Olympics Don’t Silence China Critics

Posted August 8, 2008 at 4:48pm

The Olympics might be about bringing nations together, but they have done something even harder: They have united a top House Republican and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Pelosi and House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) both have misgivings about President Bush’s trip to China for the Olympics.

McCotter harshly criticized Bush for traveling to China while rejecting GOP pleas that he force Congress back into session as part of their protest over oil prices. McCotter joined a human rights protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Friday.

“There are many American politicians who presently believe the best way we can show our support for the people of China and the people of the world is to attend the Olympics,” he said. “I fundamentally disagree with this proposition. The best way we can show our support for the people of China and for the oppressed people of the world, is to today reaffirm our commitment that every human being is endowed by their creator with the right to liberty.”

Pelosi, a longtime China critic, wrote Bush earlier this month, calling on him to use the trip to highlight human rights violations and to speak out on the issue when the international community has its attention on the Olympics.

“On the eve of your trip to China to attend the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the human rights situation in China and Tibet is worsening and new restrictions are being imposed on international journalists as they attempt to cover the Olympic Games. I am writing to ask that you make human rights and freedom of the press top priorities of your visit,” Pelosi wrote.

Bush is the only prominent U.S. political figure in China for the Olympic games. Although Members have traveled to the games when they were held in the U.S., leadership aides in both chambers said it does not appear any of their members will be traveling to Beijing, and that it is rare for Members to travel abroad for the Olympics.

McCotter’s comments Friday were the second time in a week he has ripped Bush for going to China. McCotter linked him to “Hanoi Jane” Fonda, the scourge of conservatives during the Vietnam War.

In a memo to his colleagues, McCotter last week dubbed the president “Beijing George” and accused him of throwing the House GOP “under the bone-dry bus” while they were attempting to draw attention to the Democrats’ decision to adjourn for the August recess without voting on offshore drilling.

McCotter, Pelosi and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) are among the House’s consistent and aggressive critics of China’s political and human rights practices. Like Wolf, McCotter has been particularly concerned with the plight of religious minorities in the country and has spoken harshly about its communist system.