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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Editorial: China Can't Have It Both Ways

April 27, 2009

The New York Times
April 26, 2009

The Chinese government issued two statements last
Thursday. Both were only briefly, and separately,
noted in the press. They make for a curious contrast.

In one, China denounced Japan’s Prime Minister
Taro Aso for making an offering to the Yasukuni
shrine. This is the shrine that honors 2.5
million Japanese war dead, including 14 top war
criminals from World War II, when Japan committed terrible atrocities in China.

China was furious when the then-prime minister,
Junichiro Koizumi, visited Yasukuni in 2005, and
the next two prime ministers stayed clear.

But Mr. Aso, a pugnacious nationalist, revived
the controversy on Tuesday by offering the Shinto
shrine a potted plant. Mr. Aso’s spokesmen
insisted that this was not the same as a visit,
and in any case would not affect his scheduled visit to China next week.

China was furious, telling the Japanese that "the
question of history is highly sensitive.”

In the other statement, China demanded that the
United States cancel a visit by the Dalai Lama
(he arrived on Friday for a two-week tour). The
Buddhist religious leader, a recipient of the
Nobel peace prize who is respected around the
world, says he is seeking only autonomy for his
homeland, Tibet. China vilifies him as a
separatist and regularly lambastes countries and leaders who receive him.

"We oppose the Dalai Lama going to any country to
engage in splittist activities under any
pretext,” said Jiang Yu, the same Foreign
Ministry spokeswoman who had earlier found history to be so sensitive.

Mr. Aso’s offering to Yasukuni was blatantly
provocative and offensive, even if all he offered
was a potted sakaki evergreen, and his
explanation -- that he was just expressing
"appreciation and respect" to Japanese who gave their all -- was disingenuous.

We understand China’s frustration. But it only
makes Beijing’s repression of Tibet and its
attacks on the Dalai Lama all the more hypocritical.

As it carves out an ever greater role in the
world, Beijing will have to learn that it cannot
have it both ways. China cannot be the aggrieved
victim in the morning and the bully in the afternoon.
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