By Vivian Po, New America Media

SAN FRANCISCO – At [a] special briefing organized by New America Media, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on [June 22] compared the current turmoil in the streets of Iran to the Chinese government’s crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters 20 years ago.

By Vivian Po, New America Media

SAN FRANCISCO – At [a] special briefing organized by New America Media, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on [June 22] compared the current turmoil in the streets of Iran to the Chinese government’s crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters 20 years ago.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sharing her trip to China with 20 AAPI media representatives

Pelosi said the U.S. government’s response to the two crises has also been similar, with the president speaking cautiously while members of Congress urge more overt support of demonstrators in the streets.

“The Congress has always been ahead of the White House in these kinds of matters, no matter who is in the White House, Democrats or Republicans. We saw that clearly in Tiananmen Square,” she said, noting that George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton continued China’s most favored national trade status despite Congressional opposition, while Barack Obama has offered muted criticism of the Iranian government’s recent actions.

“I would hope that we could be much more proactive when it comes to human rights because it is our value. It is who we are as a country,” she said.

Pelosi made her comments on Iran during a meeting with two dozen representatives of Northern California Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) media. The 45-minute news briefing was organized by New America Media, and held in the Hawaii Room of San Francisco’s Federal Building.

In the same news briefing, Pelosi also shared observations on her recent trip to China in May, which focused on discussing environmental and human rights issues.

Pelosi focused the first part of the news briefing on the Chinese government’s environmental adjustments, which she called “remarkable,” from reducing auto emissions to “closing down dirty coal plants, [and] building some new ones with better technology.”

By contrast, 600,000 people die each year of air pollution in China, said Pelosi, who indicated that there is still much room for improvement.

Pelosi also described two points Chinese officials brought to her attention during their meetings in China. First, China proposed that the developed world should pitch in one percent of their GDP to pay for what they think should be done in the developing world. Second, China argued that the United States should share some of the cost of reducing China’s emissions since the United States is the main consumer of China’s manufactured products.

Pelosi described that position as “interesting, but not the way it works.”

Pelosi said that since her trip, she is hopeful that strengthened U.S.-China relations will bring both sides to some form of agreement on emission reductions, as they are the two largest emitters of the world.

Human rights in China was brought up repeatedly by Pelosi and AAPI reporters in the second part of the briefing, as the question and answer section began.

Emily Yu, vice director of Oriental Morning Post, was the first to question the change in Pelosi’s attitude toward China as a long time human rights advocate.

After Tiananmen Square, House Speaker Pelosi had called for tough sanctions on China in an effort to force the Communist country to improve its human rights record, a position she no longer supports.

Pelosi answered by noting that the Chinese government had also changed its attitude toward her, from an unfriendly one after she met with Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, during last year's crackdown in Tibet, to inviting her to China earlier this year. She noted that a friendly tone "doesn’t represent a change for us in Congress, but it does say, 'Let’s talk about these subjects.'”

Pelosi said that her stand for more freedom in China had never changed. She added that she would continue to advocate for more transparency and accountability from the Chinese government. “If you are going to talk about human rights in the world,” Pelosi said, “you have to talk about China, not now we have a commercial interest with them, we just talk about human rights in small countries, but not big countries.”

Several other topics, such as the Digital TV transition, were also discussed. Samson Wong of Asian Week asked about the progress of immigration reform. Pelosi, a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, said she believes that there is a great chance for a change this year. “What we do next," she said, "will be predicated on the clarity in the legal status of the people who are here.”

U.S. and Chinese officials are visiting each other more frequently this year. Pelosi was invited to China in May after Chinese officials visited Washington, D.C. Pelosi also invited the chairman of the National People’s Congress of China, Wu Bangguo, to visit the United States later this year.

Apart from government officials, Pelosi also met with nongovernmental, business and religious organizations during her trip to China.

Source: New American Media
Posted: Jun 25, 2009

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