Somewhere between the desert basins and craggy mountains of far west China, in the lonely expanse to which criminals and subversives have been exiled for generations, a human rights lawyer named Gao Zhisheng presumably sits in prison.
Meanwhile, 6,600 miles away, his wife peels a tangerine in the underground cafeteria of the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill. She’s been wearing the same beige blouse for three days. The bunkerlike eatery echoes with lunchtime chatter. She understands little of it.
Across town, at the State Department about 12:30 Tuesday afternoon, the vice president of her home country is seated at lunch with the vice president of her adoptive country. Invitees sip a sparkling cuvee and dine on soy-marinated Alaskan butterfish.
Xi Jinping, the vice president of China and heir apparent to the Communist Party leadership, refers to “human rights” six times in his speech after lunch.
“Of course, there is always room for improvement when it comes to human rights,” Xi says. “We will, in the light of China’s national conditions, continue to take concrete and effective policies and measures to promote social fairness, justice and harmony, and push forward China’s course of human rights.”