Of Double Standards And Dinner

As he went into exile, Fang Lizhi pledged to study quietly at Cambridge University and to refrain from "opposing" China. But the most prominent survivor of the Tiananmen Square crackdown made it clear last week that he will keep pushing for human-rights reforms in China--even if it means criticizing the policy that freed him from 386 days of confinement in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. During an NBC News interview in London, the astrophysicist accused the United States of holding the Soviet Union to a tougher standard on human rights than it does China. Asked about President Bush's controversial decision last year to send a top-level delegation to Beijing, Fang said: "I don't think that's a good idea." He told how he and his wife, Li Shuxian, learned to cook in the U.S. Embassy microwave, christening their refuge "high-tech Chinese restaurant. " Then he laughingly invited himself to meet Bush: "He still owes dinner for us. "

That's freedom. Bush once invited Fang to a Beijing banquet (police kept him away), but having the dissident to dinner is the last thing Bush needs to advance his China strategy. In pushing for reform, the administration has offered improved relations--including most-favored-nation trading status--while urging the release of Fang and others. Caught off guard by Fang's request for a meeting, Bush countered: "I thought he wanted to stay out of the public eye." He dismissed the charge that the United States has a double standard. But he added: "I am heartened that Fang Lizhi is free and free now to say what's on his mind."