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Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Hawaiian proposal
deserves examination

Bullet The issue: A Republican leader proposes combining the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in a private trust.

Bullet Our view: Despite Governor Cayetano's opposition, the Legislature should give the proposal full consideration.

THE Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands are the state agencies most directly concerned with the Hawaiian community. If Hawaiian sovereignty is ever achieved, they would comprise the foundation of self-government.

However, there is considerable disagreement as to how to attain sovereignty and what to do about OHA and DHHL in the immediate future. The Rice vs. Cayetano decision and the Barrett vs. State of Hawaii lawsuit have cast doubt over the ability of these agencies to withstand constitutional challenge.

State Sen. Fred Hemmings, the Republican floor leader, plans to introduce a bill that would combine OHA and Hawaiian Home Lands in a private trust. He maintains this would give the agencies autonomy and protect them from challenges.

Governor Cayetano opposes the idea. In his State of the State address, he contended that combining the agencies might make it easier for their opponents to destroy them.

OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona urged caution, saying a final decision should be left to the people, especially Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Perhaps of greater importance than this proposal is what happens to the bill proposing federal recognition of Hawaiian rights to self government as an indigenous people. The measure died in the last Congress but has just been reintroduced by Senators Akaka and Inouye.

Passage might insulate OHA and DHHL against charges of unconstitutional discrimination based on race -- the argument that prevailed in Rice vs. Cayetano to nullify OHA's Hawaiians-only voting restriction.

Cayetano vowed to fully employ the state's resources to defend OHA and DHHL against the challenge of the Barrett suit.

But the state lost the Rice case and there is considerable uncertainty about Barrett. If the state lost that case it presumably would mean demolition of the legal basis for those agencies and dismantling of the state's programs for Hawaiians.

It isn't clear whether Cayetano or Hemmings has the better argument on this issue. Combining OHA and DHHL has merit, but whether it should be done now or after the way has been cleared for Hawaiian self government is a question that deserves thorough examination.

Hemmings' proposal ought to be given full consideration by the Legislature -- which seldom happens to bills introduced by Republicans. This question is too important to be a victim of petty partisanship.

China’s false claims
to respect human rights

Bullet The issue: China says it will ratify an international human rights treaty.

Bullet Our view: China pays lip service to human rights while blatantly violating them.

CHINESE leaders have told U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan they intend to ratify an international human rights treaty within the next few months. This is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which China signed in 1997. Beijing has also yet to ratify another key agreement, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998.

A spokeswoman for Annan said he was told the covenant "might be or would be ratified" during the first quarter of the year, possibly in March, and the secretary-general welcomed the assurance.

Annan couldn't have been very impressed. He must know better. China pays lip service to human rights but in practice violates them at will. Ratification is only a gesture intended to mollify China's critics, perhaps to improve the prospects of Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

A far better gauge of the state of human rights in China is the fact that five members of the Falun Gong sect doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves ablaze in Beijing's Tiananmen Square yesterday. One died of her burns.

Falun Gong combines religious meditation and exercise and says it is nonpolitical. Nevertheless the government regards it as a threat and banned it 18 months ago. But many members of Falun Gong, who reported number in the millions, have defied the ban.

The sect has been leafleting and painting slogans around Beijing in recent months. The self-immolation of its members was one of several protests as China began observance of the lunar new year, its biggest holiday.

In Tiananmen Square, small groups of protesters handed out leaflets and raised banners underneath the portrait of Mao Tse-tung before police could arrest them.

China's attempt to suppress Falun Gong, which is a mixture of Taoist and Buddhist beliefs and traditional exercises, is only the latest example of the regime's hostility toward religion. Earlier it crushed Tibetan Buddhism, forcing the Dalai Lama to flee into exile. It persecutes Christians as well.

Self-immolations were practiced by Buddhist monks in Saigon in the 1960s to protest repression by the South Vietnamese government. They contributed to the turbulence that led to the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.

CHINA'S Communist leaders are in no imminent peril of overthrow by such tactics, but they cannot tolerate dissent. The 1989 student demonstrations for democracy in Tiananmen Square left them shaken and determined to stamp out any movement based on independent thought.

The United States and other democracies have to live with China, but they must not close their eyes to its violations of human rights. Only the naive could be fooled by Beijing's professions of respect for those rights.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

Frank Bridgewater, Acting Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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