Deng Upgraded To Satisfactory Condition As Superwoman Arrives!

By Steve Myers
web posted March 1997

Deng Xiao Ping was cremated last month: his condition is now said to be satisfactory. The death of China's dictator provoked strange reactions in the West. How would we have treated the death of an elderly Adolf Hitler? Would CBS have shown him miming the Elvis Presley tune 'Love me Tender', as they did with Deng? Of course it is unfair to compare Hitler and Deng: Hitler murdered only 11 million people. CBS also described his successor, Jiang Zemin as "easy going". The US Ambassador to China, former Senator James Sasser described him as a "very warm and engaging individual with a great interest in American movies." What a tremendous comfort that will be to the millions in the Laogai Prison Camps.

Tactfully, foreign leaders were not invited to the funeral; just 10 000 carefully chosen officials and workers bussed in from factories for the orchestrated solemnity and insincere eulogies. Under strict supervision, they were ordered to weep before the television cameras, having perfected the Clintonesque art of crying out of just one eye, in Haley Barbour's memorable phrase. President Jiang said the people of China "loved Deng Xiao Ping, thanked him and cherished his memory. Without Comrade Deng Xiao Ping they would not have the standard of life they enjoy today." Though many have risen above the socialist squalor they inherited from Mao, those in the forced labor camps might disagree with Mr. Jiang. He promised to continue Deng's policies, so presumably we may expect more repression, torture and death. In an unusual part of the eulogy, he added that Taiwan would "certainly be unified". He need not have worried: the people of Taiwan are already unified in their belief that they want nothing to do with his bloodthirsty regime. Outside the Great Hall of the People, anyone displaying placards praising Deng was taken away in a police van. A crowd gathered at the train station, where the ceremony was shown on a large screen. The station clock chimed the opening bars of The East is Red, the Cultural Revolution anthem, and Li Peng, the Chinese Prime Minister, told the crowd to "grieve in silence". Deng is respected for the prosperity he has brought, but most Chinese people have managed to contain their grief.

In London, the former Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath, was attacked by Chris Patten, the Governor of Hong Kong, after a House of Commons eulogy in which he had said that Deng had handled the Tiananmen Square situation "very well". Members of Parliament called Heath an "apologist for murder" and Mr. Patten said: "Anybody who has led a government in a parliamentary democracy would, I would have thought, have had a greater regard for human rights and civil liberties. I think the world will regard the way Beijing handles Hong Kong as a litmus test of the way China is going to behave on the international stage." Surely the people of Hong Kong are entitled to feel a little nervous? With just 17 weeks to go until the British Government smilingly hands them over to the brutal communist regime, they will feel little comfort at being considered the guinea pigs in a grand international policy experiment.

Back in Beijing, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave a surprisingly Churchillian performance to her predecessor's Chamberlain. She arrived wearing a black Stetson and cloak that made her resemble a combination of John Wayne and Superwoman. She told the Chinese to "act constructively" to improve human rights: no more hand-wringing or the US, currently suffering a $40 billion trade deficit with China, will step up the pressure and may even deny President Jiang a night in the Lincoln bedroom. (Actually the waiting list is too long, but don't tell the Chinese.) Tellingly, she added: "Some people's historical context is Vietnam: mine is Munich." The people of Hong Kong must hope she will extend her tough posture. Until now, Washington has been reluctant to help them and there is not much time left. Mrs. Albright should recall another Elvis Presley tune: It's Now or Never.

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