China’s UN ambassador talks terror, human rights

Wang Yingfan, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, began his career in a way unfamiliar to most Americans.

“I didn’t get into this field out of my own choice, I can tell you,” Wang said. “My government decided that I should go and study English and join the Foreign Service. Fortunately, I like it.”

The crowded room of about 80 people erupted in laughter at the remark. Wang touched on many other issues during Thursday’s Morse College Master’s Tea, which was held in association with the Yale International Relations Association.

With 37 years of experience, Wang has served his country in the United Kingdom, Ghana, the Philippines and China and is now his country’s representative to the United Nations.

“I was very surprised when they asked me to accept this post. It is a great challenge,” he said. “I am very happy to be here. I am proud to represent China. We believe that we can play a peaceful and positive role in the world. My role as a diplomat is to help create a favorable international environment for China.”

One of the first questions Wang fielded after his speech regarded human rights.

“[It is] an issue of great concern,” Wang said.

He did not answer audience questions about many controversial human rights at great length, but he said human rights were improving as China developed economically. He said a Gross Domestic Product growth rate of approximately nine percent has enabled China to improve food production and distribution, housing, clothing, and sanitation and thus to improve basic human rights.

After the tea was over, members of Amnesty International presented the ambassador with 80 letters urging China to consider its policy on various human rights issues. The ambassador opened one letter and read it, promising to read the rest as well.

“I think that it is very important that politicians and diplomats have human rights on the top of their minds,” Amnesty member Sara Aviel ’02 said. “We think it is very fundamental. I am very grateful that we were able to bring up this issue here, and we also appreciated the ambassador’s openness.”

During his initial talk, the ambassador spoke of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and said China denounced terrorism.

“We need a peaceful, stable world. Not a chaotic, turbulent one,” Wang said. “This is where America and China, as well as the rest of the world, can work together.”

During the question and answer period, a student asked the ambassador about China’s stance on the current military operations in Afghanistan.

“Sept. 11 was an attack on all of human civilization, not just America,” Wang said. “It is a challenge not only to the U.S.A., but also to the whole international community. Certainly China did not say ‘yes’ to the retaliatory attacks, but we did not say ‘no’ either. We said that we support all means of fighting terrorism. We of course hope that Afghan civilian casualties are minimized. We deplore loss of life, wherever it is.”

During the tea, the ambassador also discussed such issues as the crisis over the U.S. spy plane that was downed in China last spring; the transition of Hong Kong and Macau to Chinese rule; the passing and implementation of over 300 new laws in China; and problems of excess labor in rural China.

“This was a great session,” Morse College Master Frank Keil said. “The ambassador was very open, and there was a remarkable interchange of ideas. I am very impressed.”

Jonathan Kaufman ’02 said he also enjoyed the talk.

“It was an engaging discussion,” Kaufman said. “The ambassador was very straightforward and open. And I am glad the discussion avoided any controversy.”

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