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Yoichi Shimada

【#454】Japanese and U.S. Lawmakers’ Different Responses to Liu’s Death

Yoichi Shimada / 2017.07.20 (Thu)

July 18, 2017

     Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump made similar responses to the July 13 death of Chinese democratic activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Without sending any strong oral message, they issued innocuous comments deploring the death. However, there was a big difference between responses from the Japanese National Diet and U.S. Congress.

U.S. Congress responded quickly
     At the U.S. Congress, Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) held a hearing of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee which he chairs inviting Chinese democratic activists in the United States and others on July 14. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attended the hearing, impressing Liu’s death as a matter of grave concern to both the Republicans and the Democrats.
     On July 12, the day before Liu’s death, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his speech on the Senate floor urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to immediately allow Liu and his wife to leave China, saying: “even Kim Jong-un, the dictator in North Korea, allowed Otto Warmbier, a young American college student [detained in a coma in North Korea] to return home for his final hours. Surely Xi can show the same degree of humanity shown by Kim Jong-un.” Other U.S. lawmakers also expressed their opinions on the Chinese democratic activist.
     Representative Smith and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) serve as chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China by rotation. The bipartisan commission covering both the Congress and the executive branch consists of nine senators, nine representatives and five senior administration officials appointed by the president. It has published a database covering more than 1,400 Chinese political prisoners and an annual human rights report.
     Rubio and Smith have declared that the commission would do its best to lead Liu’s wife Liu Xia to leave China. In this way, the U.S. Congress has established a system to look into Chinese human rights problems along with the executive branch. Based on this and other systems, U.S. lawmakers move quickly.

Japanese Diet indifferent to human rights
     How about the Japanese National Diet? While Liu’s critical condition was reported, opposition parties won the government’s consent to Diet meetings on the planned creation of veterinary faculty by the Kake Educational Institution, remaining busy with trying to develop Prime Minister Abe’s suspected role in the creation into a big political scandal. Lawmakers failed to indicate any intent to take up Chinese and North Korean problems, indicating their shameful inward-looking attitude.
     When Liu was reported as under critical condition on July 12, a delegation of nine women lawmakers from the ruling camp, led by Liberal Democratic member of House of Representatives Seiko Noda, was visiting China at the invitation of the Chinese side. The women Japanese lawmakers reportedly gave a big nod to a woman Chinese deputy premier’s stereotyped remark that female politicians must make greater efforts to do the same as male politicians. As far as reported by media, there was no indication that any of the Japanese delegation took up the Liu issue during their China visit.
     Japanese women lawmakers visiting China at that timing should not have had any issue to take up other than a demand for China to release Liu’s wife and a fellow woman Liu Xia. China effectively took advantage of the Japanese lawmakers’ visit for demonstrating that Beijing’s blatant human rights suppression has no effect on diplomacy. The legislative branch should be noisy to help the executive branch make quiet diplomatic achievements. First, Japan may have to immediately create the Japanese version of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.