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Silence equals death

"Silence equals death" Continued...

Issue: "Crossing the Rubiocon," Aug. 14, 2010

Other dissidents agree. Adrian Hong-a Chinese activist imprisoned in 2006 for helping North Koreans escape the country-spoke at an April conference for dissidents at the Bush Institute in Texas. Hong told former President George W. Bush: "When I was released [after 10 days] I was told that it was because of very strong messaging from the White House and the culture you set."

Syrian dissident Ahed Al-Hendi told the gathering that human rights advocacy had declined since Bush's departure: "In Syria, when a single dissident was arrested during the administration of George W. Bush, at the very least the White House spokesman would condemn it. Under the Obama administration-nothing."

Wolf says that sluggishness over human rights is part of a "bipartisan apathy," and he calls for more action from both Democrats and Republicans. But he says Obama must set the tone for an effective human rights agenda: "It's got to come from the top."

Hillary Clinton showed a willingness to help set the tone during a July visit to Vietnam. The secretary of state publicly expressed concerns about intolerance for dissent, and she called on the deputy prime minister, Pham Gia Khiem, to promote greater freedoms in a country full of human rights abuses and oppression of religious freedom.

Groups like the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom are waiting to see if the State Department is willing to take the next step: adding Vietnam to its list of countries of particular concern for human rights abuses.

Back in China, Yu-the dissident writer-is concerned about his future, but determined to continue speaking out against communism and to advocate for religious freedom. When a security official urged Yu to back off his Christian activities and said he should obey the Bible's command to submit to authority, Yu says he replied: "We must obey God rather than men."

Harry Wu-founder of the D.C.-based Laogai Research Foundation-says his group is committed to helping Yu continue to write and publish. Wu is concerned about his friend, but he says Yu is "a very courageous man." He hopes that the United States will speak more openly about abuses in China and for cases like Yu: "Why do we keep quiet?"
Email Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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