Tom Lantos Has Died

Very sad.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A spokeswoman for Rep. Tom Lantos of California says the congressman has died.

Spokeswoman Lynne Weill said Monday morning that the 80-year-old Lantos, the only survivor of the Holocaust to serve in Congress, died at Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

Lantos, a Democrat who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed last month that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.

Lantos may not have been the most progressive Dem out there, but he was one of the strongest supporters of human rights in Tibet and Tibetan efforts for freedom. My background is in the Tibetan independence movement and so I’ve always looked very fondly on Lantos, even while not agreeing with him on other foreign policy issues. He was a huge ally in the fight against, a search engine designed to censor information people in China and Tibet could access. Lantos spoke out forcefully against Google’s weaselly self-defense.
These words are likely what I will most remember Lantos for, as they speak to his moral clarity when it comes to human rights and freedom:

Companies that have blossomed in this country and make billions, a country that reveres freedom of speech, have chosen to ignore that core value in expanding their reach overseas and to erect a “Great Firewall” to suit Beijing’s purposes.

These massively successful high-tech companies which couldn’t bring themselves to send their representatives to our Human Rights Caucus briefing Wednesday on China and the Internet should be ashamed. With all their power and influence, wealth and high visibility, they neglected to commit to the kind of positive action that human rights activists in China take every day. They caved in to Beijing’s demands for the sake of profits, or whatever else they choose to call it.


It has also been argued Internet companies are entitled to apply the same rules of engagement in China that they apply elsewhere. In Germany, for example, where denying the Holocaust is against the law, access to Neo-Nazi Web pages is impossible via Google. The company notifies its users that not all Web pages may be available. And in its new China services, Google issues a similar warning.

But as the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, I cannot begin to describe how disgusted I am by this particular argument. Because, in essence, it equates the vile language and evil purposes of Neo-Nazi groups and hate speech with content provided by the human rights activists of Falun Gong, by journalists and by democracy activists in China. There simply is no comparison between efforts of the democratically-elected government of the Federal Republic of Germany to move against hate-mongerers, and the Chinese regime cracking down on religious freedom, human rights and democracy.

China’s appalling human rights record never was a secret. U.S. Internet companies simply cannot claim they had no idea of what doing business there could entail. The Internet has always been a vital tool for human rights and democracy advocates in China, and a vital link with the outside world of its oppressed people.

Our Internet companies should have known, because for years their most loyal customers in China have gone to extraordinary technical lengths to bypass government’s controls of the Internet.

If these companies had stood up to Beijing from the beginning, demanding that they retain physical control of their own servers by having them located outside of China, the picture would be very different today.

This is a sad day.

One thought on “Tom Lantos Has Died

  1. Thank goodness he spoke out about the Genocide of Falun Gong in China. He will be remembered and revered in the future for his stance on this 21st century holocaust in China today. People may forget but the Buddhas Daos and Gods in the heavens do not.


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