Sen. Cotton: If Obama Had Lived in China, He Would Likely ‘Be in Prison – Or Much, Much Worse’

By Patrick Goodenough | September 20, 2015 | 7:36pm EDT
President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing on Nov. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Kim Kyung-hoon, File)

( – If President Obama had lived his life in China rather that the U.S. he “most likely would be in prison – or much, much worse,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Capitol Hill ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington this week.

“President Obama is welcoming Xi to the United States in the grandest diplomatic fashion,” Cotton said during a Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing on Friday, which saw dissidents and lawmakers slam China’s human rights record and urge Obama to tackle the subject with his guest.

“But as they sit next to each other in that state dinner,” Cotton continued, “I hope President Obama recognizes what is perhaps the starkest irony of Xi’s trip to the United States:  If President Obama had lived his life not in the United States but in China – as a Christian, a community organizer, a civil rights lawyer, and a constitutional law professor – he wouldn’t be enjoying a grand fete with Xi Jingping.”

“President Obama most likely would be in prison – or much, much worse.”

In his remarks Cotton contrasted items on Xi’s travel itinerary with the state of human rights in China in various areas:

--Xi is expected to meet with leaders from U.S. technology giants in Seattle, while in China those same companies were unable to deliver uncensored information to the Chinese people, and authorities deprive journalists and civil-rights activists access to Internet technology for fear they would use it to organize, share information and undermine the regime, he said.

--Cotton contrasted a scheduled visit to Boeing’s factory in Washington state where skilled American adult workers enjoy labor rights, with violent abuses against labor organizers and child labor practices in China.

--He contrasted a planned speech by Xi at a United Nations meeting on women’s empowerment and gender equality with the situation in China, where he said “women are subjected to forced abortions, mandated sterilization, and mass implantation of birth-control devices – all to advance Xi’s population-control policies.”

--Cotton juxtaposed an expected Obama-Xi press conference in Washington, involving a free press corps, with the arrest in China of “journalists who publish ‘inconvenient’ information.”

--He contrasted the sumptuous fare likely to be enjoyed at a state dinner with the grim fate of prominent human rights lawyer and dissident Gao Zhisheng, known for defending adherents of persecuted religious groups including Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and Falon Gong practitioners. Gao, Cotton said, had been “imprisoned in a dark cell for years and allowed only one slice of bread and one piece of cabbage a day.  He was also tortured with cigarette butts, electrified wires, and toothpicks rammed into his genitals.”

'To support this regime is both morally corrupt and strategically stupid'

Cotton said the Chinese leader’s itinerary in the U.S. had clearly been arranged “to project a modern and dignified image of Xi’s rule.”

“But I see no evidence of modernity or dignity,” he said. “I only see a parade of stark contrasts, shameful juxtapositions, and bitter ironies.”

Friday’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing focused on what the CECC called “critical human rights and rule of law issues that deserve frank and robust discussions during the planned state visit.”

Activists, lawyers and journalists who testified included Yang Jianli, president of a movement called Initiatives for China which advocates a peaceful transition to democracy in China.

“China’s totalitarian regime has hijacked 1.3 billion Chinese people, imposing a political system on them by force and coercion, running the country like a slave-owner of the past, obliterating their self-governance and controlling their lives without their consent,” said Yang, an exiled veteran of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

“To support this regime is both morally corrupt and strategically stupid.”

Congress created the CECC in 2000, in response to ongoing human rights concerns at a time when the U.S. was moving to grant China permanent normal trade relations. It comprises nine senators, nine members of the House and five senior administration officials.

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