22nd Alaska State Legislature
For Immediate Release: January 24, 2001
Contact: Representative Lesil McGuire's Office at (907) 465-2995
(JUNEAU) -- Exiled Chinese democracy advocate Wei Jingsheng told members of the Legislature's Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Committee today that Alaska should use the economic leverage of trade to help encourage human rights reform in his homeland.
"When you talk with China's government about establishing business relations, you shouldn't separate trade and human relations," Wei told the committee thorough a translator. "Don't be afraid they'll cut off trade. China has come to depend on the U.S. market for almost 30 percent of its export profits. That's your leverage."
Rep. Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage), chair of the committee, said she invited Wei to address the committee as part of her efforts to foster Alaska's expanding international trade with the Pacific Rim. His is the first of several international dignitaries to meet with the committee during its first year of operation.
"China, Japan and Korea are some of Alaska's biggest international trading partners, and it benefits us to learn more about the issues affecting them," McGuire said. "Every opportunity to meet with these emissaries, get to know them and learn more from them improves our level of human relations, and that can't help but improve our economic relations."
Alaska exported about $84 million in goods and services to China in 1999, about 4 percent of the total $2.6 billion exports, according to the Department of Community and Economic Development. China is the state's fourth largest international trading partner, behind Japan, Korea and Canada, and Asia is the state's top export development target.
Wei spent 18 years in prison in China for speaking out in favor of democracy and against the Chinese Communist government before being exiled to the United States in 1997. He is visiting Alaska as the guest of the non-profit Alaska World Affairs Council, and planned to meet with members of the House and Senate as well as the governor during his time in Juneau.
"Mr. Wei is looking to Alaska and the United States to do everything we can to provide examples of leadership in democracy and human rights," McGuire said. "By providing him a forum to express his message in Alaska, I believe we are helping further the cause of international understanding and trade."
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