(STAR) FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa - Some of our compatriots who use ‘human rights’ as a political catchword for their vested interests might learn from the latest US-China imbroglio on “human rights”. There is a difference between a concern for human rights in themselves and when human rights accusations are used as weapons to weaken or overthrow governments not compliant enough to some superpowers. This is characteristic of the United States.

But when superpowers deal with ‘human rights’ themselves, you can be sure there will be double-talk.

I don’t know whether newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ought to be praised or criticized for her honesty. But it was jarring to say the least when she said while visiting China that “human rights” abuses would take a back seat in relations with the rising power.” That was being truthful but does it help in promoting friendship with China?

But hardly had she cooled her heels from her Asian sojourn when Washington through its periodic state department report on human rights said “China’s human rights record was worsening.” Mrs. Clinton wrote the preface to that report. “Not only will we seek to live up to our ideals on American soil, we will pursue greater respect for human rights as we engage other nations and people around the world.” Now that is a little bit more difficult to reconcile with on the ground events of just what America’s policy is on human rights. There is obviously an unresolved dilemma.

China, of course would not be mollified. At least it saw fit to immediately denounce the US, and said it had better examine its own human rights problems and not use human rights as an excuse or publish human rights reports to interfere in other countries. “The US practice of throwing stones at others while living in a glass house is a testimony to the double standards and hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with human rights issues and has undermined its international image,” the Chinese report riposted.

Well, China is China. It has the power and wherewithal to answer back American attacks on how it conducts its affairs. But you can be sure that after the press releases, the more urgent problems of economic cooperation and climate change will be back on the table as if the exchange on human rights did not happen. That is how the world goes.

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It is different when it comes to weak countries like the Philippines, a former colony that does not have the clout to talk back to the US when it is reprimanded for human rights violations. It is not because there are no human rights violations. There are and these ought to be addressed. What is open to question is when Filipinos are unable to distinguish between political machination disguised as concern for human rights and violations of human rights in themselves. Because, they are unable to make the distinction they go along with outsiders too willingly in painting their country black and compromise their own’s country’s sovereignty.

Quite incidentally but appropriately, the Chinese also used the occasion to demand the return of two ancient Chinese works of art auctioned at Christie’s. The relics were auctioned on for 14 million euros (US$17.92 million) each to anonymous telephone bidders. The inference is that the critics of ‘human rights’ have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. One of the buyers stung by the criticism surfaced and retorted he would swap two sculptures for the application of “human rights in China and the freedom of Tibet.” Bernard Brizay, author of the book 1860: the Looting of the Old Summer Palace, described the remark as stupid and said it was no different to “blackmailing for ransom.” Brizay was so incensed that the Anglo-French allied forces looted the Old Summer Palace in Beijing in the 19th century he wrote the book to document it forever.

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When one is in the departure lounge (euphemism for getting on with the years) there is a desire to go back to one’s roots. That is at least true in my case. In my search for my roots in Paete I discover many things about myself. Here’s one worth passing on to my readers.

Recently I found that I had a nephew on my mother’s side, an Adea, who is autistic but very talented and plays classical music beautifully. He has become a wonder of sorts among the Paetenos community in Canada. He will perform a solo concert on May 23, 2009 at the Braeben Golf Course Hall in Mississuaga, Ontario, Canada. The proceeds will go to handicapped Paeteno children especially those with autism. Details from

I have never met him and Toronto is too far for me to attend. You can hear some of his piano playing from his website: It is beautiful and touching. But those who are closer and able to make the journey to Toronto are invited to attend. It is better to know him through his own writing. Here is how he describes himself:

“Hello! My name is Ron Michael Quesada Carolino Adea. I am autistic. I am 14 years old. I still have a hard time speaking what I exactly want to say. I studied piano very young. I now perform at concerts and recitals. Sometimes I forget I have bad manners. I go into tantrums when I get upset. My Mama and Papa teach me how to control and relax. I want to learn everything. My brain is very busy. My favorite Web site is the Hilary Duff’s official homepage because she is my favorite singer. In the Philippines my favorite is Sarah Geronimo. Their songs make me happy. I listen to some of them and try to play on my piano by ear. I enjoy playing mostly classical music.

Click here
For Ron's online special invitation
to his first solo piano concert
"My Music and Me'

(File background music: Ron's piano rendition of
'Milonga del angel' by Astor Piazzolla




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