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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?"

"Welcome Pelosi. Pay close attention to human rights. SOS."

May 26, 2009
May 25, 2009

House Speaker Nancy has flown from one human
rights controversy (waterboarding) right into
another one (the fight for democracy in China).

Pelosi -- who has clashed with China's leadership
over human rights for decades -- has remained mum
(as far as we know) during the first couple of
days of her week-long trip to the mainland, which
is focused on global warming issues.

But her presence has inspired protesters who well
remember a very different Pelosi visit back in
1991, when she spoke out strongly against the
Tiananmen crackdown, when she unfurled a
pro-democracy banner surreptitiously in the
square before speeding away in a taxi.

On Sunday, dozens of peaceful protesters gathered
outside of the Beijing Supreme Court building to
complain about the slow pace of free speech
trials -- and urge the Speaker to back their
cause during talks with country's leaders,
according to, a dissident web site that
has been banned from the Internet in China and is
run off servers in North Carolina.

One protester held up the following sign [above]:
"Welcome Pelosi. Pay close attention to human rights. SOS."

The police allowed the protest to continue but
kept the protesters "at bay," according to an
English-language summary of the site's top news
stories. [If any Mandarin speakers care to
translate the full article, please post it in the
comments section and I'll update.]

So far, Pelosi has publicly declined to discuss
the issue of free speech or Tibet explicitly on
the trip -- or during the surreal Capitol press
conference on Friday, where she dodged the
question. That doesn't mean she won't, or course,
just that she hasn't yet -- and her staff is
saying what she plans, one way or the other.

In a speech this morning at the American Chamber
of Commerce in Shanghai, Pelosi uttered the words
"human rights," but only in the context of
defending her past record -- and tying the issue
obliquely to her environmental agenda.

"We have come to China at the invitation of the
Chinese government because we believe China and
the United States must confront the urgent
challenge of climate change together," she said,
according to a quote sent to reporters this morning.

"Protecting human rights has been a top priority
for me throughout my career in Congress. I will
continue to speak out for human rights in China
and around the world. Indeed, protecting the
environment is a human rights issue," she said.
"We hope to send a clear message that
transparency, accountability, enforcement, and
respect for the rule of law are essential if we are to protect our planet."

Pelosi's history of impromptu protest means it's
possible she has something planned later in her
trip -- or that she's expressing her concerns
privately to leaders. Her office has been mum
about all aspects of the trip -- even urging me
and other reporters not to report on it for
"security" reasons when word of it leaked about a week ago.

Pelosi's circumspection may be exacerbated by the
fact that she is the highest-ranking U.S.
official in Asia during North Korea's nuke test.

She addressed that issue on Monday, according to the AP:

"If today's announcement is true, these tests
would be a clear violation of United Nations
Security Council Resolution 1718, which requires
that North Korea not conduct any further nuclear
tests. Such action by North Korea is unacceptable
and cause for great alarm," Pelosi said in a written statement.

Pelosi said she and other members of her
delegation planned to urge Chinese leaders to use
their influence to get the North to return to
six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear program.

UPDATE: Pelosi hit Beijing harder on the Yuan and
pirated DVDs, according to the full text of her Shanghai speech.

"Over the years, Members of Congress have
expressed concerns on many controversial issues
related to U.S.-China trade policy. We know that
our trade relationship with China has not been
balanced, and the trade deficit has grown to more than $266 billion a year.

"We know China’s low currency is making our
exports to China more expensive then they would
be without capital controls. Little has been done
to prevent the sale of pirated and counterfeit
goods, as was promised as part of China’s
accession to the WTO. Last, much more must be
done to improve food and product safety inspections between our two countries.
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