Shame on China

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Shame on China

China has denied visas to three Korean students studying at a U.S. university for a concert tour across the country. The Moon Jae-in administration must not simply brush off this alarming decision by Beijing. The Chinese government has systematically fueled anti-Korean sentiment among its people since South Korea allowed the United States to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield in North Gyeongsang province in 2016. Despite Beijing’s denial of a government-orchestrated hate campaign against South Korea and its people, China’s recent action shows its animosity has even expanded to cultural activities of Koreans studying abroad.

An orchestra from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester was scheduled to start a concert tour of eight Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Hangzhou, from Dec. 30 through Jan. 8. The Eastman Philharmonia — a group of more than 80 student musicians at the school in Rochester — attempted to push forward the tour after excluding the three Korean students in the beginning. But the school postponed the tour after it encountered strong criticism in America that it capitulated to the Communist Party of China. According to the school, its Chinese partner notified it in late September that the three Koreans could not get visas. Even though the school authorities contacted congressional leaders in the United States and the Chinese Consulate in New York to help the Korean students get visas, Beijing flatly denied any maliciousness.

The dean of the school linked China’s denial of visas to the “United States’ decision to deploy the Thaad antimissile system in South Korea” three years ago. In fact, the Chinese government took unfair retaliations against South Korea since the U.S. military installed the missile batteries, which are aimed at defending us against nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. China put restrictions on group tours to South Korea. South Korea’s world-class soprano Sumi Jo had to cancel a tour in China as she could not get a visa in 2017. Even now, Beijing is enforcing tough restrictions on Korean actors’ performances and appearances in Chinese dramas and movies, not to mention a de facto ban on broadcasting popular Korean dramas in China.

And yet a Chinese spokesperson denied any connection between the visa denials and the Thaad deployment. “They are two separate cases,” he said. The latest episode explicitly shows the rigid and closed nature of the Chinese system even after its dramatic rise as a superpower.

China staged a gargantuan event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1. In a speech that day, Chinese President Xi Jinping described a so-called Chinese dream of a rich, strong, democratic, modernized, harmonious and socialist state. But without first respecting international norms and the universal values of liberty, democracy and human rights, the Chinese dream will remain a pipe dream. If Beijing denied visas to Korean students for such punitive reasons, it can never be respected by the rest of the world. That will have to be the Chinese dream for now.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 1, Page 34
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