All that embarrassment—and it was embarrassing—was for nothing. Top-rank journalist Jane Perlez of the New York Times reports from Hangzhou that “Obama failed to raise human rights concerns about China. He made only a glancing reference to differences with Beijing over religious freedom.”
Differences? As if the problem was a lack of mutual understanding instead of the unilateral suppression of Christianity.
The American diffidence on human rights, notes Perlez, comes at a time “when Beijing is carrying out the most sweeping crackdown on Chinese civil society in 20 years.
“As Obama moved to Laos for the ASEAN summit,” writes Perlez, “human rights advocates worried that their concerns were falling off the American agenda, not only with China but across the region.”
In Laos, Obama kept mum over the disappearance of a US-trained civil rights worker at a Lao police checkpoint 4 years ago.
In Vietnam, Obama lifted a longstanding ban n the sale of lethal weapons without winning significant concessions on human rights.
“And after trying to draw closer to Malaysia, Obama was embarrassed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib’s closing of online news outlets and his prosecution of opposition figures” as he clings to power following corruption charges; possibly related to the funding of the BBL. So why the diffidence, the shyness, the downright refusal to bring up human rights?
One reason is that historically the United States has only a fitful and fleeting concern with human rights abroad—unless it is trying to overthrow the government concerned. And today it seems awkward to raise the issue while fat black people in the United States are being shot because they offer slower and bigger targets.
And two, all the countries mentioned are either poised to challenge Chinese domination of the aptly named South Chinese sea. Or submit to it. In Vietnam’s case, for cash for the party leadership; in other cases out of fear: common land borders with China put these countries within 72 hours striking distance of China.
First and foremost of the countries that the U.S. needs to counter Chinese influence in the China’s natural sphere of influence is the Philippines.
Now, does it look like Obama was gonna lash Duterte with a harsh tongue or cajole him with a silver one?
At best Obama would have made glancing reference to the streets of Manila and the looming shortage of packing tape. I did not see it going any farther than that because legitimate powers, great and small, consistently keep up a polite way of handling “un-pleasantries” on the world stage.
I thought it would all be made good at the dinner where Duterte was to be wedged between Obama and the Korean. But the sitting arrangements were changed. While a photo shows Duterte looking up the table at Obama, Obama does not take his eyes away from the sultan of Brunei.
Still, it is over. Let us hope that lessons have been learned. And on future foreign occasions—if any after this, more intelligence will be exerted than poor imitations of Hollywood. Enough with the movie director already.
Notice: I did not use a single harsh expression or foul word. It can be done.
Now, sleep tight. And don’t let the bedbugs bite, as Madeline Kahn told Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein—a more appropriate movie for our times.
And Gene Wilder passed away.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.