, the special attention could not have been more timely. This weekend, Hu will return to America for the 19th annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii. This will be the second time in 2011 that China's leader will step foot on U.S. soil.
Hu's last visit (January 2011) and the state dinner given in his honor, sparked questions and criticism from some U.S. leaders who purportedly kowtow and give in to China on human rights abuses in order to preserve business and trade relationships. Top Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, declined invitations to the January dinner because of China's egregious human rights record.
Congresswoman Iliana Ros-Lehtinen raised the subject of China's forced abortions during the visit, but the problem was denied by Hu, who stated, "We have no such policy [of forced abortion]. Many other leaders have mentioned this problem since January, especially following Vice President Joe Biden's remarks that he "fully understands" the policy and "doesn't second guess it".
For the first time in 31 years, several Members of Congress, and even some presidential hopefuls, have voiced concerns about China's One-Child Policy -- a policy whose 31st anniversary this September surpassed it's planned life expectancy of 30 years.
So what will Hu Jintao and President Obama discuss during his visit? The dire case of Chen Guangcheng, whose life hangs in the balance, the millions of lives China's One-Child Policy is "preventing" -- or simply business?
An extremely relevant time for the two leaders to meet, human rights groups are wondering if their conversation could move from business for just a few moments, to potentially save the lives of a family suffering under Hu's leadership. Many U.S. leaders who have already taken a stand will wait to see if President Obama will say anything about the dire, urgent case of Chen Guangcheng, whose six-year old daughter is forced to witness the ruthless beating of her parents on a regular basis.
Will Obama ask for an end to China's One-Child Policy and its daily torture of women? Will he mention the cruelty of the hundreds of thousands of forced abortions, and the women subject to these procedures sans anesthesia?
It's important to remember that no administration has approached this topic with China -- this silence did not start when Obama came into office.
After all, where has this cooperation with China taken us, as we ignore human rights for the sake of business? China's power and military spending increase annually, the U.S. now owes China trillions of dollars, and there is no end in sight.
It is highly doubtful that Obama will find time during a business meeting to discuss these human rights atrocities, given his silence during the longer visit in January. But with new information, Congressional support and disturbing reports from China, it may be time to reconsider our softness when it comes to China.
As said by the great French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, "America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." My hope is that our president will muster the courage to stand up for the human rights this great country believes in -- leading by example and giving the American people a reason to think differently about China.