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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Carlson: Our new best buddies butcher and torture

DesMoinesRegister.com - Carlson: Listen carefully and you still can hear the gentle clinking of fine crystal in the Capitol building.

Oh, my goodness gracious, Gov. Terry Branstad was absolutely giddy raising his wine glass and toasting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and the wonderful friendship that is growing between our state and the world’s most populous nation. What a glorious few days it was, when the future president of China stopped by with suitcases full of yuan, promising to buy tons of soybeans and sign gazillions in business deals.

Iowans’ smiles were so wide, our bows so deep, it’s a wonder we didn’t sprain something. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Being a right-winger, I’m all for business deals and private enterprise and people and corporations making handsome profits. I just think it’s good to keep some perspective as we snuggle up to our pals.

While they were on their second entree at the Capitol, I thought of drinking tea from chipped cups in a dingy Des Moines apartment with a mother and daughter who had endured two years in Chinese prisons.

Their crime was following a spiritual movement known as “Falun Dafa.” Its followers number in the millions and they believe their mind and body are made healthier by meditation and physical exercises. Falun Dafa, also called “Falun Gong,” is not a religion. No deity is worshipped. There is no membership. There are no dues. It was banned in China in 1999, when the totalitarian government became threatened by its popularity. Hundreds of thousands refused to stop the practice, and today, up to half of Chinese prisoners are believed to be followers of Falun Dafa.

The women I met in Des Moines spent a few weeks in Iowa on their way to a permanent home in the eastern United States. They described being dragged from their homes in China and sent to work and re-education camps. They said they were tortured physically and mentally when they refused to renounce Falun Dafa. They described being fed through tubes shoved in their their nostrils and hung by their wrists when they refused to sew garments in a prison factory.

The women, a mother and daughter, were released from prison when they were near death and fled through several Asian countries and eventually to the United States.

Their allegations were considered credible by both the federal and Iowa governments, and the women were given official United Nations refugee status. That is a recognition by the U.N. that there was a significant risk of persecution or imprisonment if they were forced to return to China.

Their status also was recognized by the Iowa Department of Human Rights, where a spokeswoman said the state was limited on the amount of help it could offer. In a shocking display of honesty, the Iowa official said the state was reluctant to become more involved because “Iowa sells a lot of things to China.”

It now appears there’s much more to sell. Fine. Let’s remember when we cash the checks that our new business buddies manipulate their currency, making it cheap for China to export to the U.S. and expensive for this country to sell its goods there. Chinese workers who make iPods are paid about $1.75 an hour and are among the best paid in the country. Thousands reportedly line up for jobs at the factory, where workers commit suicide at an alarming rate. Most moved to the city from rural areas, where the average annual income is $200.

If, as expected, Xi becomes China’s president next year, he will lead a country with a one-child per family mandate and where some parents intent on having sons have killed their newborn girls. Forced abortions aren’t speculation. Chinese women who managed to flee the country testified before U.S. Congressional committees last fall about vicious attacks and surgical procedures related to the policy. One woman described how a clinic in China reported her second pregnancy to authorities. Her husband was beaten. She was drugged, an abortion was performed, and an intrauterine device was implanted in her body causing permanent injury.

Such horrors have been confirmed by international human rights organizations.

It’s not realistic to expect the governor to bring up this unpleasantness with a visiting leader. It’s just good to keep it in mind as we toast friendship and prepare to cash the checks. The truth is, we slobbered over our visitor because the Chinese own a little more of America every day. Political leaders here, both on the left and right, ignore the atrocities because it’s good for business.

So we can be sure our new best friends — “the great nation of China,” in our governor’s words — will continue to butcher pregnant women and torture people who dare think for themselves.

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