Comments: Let Them Do Their Business http://www.laurawalker.org/#001910
Laura Walker runs a great BLOG. When she posted the following I made some comments of my own. For the whole thread visit her site:
Am I missing something fundamental? How does Chris Smith justify interfering in Google’s business?
The decision by Chris Smith, a Republican congressman from New Jersey who chairs a House subcommittee on Human Rights, to call for a February 16 hearing to examine the operating procedures of US internet companies in China, represents the first signs of what could become a serious backlash against Google and other internet companies in Washington that are perceived as capitulating to the Chinese government.
What are the hearings supposed to accomplish? Why not let Google incur the righteous wrath of the global market? Why should the government get involved?
Comments from others posting have been removed. Here are my responses only:
Chris is a man of conviction who believes in justice and the right to life. He has even been critical of fellow Republicans who made too many compromises. I have heard him speak many times and have had several personal conversations with him, even on the steps of the Capitol (two women I know work in his office). He reminds me of Jimmy Stewart’s MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.
If he ran for President, I would vote for him.
Chris Smith is a wonderful pro-life politician who is very concerned about the issue of human rights. He wants to send a sign to the Internet business community that it should not collaborate with goverments that seek to silence and to oppress their people.
Back in 2002, China blocked access to Google from Chinese computers and attempted to create its own search engine, with limited results. In return for access, Google has created software to exclude content not approved by the Chinese government.
Although not mentioned here, Chris Smith no doubt also wants to send a message to Microsoft (MSN) that they are not exempt from such an investigation either. They also censor their search engine for the Chinese and have even taken down Chinese BLOGs deemed political by the government. I read of one case recently where the information provided about the identity of the Blogger was used by the Chinese government to prosecute the man responsible. That means that collaboration with the Communists by Internet companies in the U.S. could lead to the imprisonment or even the torture and execution of men and women in China.
I would say that was pretty important and given that Chinese slave labor provides many of our goods today; it is doubtful that the business community left to itself would do anything about it.
Of course, it was our government that has permitted trade with China, despite human rights concerns … and Chris Smith is only one man.
Smith, who is chairman of the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, continued, “Through the efforts of the Clinton Administration, we have abandoned the American ideals of freedom and democracy for the sake of marginally cheaper consumer goods from China. We have squandered our patrimony of liberty for the profit of corporations who want access to China’s inexpensive labor market. It is time to do an about face, to condition expanded trade relations upon respect for internationally recognized, fundamental human rights. If we can promote sanctions for video games and rock-and-roll, why can’t we do it to preserve human rights?”
CHINA & GOOGLE
“It is astounding that Google, whose corporate philosophy is ‘don’t be evil,’ would enable evil by cooperating with China’s censorship policies just to make a buck,” said Smith, who has been a leading human rights advocate since being elected to Congress. “China’s policy of cutting off the free flow of information is prohibitive for the growth of democracy and the rule of law. Many Chinese have suffered imprisonment and torture in the service of truth – and now Google is collaborating with their persecutors.”
Posted by Father Joe at January 29, 2006 11:07 AM
GW’s old man, the first George Bush, would agree with arguments that it is better to allow unrestricted business cooperation with China. Although, it seems that we have become as dependent upon their goods as they are with our money. Many of the social changes about which we hoped have failed to materialize. As for myself, I would also argue for political and economic relations with them; but always with strings attached. Our treatment of Taiwan after the Nixon/Ford Administrations has always bothered me. As for Hong Kong, the British made a treaty with a China that no longer existed; they should have been given sovereignty. But those are my pet notions.While our country is no paragon of virtue, nations and the world community do have an obligation to insure that businesses and organizations do not trample upon basic human rights. Collaboration with evil makes one an accomplice, for which God will judge each and every one of us. Utilitarian arguments are outrightly rejected by the Catholic Church.
I recall the arguments about opening Western businesses to China when the first President Bush gave most favored status to China; and certainly no one wants to isolate China from the rest of the world. However, economics is the only wedge short of military intervention that we have with the Communists. Do we sacrifice human rights at the altar of consumerism and materialism, either of the Socialist or Capitalist variety?
This growing middle-class in China is still less than one percent of the population. Most of the wealth generated goes to a few hundred families among the upper Communist hierarchy. Middle-class in China translates to making between $3,000 to $12,000 a year, what would rate as the poverty level in the U.S. Many of these will themselves have a servant or maid that is paid $50 a month. 70% of the 1.3 billion population are peasants who earn about $100 a year!
Guess what? Finding computers in schools and coffee-houses, the majority of the bloggers and those questioning Chinese politics are from the poor! Religious persecution is still a predominate cause for Internet censorship and prosecution. This includes the Chinese who reject the Patriotic Catholic Church and accept the authority of the Pope. The Internet is giving people in China a voice to speak out about oppression. Big business left to itself does not care about this; even many in government do not. People who embrace the basic human values in government and business must work together, not only against oppression in lands like China, but also against the passivity and blindness of so many in the West.
I generally believe that government should not interefere with business; however, I qualify this with the exception of human rights. When Prell Shampoo a few years ago was adding human fetal material to shampoo as “animal protein”– individuals, organizations and government got involved. We have fair labor laws that try to preserve safety and dignity to workers. Products produced by companies must face safety requirements. Again and again, when it comes to human rights, governments and other organizations must get involved.
China might be on the other side of the globe. But they are people too with basic human rights and dignity. We should not enable, either through inactivity or secondary collaboration, those who would silence the voice of the poor, those yearning to be free.
Posted by frjoe at January 30, 2006 11:21 AM
Generalizing [Nothing was meant against other posters.]
Posted by frjoe at January 30, 2006 07:49 PM
[Again, nothing personal intended by these remarks.]
A television news report announced that because of contracts with companies like Matel, 90% of all toys sold in the U.S. are manufactured in China. Few Chinese children will ever play with such toys. Autom Catholic Religious Goods catalogues advertise inexpensive articles, almost all from China. However, all of it is reserved to foreign export and domestic circulation would be regarded a crime. Heck, even my DVD Player has “Made in China” on the back.
Dollar Stores came into existence because of this trade. Other nations could step in, but there is no underestimating its vast scope.
But you are right, while it would cost us, the U.S. could flex its business muscle for the sake of human rights. But each year the interdependence seems to become more pervasive. There may come a day when such an action would be too costly.
To illustrate how things have so rapidly changed, it was only in the 1980’s that the last television set wholly manufactured in the U.S. was produced (ZENITH). Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and now also China produce them for us. When it came to clothing, many of us always looked for the “Union Label” and took pride in wearing shirts, pants, and dresses manufactured in the U.S. But the cost disparity became too much for the poor and the average working man. This started happening in the 1960’s. I recall my first concession to the trend when my mother bought me a new coat for school. It was the mid-1960’s and the coat’s label read, “This coat is manufactured by the free people of the Republic of SOUTH VIETNAM.” Evidently it was an effort to support our allies economically while in conflict with the Communist North. I wore that coat with pride, even though I was only in the fourth grade, because (in my mind) it symbolized freedom and justice.
By the way, there was an expose some years ago about Walmart where reporters followed shirts and pants from China sweatshops to the U.S. They found that they were sold at Walmart carrying the designation, “Made in the U.S.A.” When challenged about this, the executives at Walmart said that there was nothing deceptive for while the clothes were of Chinese origin, the attached label was indeed, made in the Unites States.
Not deceptive? The label? And these are the people who are supposed to stand up for human rights and justice?
The dilemma about the Internet is just the newest wrinkle in this situation: how far do you collaborate with thugs to make a buck? Where arguments might be made that trade helps the poor and middle class of China; for an American or Western company to assist in the restriction of information and free speech of Chinese dissidents is something else. And to hand over information that leads to the arrest, imprisonment, and maybe torture of such people is the worst case scenerio.
I am not utterly opposed to trade with China.
But I do have problems with Google installing censorship software at the behest of the Chinese government that blocks religious sites like the Vatican and Free the Fathers and Blogs where men and women yearning to be free speak out.
The Chinese tried to create their own search engine back in 2002 and made a mess of things. We should not be helping them in this. It is a criminal act, at least in the eyes of God.
Posted by frjoe at January 31, 2006 09:11 AM