News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2006


Chinese presidentís actions will mean more than words

Chinese President Hu Jintao told students and faculty at Yale University on Friday that China is committed to democracy. We wonder what he means by that.

Mr. Hu had been asked whether his country's restrictions on political expression would cause unrest and hinder economic growth, according to The Associated Press. He said China would make its own decisions on political freedom and human rights.

"On one hand, we are ready and willing to draw on the useful experience of foreign countries into political involvement," he said. "On the other hand, we will not simply copy the political models of other countries."

Earlier, President Bush mentioned human rights concerns to the Chinese president. But his most dramatic exposure to free expression came during a welcoming ceremony at the White House, when a protester with press credentials interrupted by shouting an appeal to Mr. Bush to stop Mr. Hu from "persecuting the Falon Gong," a religious movement that is banned in China.

The protester would not have been there if the White House had known what she planned to do. And the Chinese leader probably is not accustomed to having people talk back to him. But maybe the incident nudged him toward more enlightened policies, if only to avoid further embarrassment.

The United States' experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan tend to validate Mr. Hu's point that each country must pursue democracy in its own way — one pattern does not fit all. But his communist government has long called itself the People's Republic of China when it was really a dictatorship. If his words at Yale mean anything, he'll have to show it through his actions.

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