Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


October 14, 2010

Please forward.

The Chinese version of our Lessons in Democracy initiative, prepared by the Wei Jingsheng Foundation, was launched on September 27th. We can now report that the Lessons in Democracy website has been blocked by the Communist Party of China. The great and glorious CCP, with more than two trillion dollars in savings, and an increasingly powerful military, is afraid of our little book.

Of course, it is not Dictator Watch that the CCP fears, or even democracy. It is the people of China. The real power in China, in any country, lies with the people. No matter what the nature of the regime, the people can rise up and overthrow it. History has demonstrated this again and again.

The CCP, for the last sixty one years, has done everything it can to keep the Chinese people down. It only opened up economically in the late 1970s, when the country was approaching collapse (and after Mao died). The communists were therefore able to avert the fate of the Soviet Union, which did collapse due to its own centrally planned failure. But now, because of the impact of this economic transition, and, ironically, increasingly free information access for the Chinese people via the Internet, the CCP is close to losing control again. And this time, nothing can save it. The communists can relinquish power peacefully, or fall in a revolutionary cataclysm.

The CCP may try to block our book, but we will get it through. Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao may try to stop the people of China from learning about democracy, or this year's Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo, but again they will fail. The Chinese people will push harder and harder for their rights, and democracy, and the communist empire will fall.

In a revealing parallel, another Dictator Watch initiative has also been blocked, this time by the United States. In June 2008, President Bush signed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act into law. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted for the law as senators.

Section 10 of the law requires that the State Department prepare a Report on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma, by foreign countries, companies, and other entities. Subsection (b)3 covers weapons of mass destruction. The report is to be prepared annually, with an unclassified version paced on the Department's website.

The first report should have been published by January 2009 (180 days after the law was signed). It seems clear that the outgoing Bush Administration punted this political hot potato. By now there should have been two reports. The Obama Administration, as with its overall Burma policy, is indecisive on how to handle the issue, and is refusing to comply with the law.

I filed a Freedom of Information Act application with the State Department at the beginning of April, going on seven months ago. I mailed the application, just ordinary first class mail - I trust the Post Office, because the online filing system didn't work. According to State's FOIA website, "The Department's initial response will advise you of the date of receipt, the case number assigned to your request, and whether or not the records you are seeking are under the Department's control." State is required to acknowledge FOIA requests within twenty days. "In unusual circumstances, as defined in ยง171.11(k), the time limits may be extended by the Information and Privacy Coordinator for not more than 10 days, excepting Saturdays, Sundays, or legal public holidays."

I never got an acknowledgement (my letter was not returned by the Post Office as undeliverable), so after a month and a half I telephoned State's FOIA requester service at 202-261-8484, two times. Both times the officials who answered the phone said they would check on the application and call me back. Neither did.

It appears that State felt it could safely ignore the filing, because other than my word there was no proof that it existed.

I resent the application in early June, this time by certified mail and with a request for a signed delivery receipt. Almost a month later I received the receipt, but not a filing acknowledgement. I telephoned the FOIA requester service again, and the official who answered said she would check and get back to me. Amazingly, she did, and confirmed that my application had been received and that I now had a case number, and that my request was being considered and that I should receive a formal acknowledgement within a couple of weeks. I never did.

In mid-August I received a letter - at least it was addressed to me - from State. Shockingly, the letter inside was not actually for me. It was a letter to another FOIA applicant, about the status of his application. State sending the wrong letter is incomprehensible. Worse, it implies that someone else received a communication for me.

I called again, an official said she would check on it and get back to me, and once again did not. Now, in mid-October, I have not even received a formal acknowledgement for an application correctly submitted at the beginning of April, much less my real and valid goal, the first two annual reports on Military and Intelligence Aid to Burma.

Under the FOIA, you can file an appeal if the government refuses your request. What can you do if it won't even acknowledge that you made one?

What does the Obama Administration fear? What in the reports is so damaging? We and others have published intelligence that Burma's military rulers, the SPDC, are working on a clandestine nuclear program with North Korea, China, Russia and perhaps even Iran. If the government has intelligence which confirms this, and which it is required to disclose under the Tom Lantos Act, why doesn't it do it? In the 1960s, President Kennedy revealed that the Soviet Union was stationing missiles in Cuba, which precipitated a real crisis. (As a boy, I had to get under my school desk during emergency tests.) Is the Burma intelligence even more outrageous? Are Secretary Clinton and President Obama afraid that if they make only a partial disclosure, and keep the real bombshells secret, they will be held up for censure later, so it is better to stonewall and release nothing at all?

It is astonishing that both the most powerful dictatorship in the world, the CCP, and democracy's supposed champion, the United States, are blocking a small NGO. These acts, though, illuminate important facts. The CCP is paranoid, and it is willing to do anything, including imprison and kill millions of Chinese people, to retain power. (There are currently an estimated 3-5 million Chinese in the Laogai gulag prisons.) However, notwithstanding its financial resources and military strength, ultimately it will disintegrate.

Similarly, there is good reason to believe that the Obama Administration is hiding important information about United States national security, and which secrecy disturbingly may be tied to its diplomacy with, and fear of, the CCP.