China, thank you for doing the sane and humane thing

I have been covering the harassment, trials, tribulations and greatness of China AIDS activist Gao Yaojie for many months, and I am thrilled to see China doing the right thing and allowing her to fly to the US to receive an award for her work.

A 79-year-old prominent Chinese AIDS activist is to fly to the United States as early as Sunday to receive a human rights award after she was freed from house arrest thanks to U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Gao Yaojie is to receive the Vital Voices Global Women’s Leadership Award for Human Rights in Washington in March for helping bring to light official complicity in the spread of AIDS in her home province Henan in central China, where thousands of poor farmers sold blood in the 1990s and have been infected.

To prevent her from going and embarrassing China, police in Zhengzhou, provincial capital of Henan, placed Gao under house arrest on February 1. The move sparked an international outcry.

Henan authorities relented and freed her on February 16, days after Clinton, a Democratic presidential-hopeful, wrote to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Vice Premier Wu Yi, urging them to intervene and let Gao leave for the United States.

“World pressure was too heavy. Henan was ordered by the central government (to let me go) because China did not want relations with the United States to become too tense,” the retired gynaecologist told Reuters in her Beijing hotel room.

A vice health minister paid Gao a courtesy call last week to extend the vice premier’s greetings, a sign of a change of heart.

But fellow AIDS activist Hu Jia declined to reveal Gao’s departure details in case the authorities decide to change their mind about letting her go. She plans to return in late March.

Hu Jia has faced his own misery from local authorities, and is another of my heroes.

Can we imagine just how wonderful it would be if China simply allowed people like Gao Yaojie their basic freedoms, and treated them as the heroes they are? Wouldn’t it be inspiring to see China honor people like Gao and Hu Jia and send them off to such events as China’s goodwill ambassadors, showing the world how China is becoming open and confident and a willing participant in noble international causes like AIDS awareness? Wouldn’t it be thrilling if China would…well, I think I’d better end it there. Because the questions bring tears to my eyes.

I know it was local officials who harassed her, and central officials who ended her dilemma. Unfortunately, the two are inextricably bound by a one-party system in which the central party has no choice but to tolerate all sorts of noxious behavior by local officials, upon whom they rely for keeping the system oiled. And yes, it’s getting better, and yes, I am praising China for ultimately doing the right thing. I just have to keep asking, why do they always do so many things wrong (as with SARS and AIDS and other cover-ups) before finally doing what’s right? Why don’t they do the right thing first, and show all the world how they have matured? (And for all my friends who insist on drawing parallels, yes, the US under Bush is often just as bad.)


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 55 Comments

I was totally with you until the last sentence. Can you give a single example of the US limiting the freedom of an AIDs activist for speaking out against AIDS?

I am not sayinig the U.S. is perfect (because it obviously is not), but there really is no comparision to be made on this sort of thing.

February 26, 2007 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

And, on issues like this, China (and all other countries) should be judged on a standard of what is right and what is wrong, and not in comparision to one other country. Two wrongs don’t make a right, which is saying that what the U.S. does in these situations should be irrelevant.

February 26, 2007 @ 11:18 pm | Comment

Let the number talk in this case.

Malaria case in China in 2003 is 800,000 and 250,000 died of TB. AIDS cases was 70,000 and AIDS death 25,000. Is it justifiable for Chinese government to shift the finite health care resources from TB and Malaria to AIDS? Should International communities pressure China to do so?

The treatment for TB is about USD$100 per person; similar number for Malaria. Malaria can be vaccinated but there is problem with the need for refrigeration of the vaccines which Gates Foundation just pledged a quarter billions to address this problem without much fanfare.

As for AIDS, there is no cure. Even with the super low price deal Bill Clinton recently negotiated for Chinese AIDS patients, it still costs $10 a month for the rest of the patients’ lives.

With all these numbers, how should a responsible government allocated its finite resource?

Seriously, China is only doing this to pander to Hillary Rodham Clinton whom has already being endorsed by the Vital Voices Global Women’s Leadership Award for Human Rights which is giving the award to Gao Yaojie. So, don’t even read too much into this as China’s goodwill. It’s just part of the election gimmick for 2008.

February 27, 2007 @ 12:37 am | Comment

First off, let me say that I agree Gao should’ve been allowed to visit Washington in the first place. I still think she will be exploited for purposes she doesn’t understand, but it’s not the Chinese governments’ place to prevent her from making these mistakes.

You misunderstand the purpose of the comparison between China and the United States. It’s not only about reminding those living in glass houses that they should refrain from throwing stones. It’s not only about avoiding responsibility.

It’s about recognizing that these are difficult problems for *any* human society to solve.

The United States is held up for comparison precisely because it lies at the forefront of human society development. It has tremendous wealth, national security, widespread literacy, political and academic freedom.

Why doesn’t United States always “do the right thing”, as you described it? If the highly educated populace, free, and motivated populace of the United States continues to make mistakes… why would you expect otherwise from a nation where a large majority of the population has a 6th grade education, where social/academic/political freedoms are repressed, where GDP per capita is less than $5k?

I think you need to evaluate your fundamental understanding of human society and what we call “nations” is flawed. Neither China or the United States are afflicted by the evils or ignorance of a few men. Eliminating Hu Jintao and the Communist Party will not resolve local corruption. Limiting “local power” in China today is a difficult problem. Balancing gradual reforms against the risks of chaotic collapse is a very difficult problem.

Similarly, eliminating George Bush and his administration won’t eliminate the processes and human weaknesses that put him in power in the first place. Eliminating Bush and his administration won’t end Islamic militancy, end poverty, reduce homelessness, cut down on teenage pregnancy, or cut down on the % of black men serving time in prison. These are all very difficult problems.

If the United States has a convincing policy solution for a difficult problem that mirrors a Chinese challenge, then the Chinese government would be negligent in not adopting it for Chinese use. But if it’s a problem that the United States has not learned how to resolve, it’s beyond me why China should be expected to “do better”.

February 27, 2007 @ 4:22 am | Comment

In the US, its the opposite. The central gov’t are useless and sometimes dangerous stumblebums while the states must take things into their own hands.

As far as comparing the US to CHina, well, what prisoners are having their organs sold?
In which states or cities has few top officials managed to plunder the city’s or state’s entire pension fund?

Clean air, water? Enforced laws? The US military is not immune from persecution for traffic violations, including homicide, DUI and reckless driving.

Bad, bad China

February 27, 2007 @ 8:27 am | Comment

David, there is one simple difference between the AIDS cases Gao was involved in exposing and any of the TB and malaria cases, direct government involvement in creating the AIDS cases.

You break it, you fix it. (with a tip of the hat, as I noted at my blog, to the Oscar winning Documentary: Short Form, The Blood of Yingzhou District) If a government is unwilling to fix a deadly health situation that it was directly involved in creating, either through greed or obstructive silence, it isn’t just a matter of cost benefit analysis, it’s murder.

And if it’s expensive going forward, perhaps this is a lesson for the Chinese government going forward that their actions do have consequences for the people of China, sometimes fatal ones. And a lesson for the readers of Peking Duck, that there will always be commenters here trying to argue the CCP doesn’t have to pay up on the consequences of their actions. Instead desperately trying to obscure the true costs, people’s lives, with false binary choices like, “gradual reforms against the risks of chaotic collapse”.

February 27, 2007 @ 8:45 am | Comment


Ah, and there’s the traditional Western philosophical bias yet again. You’ve been taught since childhood to obsess with the dangers of government, rather than considering her opportunities. You will spend years protesting a government for her active mistakes, rather than spending an instant worrying about governments that are simply passively watching their countries go to hell.

In numerous democratic developing nations around the world, child mortality rates, life expectancy, literacy… they’re all a small percentage of what the Communist Party has brought to China. Flaws are a natural component of the PRC’s policies, but they’re only a part of the picture. Surely at some point, you have to stop and look at the bigger picture of what has been accomplished.

For all of the flaws of the PRC’s HIV/AIDS policy, HIV/AIDS in China is a tiny % of comparable rates in India. When is the last time you expressed a moment of concern for what the Indian government has *failed* to fix, rather than what it’s broken?

When’s the last time you expressed concern for the fact that over the past few decades, China only has made any head-way in poverty reduction amongst developing nations world wide?

It was a repressive, authoritarian Chinese government that decided there would be no pigs shown on Chinese TV during the Lunar New Year… out of respect for the Muslim minority. Has India considered the same? For every Tibetan nationalists that’s thrown in prison, there are probably 10 Han nationalists that are silenced in a similar way. Contrast that to India, where Hindu nationalists ruled the national government for years, and continue to dominate local provincial governments.

Results, results, results. At some point, they have to matter.

February 27, 2007 @ 8:59 am | Comment


You’re still playing the wrong game. The point isn’t to point fingers and talk about human right violations in the other country. The point isn’t to rebut your mention of unclear Chinese organ donations by pointing out the widespread prevalence of rapes, violence, and drug use in American prisons… not to mention the ridiculously high recidivism rate that suggests a total failure in rehabilitation.

The point is to understand the fundamental reasons why bad, evil things happen in any nation… beyond the assumption that bad, evil people are responsible.

American prisons are recognized rightfully as hell on earth because there’s not a true commitment to either rehabiliting prisoners, or punishing them harshly; as a result, there isn’t the financial tax revenue available to really address their problems.

And in China, prisoners are probably coerced into organ donations because most Chinese are uninterested in organ donations, because prisoners are seen as being in debt to society, and because the financial incentives to prison doctors/doctors earning 2000 RMB a month are too great.

If there was an obvious policy that could resolve this problem, by all means, let me know what it is. Heck, maybe Washington DC and Beijing just forgot to “order” prison guards in both countries to obey the rules passed down by their respective legislatures, right?

February 27, 2007 @ 9:18 am | Comment

Usual scenario here. Commenters who insist on findng a way to justify whatever the CCP does while throwing in the usual disclaimers (“I think it’s wrong, but what can they do?”) versus commenters who say all governments should be held acountable and what the US does has no bearing on whether what China does is right or wrong. (I know which side I’m on.) As to “people in glass houses…” I throw stones all the time at my own government. So that doesn’t apply.

David Li shows monumental ignorance of the AIDS crisis in China, refusing to recognize it as a government-sponsored disease the blame for which sits squarely on the government’s shoulders. See my long post on AIDS in the sidebar to your left if you really don’t know the story. He also doesn’t realize this is not about CURING AIDS but about making people aware of how to avoid it. He’s twisted himself into a pretzel to obfuscate this issue and make it seem fine that the party has failed its people for decades when it comes to this tragedy.

CCT, part of the the point is, as you say, WHY these bad things happen. But it is still necessary to “point fingers” in the hopes of waking people up and initiating change. Gao would not have been freed if it weren’t for the global media and blogs and the other voices that streamed together in her defense. So don’t disparage those who point out the bad in their and others’ governments.

As to the “why” which you say is all-important: I think we all know the answer to this question. Governments are inherently corrupt. When given massive amounts of money and power there will always be some in the government who abuse it. This led to the AIDS crisis in China as well as the resulting cover-up. That’s why a free media and rule of law are fundamental to real change. Gao was put under house arrest by a foolish local official with the power to arrest whomever he chooses, without cause and without a hearing.

As to the US prison system disaster (God knows how that got into this thread – anything to deflect attention away from China, I guess), it will remain unchanged for now because most people don’t care about it and would rather pay less taxes and hope if they don’t hear about the prison crisis it will just go away. You only know about it because of the crusading media who tell you the story. And it will only be their ongoing efforts that bring about change, as it did last week in the Walter Reed hospital in D.C. And since you love pointing to other countries as proof that what China does isn’t so bad, let me address your description of our prisons as “hell on earth” – they may well be (after all, that’s what they’re supposed to be to some extent), but compared to China, Egypt, Syria, Thailand, Libya, Uzbekistan and many, many other countries, they are more like spas. Does that let the US off the hook? Absolutely not. But that’s how you always give China a free pass. Pretty cheap tactic, don’t you think?

February 27, 2007 @ 10:00 am | Comment


Where do you get your information? I hope from somewhere else than CCTV.

You’re spouting off about all the problems US has and that China is a Utopia where minorities are completely respected and that everyone lives is harmony. I haven’t seen that place.

For example, take your example of China showing its sensitivity by banning all pictures of pigs for the New Year. I haven’t heard a single Chinese Muslim complain about it. I’ve only heard the Chinese government announcing that it was great progressive government because it was doing something that was completely worthless. No one really had to change anything and the Chinese government didn’t have to really give up it authority.

I do know that people in Xinzhang and Tibet are very unhappy with Chinese rule. I do know that laws are ineffective in China and that foreigners basically have to trust that the people around them aren’t going to screw them. I do now that if your are a member of the CCP, your life is much easier and I do know that if you disagree with the status quo, your life is much harder.

CCP, humans are flawed selfish creatures. It hard for us a group to live together because we all have different needs, different desires and different visions. In the US, we recognize these problems and we try and fix this problems as much as possible. In China, everyone ignores the problems and thinks that if they ban cartoon pigs, all the problems will go away.

I am offended when people compare the US government with the Chinese government. In the US, we don’t massacre peaceful protesters, we don’t lock someone up because they will embarrass us.

CCT, you may be proud of your heritage. That’s fine. You may believe that China has the world’s longest history and that Chinese were busy studying philosophy while the rest of mankind was poking sticks in anthills. That’s fine. You may even believe that in fifty year, the whole world will be speaking Chinese and have given up forks. But for you to say that the US government and the Chinese government both equally respect human rights is the same as saying the imprisonment of Gao Yaojie is equal to the Rape of Nanjing.

February 27, 2007 @ 10:50 am | Comment

CCT – So judgemental. Always ready to stereotype and pigeonhole “westerners”. But I do believe Bill Clinton talked often about acknowledging the opportunities that government could create.

I’ve quite highly praised the Thai government for taking the opportunity to break AIDS drug patents, because government-backed intellectual property monopolies are granted for the progress of society, not just the profits of a few.

On the other hand, I could point to Mongkok populated by mainland prostitutes and look at the organised mainland beggar squadrons here and pull out my copy of William Hinton’s The Great Reversal to critique what you call progress as merely re-creating openings for the ills and exploitations of society to re-emerge in China. Or perhaps to all of the commercials on TV here for charities pouring money in to China to fund the mainland education system for those on the fringe. (and really I’d love to see a link to your data that shows that only China has made headway among developing nations on poverty reduction)

And of course David’s comparison of malaria/TB with AIDS is a false binary in itself. Especially with the billions the Chinese are pouring in to “vain glory” projects and then in to the banking system to prop up the bad loans that went to partially fund all of the “vain glory” projects, the notion that funding for health care becomes an either this or that conception is like throwing sand in to the eyes to distract from the real issues and a real discussion of priorities for the mainland government.

February 27, 2007 @ 11:42 am | Comment

Thanks Kenzhu. Beautifully said. Just be ready for David Li or CCT to bring up Kent State and the American Indians. After all, that’s all they can point to, even if their relation to contemporary China is virtually non-existent. It’s a reflex – they have to show America is as bad or worse, even if the examples they give are centuries old or one-time aberrations totally inconsistent with America today – examples from which America learned and grew and shared collective guilt. But never mind. That’s all they’ve got.

February 27, 2007 @ 11:44 am | Comment

Half of the replies attempt to refute claims that have never come out of my mouth, and the other half are simply crippled by their misinterpretation.

Let me lay this out again. Read slower and more carefully, folks.

I’m not drawing a moral equivalency between the Chinese and the US government. It’s a fools errand; most of us have different morals to start with. But even so, I’m more than willing to grant (yes, this means that I agree) that the United States government is less corrupt and more efficient. I’d expect nothing else: American politicians are better educated by far, have a longer established operating structure, are far better compensated.

My point is that it’s far easier to attribute to maliciousness to the Chinese government (as richard did above) when there are more obvious, more correct reasons. No one in the Chinese government benefited from HIV/AIDS spread amongst Henan’s poor, and the relative “profits” of organ donations from executed prisoners is less than a drop in the bucket. So why did HIV/AIDS spread this way, and why are the organs from executed prisoners ending up in paying customers? Because it’s a difficult problem to solve.

Probably none of you actually believe the United States government is maliciously racist, and yet the statistics prove that blacks are under-represented in economic/academic achievement, and over-represented in prison. Why hasn’t the United States done better? Because it’s a difficult problem to solve.

richard, you don’t need to get the US “off the hook”; I’ve already taken it off. I stated from my original post that it’s a difficult problem to solve for a whole host of problems.

I’m not drawing an equivalency between governments and government policy. I’m drawing an equivalency in the difficulties of government policy. Look at your own countries, and think of the remarkable imperfections that remain in your own society. The point isn’t to take your eyes off Chinese social problems, the point is for you to understand that these challenges are difficult to solve, no matter which government is in charge.

If we could put George Bush or Al Gore in charge in Beijing today (whichever fits your political flavor)… would China’s problems end? Would the tension between central/provincial governments end? Would they have magical policies that could move their Chinese off the land, give them economic growth, while also preserving the environment?

If they or anyone else has such a magical policy, please, do share.

Now, a few specialized personal treats:

It’s “Xinjiang”, not Xinzhang. I question how many people you know on a first name basis in Tibet/Xinjiang; I know about 30 Tibetans (in Tibet and Tibetan areas of Sichuan), and I know about 10 Uyghurs (in Xinjiang and Beijing).

Also, kenzhu, you mentioned you don’t know of any hui’s that appreciated the Beijing governments’ policy of banning pigs. Well, assuming you can manage to read Chinese, here’s one:

Have you also praised Beijing, in addition to Thailand, for the generic HIV/AIDS drug treatments now offered to all HIV-positive patients in China?

You asked about statistics showing only China has made head-way on poverty reduction. Okay, courtesy of the World Bank:

“By the frugal $1 per day standard, we find that there were 390 million fewer people living in poverty in 2001 than 20 years earlier. Over the same period, 400 million fewer people were poor in China; half of this decline was in the early 1980s.

For the developing world outside China, the number of poor living under $1 per day
increased, from 840 million to 890 million over 1981-2001.”

You show zero ability to read and comprehend. Take a deep breath, start at the beginning of my last post, and try again.

February 27, 2007 @ 1:33 pm | Comment


People are aware of the problems in the prison system and talking about it is not betraying state secrets. Are chinese prisons just as open? And the problems of rape, drug abuse and beatings are hardly confined just to the US. None of us have been to a Chinese prison, and the CCTV docu-frauds of the Nanjing prison for common crimminals is just another “green grass and blue skies” story told by fools. Jails are ugly places and bring out the worst in humanity. I doubt there is less male on male sex, rape, drug abuse or gang activity…or conflict between guards and inmates. It’s just a shame that no one can do a real story on real chinese prisons out in the hinterlands. It is a well known fact that most PLA ground moving work for bases and factories is done by prisoners.

And no matter how you whitewash it, selling prisoner organs is just bad.

“you mentioned you don’t know of any hui’s that appreciated the Beijing governments’ policy of banning pigs. Well, assuming you can manage to read Chinese, here’s one:”

I’ll bet the Hui really appreciate local officials dumping pig parts down their wells, too.

February 27, 2007 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

Richard is right, there is a hell of a lot of obfuscation going on here in the comments. All the post said was that China had done the right thing by allowing Gao Yaojie to leave China to speak. That was really about it and that brought on attacks against the US, attacks on spending money for AIDS and attacks on various other things, all of which, in my mind, show how subversive and cleansing free speech can be and how much people seem to fear it. The whole point of free speech is that it will sometimes mean people say things others do not like.

@CCT — You do NOT understand the United States. Your comment that the United States government is less corrupt and more efficient. than China because US politicians “are better educated by far, have a longer established operating structure, and are far better compensated” could not be more snobby nor farther off the mark. The US has very little corruption not because of something special about those who rule, but becuase our system (flaws and all) allows us to vote the bums out.

February 27, 2007 @ 1:51 pm | Comment

My point is that it’s far easier to attribute to maliciousness to the Chinese government (as richard did above) when there are more obvious, more correct reasons. No one in the Chinese government benefited from HIV/AIDS spread amongst Henan’s poor,

But they did benefit, or so they thought, by covering it up, beating AIDS patients and silencing them. Just as with SARS, they did this to keep the crisis under the carpet, lest it embarrass them and scare away investors. I never attributed this to “maliciousness,” just to stupidity and an instinct for self-preservation that over-rides critical thinking. It is exactly what I hate about the efforts to silence Hu Jia and Gao Yaojie. These are clumsy, pathetic efforts that are doomed to backfire. Time to just stop them. So I give China credit for recognizing this and letting Gao receive her award, and hope they further learn from their own history.

To CLB’s question in the very first comment – no, I know of no such example oin the US. I was just trying to convey that I know China is not the only country that does foolish things.

February 27, 2007 @ 2:11 pm | Comment

CLB, our last two comments crossed. Thanks a lot for your spot-on analysis of the inanity of CCT’s frivolous parallels between the US and China.

February 27, 2007 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

And of course David’s comparison of malaria/TB with AIDS is a false binary in itself.

The health care resource is finite. It’s easy to say that Beijing should stop build Olympic and put the money into treating malaria/TB/AIDS. However, how likely that’s going to happen? I wish so but we do live in a real world.

David, there is one simple difference between the AIDS cases Gao was involved in exposing and any of the TB and malaria cases, direct government involvement in creating the AIDS cases.

How is TB/Malaria not an government responsibility? Malaria is transmitted by mosquitos which is directly related to the clean infrastructures by the government. However, the problem with Malaria/TB is they are not sexy story and to a large extent, they are not emotional charged. They don’t make headlines. Gates Foundation is putting hundreds of millions into fighting Malaria which are taking thousands of times of lives in China, India and Africa.

AIDS in China is primarily transmitted by blood transfusion and the towns in Henan exposed by Gao were in blood trading business which is now banned in China. However, why were the people in the town took that risk in the first place? Why did they continue to do after people started getting sick and dying? Poverty! They sold blood because that’s their only way out. If you look at the documentary, the town selling blood did have a better standard of living then the neighboring towns not in the trade.

So, what now that this is exposed? Gao gets award, Beijing gets credits for facing the issues by punishing a couple local officials, Hillary gets great photo ops, and drug companies gets to sell drug there funded by charity donations.

What about the town folks? What do they get? No blood trade and now the town is labeled as AIDS towns so that goes any hope for outside investment. I doubt they will be anything more then a number to praise China’s effort in “containing” AIDS years from now.

No disease has been as emotionally charged as AIDS. It preys on the human nature’s deepest fear of deadly disease with no cure. And unlike Ebola, the thought that we all stand a chance (even very improbable) to get it whether we lived in modern big cities or remote village make this even more emotional. 20 years of scientific researches into AIDS are uncovering evidences debunk a lot of common myths about AIDS.

Majority of AIDS patients are in the poorest areas of the poor countries like China, India and Africa. If there was to be a cure for AIDS tomorrow, it would quickly become less significant then either malaria or TB.

The issues really come down to whether or not the issue of AIDS should be moralized as it is today and whether the issues can be discussed even rationally in the face of the evidences?

I don’t discount Gao’s effort. 74 years old grandma fighting humanitarian clauses should get all the praises in the world. No question about that.

But we should care if she and the people she care about are being exploited for the pure gains of others. My key problem with all these is I see no benefit for the town folks in Henan suffering from AIDS. I would also like to see suicide monitoring on the towns under spotlights by all these events.

February 27, 2007 @ 2:34 pm | Comment

All political opinions aside it is obvious that the US would deam it equally embarassing if an American were to receive a price for ‘human rights activism’ from a chinese organisation. I think it’s an important thing to consider for the chinese government wether or not to accept claims of immoral politics from youre greatest political rival (to be).
It is part of western tactics to overlighten those cases of human rights violation that happen to be beneficial for their case. As happened in the 70′s 80′s when Eastern european intellectuals were receiving massive public attention to their relatively small burdens in comparison to latin american priests being murdered when even mentioning the injust circumstances in which they lived.
btw: dont know if I was invited to spray my opinion here

February 27, 2007 @ 2:40 pm | Comment


The whole point of free speech is that it will sometimes mean people say things others do not like.

I don’t think the issues are simply about free speech. It’s the moralization of a disease. We are really at a point that no rational discussion about AIDS can be done without under serious moral attacks. Censorship by authoritarians are bad but censorship by moralization can be worse. Researchers on AIDS these days are affair to publish anything contrast to public belief of AIDS even they are scientifically sounded and evidence based.

Yes, the issues here is not really about AIDS but about China and its treatment of Gao. But all these are likely to be a theatrical performance benefit everyone but the very victims suffering from the disease.

February 27, 2007 @ 2:57 pm | Comment


My thinking of Tibet has come full circle. Before I came to China, I thought that I thought that Tibet was independent from China. When I first came to China, I starting thinking that maybe the Chinese invasion of Tibet wasn’t so bad. But then I went to Tibet.

When I got there, I was surprised by how the Tibetans hated the Chinese. They told me that they were proud of their culture and they wanted the Chinese out. They felt that the Chinese were destroying their culture. Most places I go to, I’m a little ashamed to tell people that I am American. The Tibetans smiled when I told them I was an American because they said America was the defender of democracy and that the Chinese wouldn’t leave Tibet until China became a democracy. CCT, the Tibetans don’t want to be a part of China no matter how often you should them on the CCTV spring gala.

CCT, I’d guess the Tibetans and Uyghurs you know are the one that have been bought by the Chinese government. There is no way you could know so many and not have some tell you that they didn’t like the Chinese presence in their company.

P.S. I’m not to worried about you correcting my spelling. I’ve always been bad at it. In the future, if you want to criticize my points, pick something and leave spelling out of it. Otherwise, it would way too easy for you.

February 27, 2007 @ 2:59 pm | Comment

When you are saying that America is the defender of democracy, you mean that they should come in and finish what’s left of Tibetan culture since they are more experienced an efficient in genocides?
I guess the Tibetans and Uyghurs you know just have a different opinion then the other ones. Maybe they prefer a communist dictatorship over a riligious dictatorship(as it was before). Maybe it is a little insignificant, what with colonialism and all, to spray your opinion on territoriality claims.
Nevertheless I think Tibetans today(not talking about Uyghurs) have little reasons to want the chinese out and will have to find a way to get along with the immigrants and set their racist opinions aside.

February 27, 2007 @ 3:26 pm | Comment

@China Law Blog,

For someone who runs a “law” blog, you seem to have a rather narrow focus of world events.

The United States isn’t the only country that allows the electorate to “vote the bums out”. So, that being the case… why does India and Mexico have such high levels of institutional and political corruption? Why has Transparency International repeatedly shown China to be *less* corrupt than numerous democratic nations?

Any theories out there?

February 27, 2007 @ 3:30 pm | Comment


There are numerous excellent first-person accounts of Chinese prisons online.

Furthermore, many of us have other “ways” of learning about prison. Not exactly something to take pride in, but I do have family members who’ve served time in prison. I refer to both during the Cultural Revolution (which is relevant), and also during the last decade. So, yes, I do know a little bit about Chinese prisons.

Given the option between being in a US courtroom or a Chinese courtroom, I would take the US courtroom in an instant. Given the option between a Chinese prison or a US prison, I’d take the Chinese prison in an instant.

February 27, 2007 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

Hi Karel, welcome to TPD. I’m glad to see you’re not at all bitter or angry or prejudiced.

February 27, 2007 @ 3:46 pm | Comment


“Why has Transparency International repeatedly shown China to be *less* corrupt than numerous democratic nations?

Any theories out there?”

Here’s a thought:

Can you imagine how much worse corruption in these countries would be if they had a Chinese style dictatorship?

@ David Li

“How is TB/Malaria not an government responsibility?”

The other commenter was right. This is a false comparison.

Not having time the time or money, or simply having other public priorities besides waste water drainage may be excuseable. Actively participating in an activity that kills people then covering up your involvement/jailing anyone wants talk about it is morally repugnant and criminal.

“The issues really come down to whether or not the issue of AIDS should be moralized as it is today and whether the issues can be discussed even rationally in the face of the evidences?”

What the hell are you babbling about here? The issue is whether people should be jailed for speaking the truth.

“But we should care if she and the people she care about are being exploited for the pure gains of others”

Oh yes, those mysterious “others” who are out to “get” China any way they can. Can you say PARANOID? What a crock of crap. Anybody who critisizes the Chinese government or helps those who do either hates China or is an “exploiter.” Maybe the commies would have fewer problems with “China Haters and Exploiters” if they didn’t give us so much raw material to work with.

And speaking of “exploitation” did it ever occur to you David that the the facts that Gao be 74 years of age and became an AIDS expert under a harsh authoritarian regime might indicate that she’s smart, tough and knows exactly what she’s doing?

February 27, 2007 @ 4:36 pm | Comment


Please confine all predjudiced, pre-programmed, grossly innaccurate historical characterizations and anti-western hate mongering to the topic.

Thanks :)

February 27, 2007 @ 4:43 pm | Comment

@CCT –

Democracy is one of varioius factors influencing corruption, not the only one. There are also varying degrees of democracy. I figured you would realize that my short comment was not meant to be a dissertation on democracy and corruption. I apologize for underestimating the extent of your cognitive dissonance.

February 27, 2007 @ 9:03 pm | Comment

Gao Yaojie was one of the heroes cited in an article titled “Hero Is as Hero Does” in the April 28, 2005 issue of the ccp propaganda journal “Beijing Review”.

February 27, 2007 @ 10:02 pm | Comment

Shock, we don’t call this the land of contradictions for nothing.

February 27, 2007 @ 10:28 pm | Comment

@China Law Blog,

Well, don’t stop there. Since you’ve recognized my intellectual failings, please take this opportunity to educate the gathered masses about the sources of corruption.

What are these “other” factors that lead to corruption in India and Mexico? And since you seemed so certain in your previous posting that “voting the bums out” was a natural and powerful restraint against political corruption… well, I can only imagine these other factors must be very obvious, very powerful indeed to dominate the advantages of democracy.

Don’t leave us hanging, CLB!

Maybe you can coordinate a response with Iron Buddha. What are these innate Chinese characteristics that allows us to *avoid* corruption even with the presence of Communist dictatorship?

February 28, 2007 @ 12:19 am | Comment

The real world example of Singapore and Hong Kong being less corrupted that the US, and China being less corrupted than India, should have given you some clues. Democratic institutions are somewhat correlated but unlikely causal to less corruption.

If you pay more attention to the available data (especially countries with changing environments), and be more intellectually thorough in your logical deductions, you will find out that higher income level is by far the most dominant causal factor to less corruption.

February 28, 2007 @ 1:14 am | Comment

“here are numerous excellent first-person accounts of Chinese prisons online.

Furthermore, many of us have other “ways” of learning about prison. Not exactly something to take pride in, but I do have family members who’ve served time in prison. I refer to both during the Cultural Revolution (which is relevant), and also during the last decade. So, yes, I do know a little bit about Chinese prisons.”

Yeah, we know about the fair, balanced and uncensored posting that goes on in chinese blogs. I’m sure the prisoners are all fat on cake, bulbous dumplings and thick, juicy steaks.

February 28, 2007 @ 2:55 am | Comment


You know you’re on solid ground when you’re forced to turn to sarcasm to make a point. Congratulations.

February 28, 2007 @ 3:02 am | Comment

What’s wrong with sarcasm? It can be a very powerful tool to get your point across. You know you’re on solid ground when, instead of addressing the issues, you point to the literary devices of your debator and say not a word about the content of his argument. I guess you’ve got nothing to say to nan’s points. Nan wins this round.

February 28, 2007 @ 8:51 am | Comment


China is less corrupt than India? Can I see your source for that? As for Singapore and Hong Kong being less corrupt than the US, that’s a ridiculous comparison. The United States is the third largest country in the world in both population and size. Hong Kong and Singapore are both quasi-city states. I’d guess that my hometown is more the San Francisco Bay Area is less corrupt than them but Chicago is more.

A point people fall back to is the China is less corrupt. How can we be sure about that? The source you are using, Transparency International, used this to come up with the list:

The index defines corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain and measures the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among a country’s public officials and politicians.

This isn’t measuring corruption but is measuring how citizens perceive corruption. I’d argue that in China, people would understate how much corruption there is because people in China do not feel that they are free to express your opinion. That rating could also reflect how free citizens feel to express their opinions.

February 28, 2007 @ 11:15 am | Comment

sorry, I meant to say: my hometown, the San Francisco Bay Area, is less corrupt than…

February 28, 2007 @ 11:19 am | Comment

Ken, as you guess it, the data source is Transparency International — as far as I am aware the only source available to compare corruption among nations. There has never been a year China’s CPI ranks lower than India’s. Since you have reservation on its data quality, I urge you to figure out a way to quantity corruption, provide a method to collect such data, and make data internationally comparable. Otherwise your arguments are no different than theology or astrology to me. Just because the data don’t fit your premises, it doesn’t mean you should reject the data.

If you examine a bit more how corruption happens in low-income democratic countries such as India, Philippines or Russia under Yeltsin, you will understand democracy, check and balance, and free press won’t do shit to curb corruption. When public servants are paid little, corruption is inevitable. Sometimes it gets to a point that it actually becomes culturally acceptable and pervasive in the society.

I strongly recommend you to read a great book by Jim Rogers, who is a legendary investor and travel around the world twice, “Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip.”

February 28, 2007 @ 12:00 pm | Comment

@CCT –

I did not realize that my disagreeing with you is the equivalent of recognizing your “intellectual failings.” Whatever.

I think the biggest failings in India and Mexico are that they are not nearly as democratic as the United States or Denmark.

I have never used the term “innnate Chinese characteristics” because I do not believe there is any such things and I would ask that you not put words like that in my mouth as I find them quite offensive when used to describe any people. Frankly, I also find it offensive that you feel it necessary to completely make stuff up in an effort to prove your own points (not that I even know what points you are trying to prove here).

February 28, 2007 @ 3:16 pm | Comment

@Iron Buddha,

Oh yes, those mysterious “others” who are out to “get” China any way they can. Can you say PARANOID?

I already named the others in earlier comments. They are not out to get China. Almost all of them are “friends” of China. Beijing government is one of the “others” to exploit this politically.

Gao be 74 years of age and became an AIDS expert under a harsh authoritarian regime might indicate that she’s smart, tough and knows exactly what she’s doing?

You forgot to mention that she’s a doctor and a gynaecologist. If you read up on her, her center of her conflicts with local government is that AIDS is difficult to transmits sexually especially among the heterosexuals. The spin local government put on AIDS was it’s primarily a sexually transmitted disease and condemn the patients.

Gao is inline with latest AIDS researches. However, Westerner scientists who speak out supporting the same theory have been under serious attacks for a decade. People get under attacks for speaking the truth all the time and everywhere.

February 28, 2007 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

David, why are we even arguing about this? It’s just stupid. We aren’t talking about the moralization of any disease. Forget about the specifics of AIDS. It’s about a country where someone as beloved and appreciated as Gao can be placed under house arrest for no reason. Stop obfuscating the issue with this BS about what causes AIDS – that’s a diversion.

February 28, 2007 @ 4:28 pm | Comment


I take it since you didn’t directly refute what I said that you’re accepting my point: it’s problematic to say that China is less corrupt than India.

Your whole argument is that China needs to be a repressive oligarchy because it makes it more clean. You then sight a source, which you would have to agree, understates how much corruption there is in China. I bring up a point that points out the problems of your source and you accuse me of believing in .

My brother, who works in a hedge fund, told me that there is a group who is asking his hedge funds for capital in a project in China, states that giving money was a matter of Chinese culture. I’d argue this is an example of how corruption is a major factor in China. I’ve known because I’ve benefited from corruption. JXie, maybe you believe that Chinese isn’t corrupt because it’s all around you.

February 28, 2007 @ 5:43 pm | Comment


“What are these innate Chinese characteristics that allows us to *avoid* corruption even with the presence of Communist dictatorship?”

Faulty logic: Assumes lower corruption in China (if it is in fact lower than India) must be due to innate Chinese characteristics. Proof? Theories? Links? Further explanation?

Outright lie: Says that I said or believe that lower Chinese corruption rate is due to “innate” Chinese characteristics. I said no such thing.

@ David Li

Dude, your last post was very confused and off topic. Are you even trying to make relevent points?

February 28, 2007 @ 9:33 pm | Comment


I take it since you didn’t directly refute what I said that you’re accepting my point: it’s problematic to say that China is less corrupt than India.

A is more corrupt than B, is a qualitative statement, which is pretty hard to refute without some faith. Since you reject TI’s quantitative method without providing an alternative, I found further argument futile, hence I dropped the discussion altogether. The limited time and energy, can be better spent on other things. BTW, I don’t think you understand fully TI’s methodology. If in 2 minutes you can spot its problem, why is it so widely used? You are just like most — rush to make a judgment because the data is not supportive to your premises.

Your whole argument is that China needs to be a repressive oligarchy because it makes it more clean.

My friend, you need to read carefully and understand others first to have a meaningful dialogue.

China is certainly not an oligarchy, or very repressive, but I will skip the discussion of both. Let me get down to it — my argument is that democratic institutions are not very causal to less corruption, if at all. The major causal factor to less corruption, is higher income. Bare in mind I am not arguing China doesn’t have a corruption problem.

Let me give you analogy, which may work better. Let’s say a middle-income dude wants to be rich. He looks around the rich folks he knows, and notices a few commonalities among them: they all own yachts and they all start their own businesses. Which endeavor should he pursue: buying a boat or starting his own business?

March 1, 2007 @ 12:44 am | Comment

“All political opinions aside it is obvious that the US would deam it equally embarassing if an American were to receive a price for ‘human rights activism’ from a chinese organisation.”

Not as embarrassed as you should be for saying that… first of all, there are plenty of embarrassing things that aren’t forced to be covered up.
Second, who would win a price for “human rights activism” from a Chinese organization? The guy who ran Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo interrogators? “we award these individuals, proceeding towards the ludicrous official Chinese government definition of human rights, for taking the world’s focus away from our decision to harvest innocent people’s organs.”

March 1, 2007 @ 1:07 am | Comment


“China is certainly not an oligarchy, or very repressive…”

You’re a smart guy but you’ve just lost all credibility with me. You might as well e-mail a guy in the Wilson factory and tell him that basketballs aren’t round. Your claim above is no less ridiculous.

“The major causal factor to less corruption, is higher income.”

And why is this? Because people with higher incomes demand democracy which in turn, lowers corruption. You’re trying to get from A to C while ignoring B.

Higher income means people with businesses, investments and capital. These people demand protection of these assets from each other and from rapacious government officials. They also demand a larger say in how the government handles economic issues and makes the laws that protect their assets. This pattern is repeated again and again in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and elswhere. Singapore may be an exception, but it hardly invalidates the rule.

March 1, 2007 @ 1:12 pm | Comment

@China Law Blog,

How are India and Mexico less democratic than the United States and Denmark? What legal statutes are missing from their political systems that make them “less” democratic? How do you propose making India and Mexico more democratic?

More specifically: how do you propose making a democratic China like the United States and Denmark (an improvement on corruption), rather than India?

PS. I know you made no comment about unique Chinese characteristics. That was in reference to Iron Buddha’s comment earlier… which I’ll address shortly.

March 2, 2007 @ 1:13 am | Comment

@Iron Buddha,

‘Outright lie: Says that I said or believe that lower Chinese corruption rate is due to “innate” Chinese characteristics. I said no such thing. ‘

You know, it’s hard having a discussion when the other party doesn’t actually state a point… just throws peanuts and then denies having said anything.

Let’s back up, and have you start from the beginning. You asked earlier, “imagine how much worse (India and Mexico) would be worse with a Communist dictatorship”.

Well, I’m asking you, how is China with a Communist dictatorship doing at least a comparable job (on corruption) with democratic India and Mexico? What are the differences between China, India, and Mexico?

March 2, 2007 @ 1:17 am | Comment

@The Iron Buddha

Well, all I want to see right now is how she get treated by the West medias once the topics have moved from the oppressive Chinese government and into the AIDS topic. She’s on the camp of “AIDS isn’t a sexual epidemic, especially for heterosexual.” The scientists of this camp has been under attacked for years in the West. Let’s see if she gets turned from “Freedom fighting doctor from China” to “Poor foolish old Chinese grandma.”

March 2, 2007 @ 10:07 am | Comment


This has been your argument. China needs to be an oppressive oligarchy because if it is not it will become corrupt like India, which is a democracy. You then use Transparency International to prove China is less corrupt. I then point out that Transparency International’s methodology is suspect because it depends on perceptions of corruption. You then state that because I don’t propose another way to measure corruption, my analysis is invalid.

I am simply pointing out that your argument is based on shaky grounds. If you were really interested in proving your point, you’d be using more than one source. It’s hypocritical for you to dismiss my critique of your argument while you, yourself, are also not using academic standards to prove your point. Do you have any other evidence to prove your point?

@Iron Buddha, you are right. It is easier to criticize than to state solutions so I will give you a solution.

First, the Chinese government should negotiate with the Dali Lama about the status of Tibet. I’d think a reasonable agreement would give Tibetans control of internal matters like education, local policing and other issues. The Red Army would dramatically reduce its presence and the Tibetan would agree not to negotiate with any foreign country.

Second, the Chinese government would protect freedom of speech. It would stop censoring the press and agree to protect anyone who is persecuted for whistle blowing.

Finally, the Chinese government would start removing the CCP from governmental control. It would stop mandating CCP classes be taught in school and have a 15 year plan to remove. It would start implementing local elections and create a system where local officials would vote in provincial elections for provincial leaders and then provincial leaders would then vote for state leaders.

I realize that these reforms are crazy. I haven’t put much thought into them but I do believe at the very least it could start a debate.

March 2, 2007 @ 10:28 am | Comment

I’m really impressed with the way David Li has obfuscated and attempted to hijack this thread. The point is the noble things Gao has done and the way she was then treated. The point is not the argument of what causes AIDS – that is a far diferent issue totally unrelated to Gao’s house arrest, harassment and subsequent release. Personally, I think there is validity to the scientific argument that heterosexual AIDS is a myth, but whether I think AIDS is caused by touching doorknobs or performing bestiality or via airborn germs is totally irrelevant. You keep bringing it up because you want to distract from Gao’s mistreatment and instead focus on how fucked-up America’s viewpoint on AIDS is. That may be true. It may be false. But it is incredibly irrelevant to how local CCP officials treated Gao Yaojie, and it shows you have no argument to defend her abuse and instead seek to change the subject because the facts are hard for you to reconcile.

March 2, 2007 @ 10:47 am | Comment


Scientists go up against mainstream perceptions especially emotionally charged ones always get treated badly. I think that’s a norm across the society. And their noble acts push the society forward and there is no doubt about it. Gao has been on the AIDS for 10 years and is the pioneer of the field in China.

However, from her blog and one of the latest interview. She’s really mad about people using her names for selfish purpose. And this is definitely one of the instance that people are using her for their selfish gain.

You are praising China for doing the “right thing?” What’s the right thing here? Beijing is letting her go to US because pandering to the first female president of United States is the right thing?

Let’s take a look at what Vital Voice is according to their web site:

The Vital Voices Democracy Initiative was established in 1997 by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Now, give me an article reporting Gao’s trip without mention of Clinton? The whole award is really nothing more then a great photo ops for Hillary and she’s using the old lady to bring focus to the Clintons’ efforts on AIDS which pander the liberal base, show her international influence on China and wrap her arms around the 74 years old grandma for the family value.

Why do you think China which refuses the previous two attempts for Gao to accept awards oversea and agree to the award from an organizations which doesn’t have a long track history on AIDS in China? Beijing is playing the American politics and it’s using a 74 years old grandma to do it. Plus, it fits Beijing’s current policy to come down hard on local governments.

March 3, 2007 @ 10:40 pm | Comment

As much as I think Bush is the worst president in US history I think your last sentence was just ludicrous. The US democracy on it’s worst day is better than the Chinese dictatorship on its best day.

March 5, 2007 @ 12:23 am | Comment

David Li, now we all know. You have no idea what you are talking about. Gao has been featured countless times in the US media with no mention of Clinton. Your theories are embarrassing. I’m glad you said it. Now no one can take you seriously. Notice not one reader has defended you, on either side.

Jay, I threw the last line in as a disclaimer to those who instantly bark back that the US is worse than China. Unfortunately, under Bush they can point to concrete examples that actually do measure up to some of the bad stuff China’s and other authoritarian governments do, specificlly the denial of habeas corpus and arbitrary arrests and torture. And I wouldbe a hypocrite if I didn’t recognize this and denounce my own president for the things I denounce in China. If we had a way to measure, it may not be as bad as China, but it does detract from our ability to argue from a position of moral strength.

March 5, 2007 @ 9:03 am | Comment


“Well, I’m asking you, how is China with a Communist dictatorship doing at least a comparable job (on corruption) with democratic India and Mexico? What are the differences between China, India, and Mexico?”

Who gives a rat’s ass? You’re ignoring my point that China could be better WITHOUT the dictatorship.

I can see what your thesis is here, that democracy is no better than dictatorship in fighting corruption. But that’s pretty easy to turn on it’s ear. Clearly, communist dictatorship isn’t doing a better job of fighting corruption than democracy. And you have to put up with all that political repression to. Sounds like a bad deal to me.

My question is why can’t China do better? And my answer is it’s because they are a dictatorship. I’m just saying that the notion of cleaner government through dictatorship for developing countries is crap. Can you imagine how much better China would be doing if it were a bit democratic? I can.

Corruption in India and Mexico, bribes, kickbacks, dirty cops, corrupt officials would be reduced by even greater democracy and even better functioning rule of law (as opposed to rule by Party). Under dictatorships there simply is no solution to these problems. They’re entrenched and become part of the system. IN a democracy, Nobody knowingly votes to have their money stolen.

India and Mexico at least have the right tools in place even if their not blowing China out of the water in terms of clean government. China copletely lacks democratic institutions and a functioning legal system and is at a severe disadvantage when combatting corruption.

March 5, 2007 @ 6:17 pm | Comment

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