Yesterday the Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing on China’s crackdown on human rights lawyers. As of this writing, the links to the prepared statements of Terence Halliday and Teng Biao don’t work, but you can hear their testimony (and that of other witnesses) here on YouTube.
Marco Rubio asks the panel a pair of important questions: (1) does lobbying in private work better, as some claim, than public pressure as a way of advancing human rights generally or helping the cases of particular people, and (2) do all the hearings, public statements, expressions of concern, etc. actually make a difference to activists themselves?
The answer of the panelists is unequivocal: public pressure is important, and public statements matter. On the first point, people in detention report that their treatment improved after public expressions of concern. On the second point, activists themselves say that it matters to them to know that the outside world is paying attention. None of this should come as any surprise; dissidents in the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites told us the same thing years ago.
There are still people who say they really do care about human rights in China, and advocate a softly-softly approach simply out of a different calculation of what works. I won’t say they are all acting in bad faith. But for those acting in good faith, well, few things are certain in this world, but the weight of the empirical evidence really doesn’t support you.