Tales from the Trail

One Washington day is not like another for Mr. Hu

January 19, 2011

USA-CHINA/China’s President Hu Jintao was feted with full fanfare at the White House on Wednesday, with a 21-gun salute, honor guards and a state dinner. Things might not be quite so fancy on Thursday when he goes to Capitol Hill.

There he will see Republican Speaker John Boehner in the House of Representatives, then cross the Capitol to meet Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Neither bothered to attend Wednesday’s state dinner.

Also attending the House and Senate meetings will be several other lawmakers who want a word with Hu about human rights in China, as well as China’s dealings with Iran and Chinese trade practices.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen plans to hand Hu an entire list of complaints in the form of a letter she sent to Obama ahead of the Chinese leader’s visit.

The letter from the Republican complains of Beijing’s “military posturing,” as well as reports that China allowed the trans-shipment of North Korean missile parts to Iran via Beijing aiport. It also calls for the closure of labor camps in China, the release of political prisoners, and “unrestricted religious freedom”.

Also attending the House meeting with Hu will be the former Speaker, now Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. The Chinese media once called her a “defender of arsonists, looters and killers” after she visited the Dalai Lama and criticized Chinese “oppression” in Tibet.

Another lawmaker Hu will see is Democrat Sander Levin, one of  Congress’s many critics of China’s trade practices. When he was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee last year, he pushed a bill through the House that threatened  trade sanctions on China in retaliation for Beijing’s currency manipulation.

Hu’s host in the Senate will be Harry Reid, who called the Chinese leader a “dictator” during a television interview in Nevada earlier this week. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, another no-show at Wednesday’s state dinner, won’t be in the Senate on Thursday to see Hu; McConnell had a “ton” of events to attend in his home state of Kentucky instead, an aide said.

Republican Senator John McCain said he would tell Hu that “he cannot be a major factor influence in the world and abuse human rights.”

While Hu was being denounced at a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, he was out of earshot meeting Obama at the White House. Some lawmakers on Ros-Lehtinen’s foreign affairs panel called him ”China’s iron fist in Tibet,” and “the world’s worst human rights abuser”.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama shakes hands with Hu after news conference)

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