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Washington Demonstrators Liken Jiang Zemin to Saddam Hussein - 2002-10-09

Congressmen, human rights and labor rights advocates at a Washington rally have likened Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The rally was held to send a message to President Bush in advance of his meeting later this month with the Chinese president.

Speakers at the rally in front of the Supreme Court urged President Bush to press the Chinese leader on U.S. concerns about human rights abuses when the two hold a summit at Mr. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The participants included Muslim Uighurs from China's Xinjiang region, Tibetans, and Chinese and American practitioners of the Falungong spiritual movement. They criticized China for the persecution of religious believers, the imprisonment of democracy advocates and labor organizers and the oppression of Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities.

Congressman Benjamin Gilman addressed the rally and said until China ends its repression, it should not expect American cooperation. He also referred to the congressional debate about Iraq and compared the leaders of Iraq and China. "While our nation is currently immersed on the floor of the House in an open democratic process of trying to decide what to do about the murderous dictator Saddam Hussein, the leaders in the People's Republic of China leave much to be desired," he said. "They both have an iron grip on their own people, and they both have utilized torture, imprisonment, and yes, even execution to control the opposition."

Representative Dana Rohrabacher also mentioned the debate over whether to go to war against Iraq. China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and therefore influential in any U.N. decision on Iraq. In his speech, Congressman Rohrabacher indirectly referred to the Bush administration's decision to put a small Uighur extremist group on the list of terrorist organizations. "This is very unfortunate," he said. "Our government, I believe, has taken the shortsighted approach of making deals for support in our battle with Iraq at the expense of the people of China."

Mr. Rohrabacher says the United States should be ashamed of itself if it has sacrificed the rights of the Uighur people of Xinjiang in order to get a deal with Beijing on Iraq. U.S. officials have said they appreciate China's cooperation in the war on terrorism, but they say the decision to declare the small Uighur group a terrorist organization was not a green light for China to crack down on all Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.