by Jacob G. Hornberger
Outgoing U.S. ambassador to China Jon M. Huntsman Jr. recently issued a broadside against China’s human-rights record, a pointed attack that comes in the wake of a brutal crackdown on dissent by the communist regime. “The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity wherever it may occur.”
What hypocrisy. Surely, the good ambassador has heard of the U.S. government’s infamous prison camp and “judicial system” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Sure, everyone knows that the Chinese regime is a brutal regime, one that pays no regard to civil liberties. In China, there is no right to trial by jury, no right of due process of law, no right to be presumed innocent, no right to be free of cruel and unusual punishments, no right to bail, no right to confront witnesses, no right to remain silent, and no right to speedy trial.
Chinese officials arbitrarily arrest people, including criminal-defense attorneys, whom they disdain. They incarcerate people indefinitely, they torture and brutalize them, and they even execute them, usually after some sort of kangaroo “judicial” proceeding.
And sure, it used to be that the United States stood for such important rights as trial by jury, due process of law, the presumption of innocence, no cruel and unusual punishments, bail, confrontation of witnesses, remaining silent, and speedy trial. That’s what the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments are all about.
Not anymore. Just ask the men that the U.S. government has kept imprisoned at its Guantanamo Bay prison camp for some 10 years.
They get a kangaroo tribunal rather than trial by jury, just like in China.
They don’t get due process of law, just like in China.
They get presumed guilty, just like in China.
They get tortured, abused, isolated, and brutalized, just like in China.
They don’t get bail, just like in China.
They don’t get to confront witnesses against them, just like in China.
They get coerced into making confessions, just like in China.
They don’t get effective assistance of counsel, just like in China.
They don’t get a speedy trial, just like in China.
Lest anyone think that the U.S. government’s “emergency” powers are limited to foreigners, not so. The federal courts held in the Jose Padilla case that the U.S. government has the post-9/11 authority to treat American citizens as “enemy combatants” in the government’s perpetual “war on terrorism.”
Americans could once take pride in having the finest criminal-justice system in the world, thanks to the wisdom and courage of our ancestors who insisted on the passage of the Bill of Rights as a condition for letting the federal government come into existence.
No longer. While the efforts by President Bush, President Obama, the Pentagon, and the CIA to make the U.S. government’s extensive overseas prison system, including its prison camp at Gitmo, into a Constitution-free zone may have filled the Chinese communists with a sense of pride, the only proper feelings left for Americans are revulsion, shame, and embarrassment.
As Ambassador Huntsman condemns the Chinese criminal-justice system, he would be wise to familiarize himself with the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.” After all, what better way to lead than by example, rather than by hypocritical criticism of others?
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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