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April 20, 2006

WITH HU JINTAO VISITING THE WHITE HOUSE, I hope somebody leaves a copy of today's Washington Post lying around open to this oped by Rebecca MacKinnon:

Another victim of Chinese state kidnapping -- with whom I am personally connected -- is Wu Hao, an independent filmmaker, blogger and U.S. permanent resident. It is unclear why state agents abducted him on Feb. 22, but his friends think it may be related to his work on a documentary about China's underground Christians. He continues to be held -- this is the 58th day of his detention -- despite the fact that Chinese law limits the maximum detention without charge to 37 days.

About a month before his abduction, Hao (his first name) also took up the part-time role of Northeast Asia editor for an international bloggers' network that I co-founded, Global Voices Online ( http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/ ). He was excited about introducing the perspectives of Chinese bloggers to an English-speaking audience. He also kept an English-language blog at http://beijingorbust.blogspot.com/ . While his writings were considerably more honest and edgy than those in the China Daily, he was by no means a dissident and often defended his government against Western criticism.

Hao turned 34 this week. He personifies a generation of urban Chinese who have flourished thanks to the Communist Party's embrace of market-style capitalism and greater cultural openness. He got his MBA from the University of Michigan and worked for EarthLink before returning to China to pursue his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker. He and his sister, Nina Wu, who works in finance and lives a comfortable middle-class life in Shanghai, have enjoyed freedoms of expression, travel, lifestyle and career choice that their parents could never have dreamed of. They are proof of how U.S. economic engagement with China has been overwhelmingly good for many Chinese.

Problem is, the Chinese Dream can be shattered quickly if you step over a line that is not clearly drawn -- a line that is kept deliberately vague and that shifts frequently with the political tides. Those who were told by the Chinese media that they have constitutional and legal rights are painfully disabused of such fantasies when they seek to shed light on social and religious issues the state prefers to keep in the dark. . . . But we have a serious problem that won't go away: How can Americans respect or trust a regime that kidnaps our friends?

The Chinese Embassy's website is here.

UPDATE: At least Bush raised the subject:

As the relationship between our two nations grows and matures, we can be candid about our disagreements. I'll continue to discuss with President Hu the importance of respecting human rights and freedoms of the Chinese people. China has become successful because the Chinese people are experience the freedom to buy, and to sell, and to produce -- and China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship.

Indeed.