Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Panel Analyzes Rights in China

Panelists, including Chinese pro-democracy dissident Wei Jingsheng, discussed the country’s human rights record and the implications of the university’s relationship with Chinese governmental organizations Wednesday night.

The panel, which took place in McShain Lounge, was cosponsored by the International Relations Club, the Lecture Fund and the Georgetown University Students Association. GUSA is spearheading an initiative for Georgetown to engage in dialogue with Chinese human rights activists and the Chinese government.

The event included Huang Ciping, a human rights activist who translated for Wei, as well as Amnesty International Director of Advocacy T. Kumar and Director of Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs and associate professor Tom Banchoff. Fr. Steven Fields, S.J., monitored the spirited discussion.

Wei, who spent 18 years in Chinese prisons before being exiled to the United States, voiced criticism of his home country’s approach to human rights.

“In China, there is only one political party — the Communist Party — and no one can compete,” he said. “With only one party, human rights cannot be well respected,” he said.

Kumar added that half a million people are currently detained by the Chinese government, some for up to 40 years. Religious minorities are especially targeted, according to Kumar.

“No religion is allowed. Only the state-sponsored religion is accepted,” he said.

The most controversial topic of the evening was the Chinese government’s denial of a visa to Georgetown professor James Millward related to his contribution to a book concerning a Muslim area in China. Wei, Kumar and Huang criticized Georgetown’s lack of action on behalf of professor Millward.

“You do not have to be champions, but you must not do damage,” Kumar said. “Georgetown has damaged its own reputation.”

Banchoff defended Georgetown’s handling of the situation and relationship with Chinese governmental organizations, such as the State Administration of Religious Affairs.

“Principles are important, but we live in a complex world,” he said. “We shouldn’t put the relationship [between Georgetown and China] at stake for one scholar’s visa.”

Student opinions were somewhat divided about Chinese-U.S. relations. One student demanded to know what Wei had done for the Chinese people, aside from making speeches.

“You have mentioned that I have often criticized the Chinese government,” Wei said. “That is what I have done for the Chinese people.”

Other students came away with warmer feelings toward Wei.

“I thought he was hilarious,” Sophia Weng (MSB ’15) said. “He’s hoping for a change, and you can tell it through his words.”

The panel concluded on an optimistic note, when Wei was asked about the future of the regime in China.

“If they don’t reform, Chinese people will uprise,” Wei said. “The final conclusion is, China will change.”

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