Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
President Trump Has Tools to Pressure China. Will He Use Them?
New York Times
Much of the focus on China in recent months has been over the coronavirus that originated there late last year. But that has hardly slowed Beijing’s assault on fundamental freedoms and human rights, from the brutal repression of the Uighurs to choking off Hong Kong’s limited autonomy.
Congress has acted with admirable alacrity and unanimity to pass tough bills allowing for the imposition of sanctions against the Chinese officials and enterprises behind these outrages. It is now for President Trump, who has shown little enthusiasm so far for tangling with President Xi Jinping over human rights, to use the tools that Congress has placed at his disposal to show Beijing that its transgressions have consequences.
The new national-security law for Hong Kong is the most current and most publicized example of Mr. Xi’s repressive, nationalistic policies. The measure severely erodes Hong Kong’s civil and political freedoms, undermining the “one country, two systems” model that China pledged when the British colony reverted to Beijing’s rule in 1997. One of the first arrests under the new law was of a protester with a pro-independence flag, the display of which is now a criminal offense. As a result, a bipartisan push is now underway in Congress to grant refugee status to certain Hong Kong residents.
But while Hong Kong has garnered the most attention in the West, it is hardly the sole, or even the worst, of the Chinese government’s systemic violations of elemental human rights. These are among other recent developments:
■ A new report from the Jamestown Foundation has exposed chilling details of official measures to shrink the Uighur population, including sterilization and forced abortions. The report by Adrian Zenz, a leading authority on the mass detention of Uighurs in Chinese prison camps, found that while China has long sought to manage its vast population, the draconian controls in the Western region of Xinjiang were intended “to suppress minority population growth” while boosting the majority Han population through increased births and migration. Natural population growth in the region, the report found, had “declined dramatically.”
■ On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in New York announced that they had seized a large shipment of weaves and other beauty products that officials suspect were made out of human hair from people locked inside the Xinjiang camp system. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in U.S. supply chains,” Brenda Smith, a customs official, told The Associated Press. An American government advisory issued Wednesday warned companies that they risk “reputational, economic, and legal risks” from doing business with companies that used Xinjiang forced labor.
■ More than 50 independent United Nations experts signed a statement last week charging that their repeated efforts to communicate their alarm to Chinese authorities about the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, the collective repression of religious and ethnic minorities, excessive use of force by the police, detention of human rights defenders and other violations have been systematically rejected, and requests for investigations dismissed. The group called for a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council to evaluate their charges, and the establishment of an independent mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in China.
■ Researchers at Lookout, a San Francisco mobile security firm, reported Wednesday that China’s massive surveillance efforts in Xinjiang, which have expanded to include measures like collecting blood samples, voice prints, facial scans and other personal data, began as early as 2013 with a hacking campaign that planted malware into the cellphones of Uighurs and Tibetans around the world.
Of all these horrors, the fact that China is actually seeking to reduce the population of Uighurs — a Turkic minority of about 10 million with its own language and culture — is especially disturbing. As Dr. Zenz notes in his report, these measures “raise serious concerns” that the policies amount to a violation of China’s obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, whose definition of genocide includes “imposing measures intended to prevent births” within a national, ethnic, racial or religious group targeted for destruction.
China has sought for decades to control Xinjiang, an arid and mountainous region where the Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim people have long resented Beijing’s repressive rule. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, China took to justifying harsh measures as needed to prevent terrorism, and in 2014 President Xi used bombing attacks by Uighur militants to begin what his government called a “People’s War on Terror.” The crackdown has intensified since then, with as many as a million members of ethnic minorities incarcerated in camps for forced ideological and behavioral indoctrination, along with a vast system of high-tech surveillance and forced assimilation. According to Dr. Zenz, a 2017 report from a local branch of the Xinjiang Ministry of Justice said the goal of the camps was to “wash brains, cleanse hearts, support the right, remove the wrong.”
Dr. Zenz’s latest report and a detailed investigation by The Associated Press charge that for some time now the campaign has included draconian measures to slash birthrates. These include regular pregnancy checks, enforced intrauterine devices, huge fines, sterilization and even abortions on hundreds of thousands of women, all backed by mass detention both as a threat and as punishment. Having too many children, which usually means three or more, is a major reason people are sent to detention camps. “Police raid homes, terrifying parents as they search for hidden children,” The A.P. reported. At the same time, the state has made efforts to transplant people of the majority Han population to the region and to have them intermarry with Uighurs.
Last Thursday, the Senate adopted by unanimous consent a bill that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials, businesses and banks involved in the assault on Hong Kong’s limited autonomy, and it is expected to sail through the House of Representatives. The week before that, Mr. Trump signed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, a bill that would potentially impose sanctions on Chinese officials over the prison camp system. The reaction from China was the usual bluster about “fabricated” or “fake news” and threats of “countermeasures.”
Mr. Trump’s commitment to using these tools of statecraft to change China’s behavior, however, is uncertain. In a signing statement accompanying the Uighur bill, the president said he would treat it as “advisory and nonbinding.” The day he signed the act was also the day excerpts from John Bolton’s tell-all book about his stint as national security adviser appeared, with his accounts of Mr. Trump’s reluctance to let China’s human rights transgressions get in the way of the trade deal he has long sought.
Mr. Bolton recalled that at the opening dinner of the Group of 20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, in June 2019, Mr. Xi explained to Mr. Trump why he was building camps in Xinjiang. “According to our interpreter,” Mr. Bolton wrote in his book, “Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
Still, the unanimous, bipartisan support for these bills, and Mr. Trump’s signature on them, even if unenthusiastic, are an appropriately direct and clear signal to China that its behavior is contemptible and will have serious consequences. What remains is to make sure it does.
A miseducation: Trump shuts out foreign students forced into online-only classes
New York Daily News
President Trump may rant and rail about trade deficits in a global economy that he says rips America off, but one market the U.S. has cornered for decades, to the broader benefit of us all, is higher education. The world’s students — Asia’s especially — flock to our undergraduate and graduate schools in numbers unrivaled by any other nation, often paying top-dollar tuition to study here.
It may not stay that way for long, and Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will be to blame.
A healthy country would do everything possible to keep a million-plus foreign students coming, and not only because they contribute $45 billion annually to our economy. Nearly one-quarter of U.S. billion-dollar startup companies had a founder who first came here as an international student, according to a 2018 study.
But because of the COVID-19 pandemic — which, in no small part due to failures by the Trump administration, will likely still be raging in late 2020 and possibly 2021 — many of America’s colleges and universities, including Harvard, Rutgers, Princeton, Georgetown, are being forced to move most classes online.
To which ICE now tells students who came thousands of miles to study here: Tough luck. If their educations go from in-person to all-virtual in the fall, foreign students will have to leave.
Trump, who has insanely said “almost every student that comes over to this country (from China) is a spy,” may pretend he’s standing up for America. He’s actually punching all of us in the face.
College football players will take most coronavirus risks while having no say
Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy said the quiet part out loud back in April as the coronavirus pandemic was raging.
“They are 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 years old and they are healthy and they have the ability to fight this virus off. If that is true, then we sequester them, and continue because we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
Gundy later apologized for those remarks, but they exposed the truth facing most colleges today as they grapple with how to get the college football season started.
Football is the money-making engine for most college’s athletic departments and as schools, conferences and the NCAA try to find a way play this fall and get the dollars flowing, one group of stakeholders doesn’t have any meaningful say in that decision. That would be the 73,000 college football players who will be taking the most risks out on the field, in dorms and traveling from stadium to stadium so that the college athletics ecosystem can survive.
Coronavirus has exposed the failures of institutions across the country. If you have a bad unemployment system, then it will be even worse during a pandemic. If your nursing homes are flawed, they’ll be even more flawed during a pandemic.
And so it is with college football, which already has an uneasy setup as the players shoulder most of the risk and don’t get paid while coaches, athletic directors and colleges make millions of dollars. Toss coronavirus into the mix, and it becomes clear how dangerous this situation is.
There’s still so much unknown about the coronavirus and its effects. While football players are seen as strong and healthy, that doesn’t mean that they can’t have pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus. It’s also uncertain what the long-term effects are. NBA player Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with Covid-19 back in March and said this week he still hasn’t fully recovered.
In pro sports, which are also attempting to restart games during the pandemic, unions representing players are working with ownership and have a say about getting back to work. Players are also being paid, which allows them to make a reasonable risk-reward calculus.
This is not the case in college sports, where coaches, college presidents, athletic directors and conference commissioners will decide if these athletes will risk themselves on the field while enriching the universities. The NCAA pays lip-service to the idea of athletes having a say with a token student-athlete advisory committee that has no real power. The NCAA itself has guidelines for schools dealing with coronavirus, but doesn’t have authority to enforce those guidelines.
At UCLA, football players are taking matters into their own hands and demanding there is an independent health official monitors Covid-19 prevention. They don’t trust the coaches or athletic department to make decisions about their health. That sounds like a reasonable and necessary request even if the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t going on.
Football players are already back on several campuses for “voluntary” workouts. While colleges are relegating many classes to the Internet because it’s too dangerous to put kids into a lecture hall, they’re rushing to subject other students to facemask-to-facemask combat. There have already been reports of double-digit cases at Clemson, LSU and Texas, raising doubts about the feasibility of a college football season this fall.
When it comes to the chance to make money vs. protecting “student-athletes,” colleges don’t have a great track record. Just take a look at college football’s failure to deal with the legacy of brain injuries and players that have been damaged forever.
College football’s decision-makers don’t deserve any benefit of the doubt as they decide if the players will put their health at risk with the big rewards going to everyone but the players.
Nation keeps working for equal rights
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Independence Day should not be celebrated without recognizing that for much of our history as a nation, many of our fellow Americans have wondered what there was for them to celebrate.
For nearly a century after our nation’s independence, millions of African Americans remained enslaved. Native Americans were slaughtered as if they weren’t even human beings, marched from the South to Oklahoma, and treaties with them were broken. Chinese people were brought over as cheap labor and then, when the railroads were built, banned from entering the country. Even in living memory, Japanese Americans were rounded up and kept in camps during World War II.
Still today, many of our fellow citizens of the United States wonder whether “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” applies to them.
One of the keys to Americans as a nation — not just under a single government but, more important, of a collective mindset — is that we recognize our imperfections and work steadily toward correcting them. We try to become better people.
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again,” writer Maya Angelou said. That quotation is painted as a mural on the outside wall of the Legacy Museum in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. It is powerful and true.
We have come a long way since 1776. Institutional discrimination has been mostly, though not entirely, erased.
That does not mean everyone is treated equally at all times, however. Bigotry in the minds of too many of those around us remains a scourge on our nation.
It is not prevalent, however. We are getting better. We truly believe that.
“Better” can never be good enough. “Created equal” is not good enough. We Americans simply must make it a reality that in our nation, all people are treated fairly, as unique individual humans with equal individual rights. Anything less is an admission that our goal of creating a new kind of nation is incomplete.
Other, Greater Needs Outweigh Opening Jamestown Airport
Ron Almeter made an interesting point recently to the federal Transportation Department – if there is ever a time to restore air service to the Chautauqua County Airport at Jamestown, this is it.
For as much as we have doubted the future of commercial airline service from the Jamestown Airport in the past, it makes some sense that travelers who have to fly may want to use smaller planes to reach one of Boutique Airlines’ hub cities. It’s certainly cheaper to run small flights out of airports like Jamestown than it is for the huge airline companies to fly jumbo jets.
Almeter also makes good points that the federal government may be able to do so under executive orders issued by President Donald Trump that would remove ridership requirements tied to Essential Air Service designations.
There are two arguments against Almeter’s request, however, that make us think it’s unlikely the federal government is going to reopen the airport anytime soon.
First is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants travelers to be quarantined from certain states as COVID-19 cases spike again. Those quarantine requirements are likely to place enough of a damper on any tourism- or business-related travel that the airport would still likely struggle to meet adequate ridership standards to keep the flights profitable for Boutique Airlines.
Second, given the ongoing pressure on federal officials for another round of stimulus and continued help to small businesses, it’s hard to justify using federal money to reopen an airport when there are such unmet needs for people struggling to get by and small businesses who are either open or trying their best to stay open.
Almeter makes an interesting argument to reopen the Jamestown airport and his hustle is appreciated. There just seem to be greater needs right now than our small airport.