WHO can blame Harry Wu Hongda for indignation at Hillary Rodham Clinton's off-again, on-again trip to the United Nation's World Conference on Women in Beijing? He is not the only person to see a link between Washington's efforts to secure his release and the First Lady's desire to be a star of the women's movement. The speed of the decision to let Mrs Clinton visit Beijing indicates that the White House still lacks an overall China policy and plays events day by day, with all the uncertainty that this creates. Mrs Clinton's attendance is supposed to show her commitment to the rights of the oppressed. Once Mr Wu was at liberty, she felt free to travel to Beijing - thus ignoring the continued refusal of visas to other women whose views Beijing dislikes but whose right to attend a UN conference is not something a woman of Mrs Clinton's professed views should ignore. Chinese leaders will have noted how easily the First Couple's conscience can be stilled when personal ambition is involved. This weekend's visit to Beijing by US Under-Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff showed, by contrast, the more deliberate side of American diplomacy. It is through such approaches that Sino-US relations will be repaired and the ground prepared for a summit between Presidents Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin. Swapping a trip into China by Hillary Rodham Clinton for one out of China for Harry Wu has the important effect of achieving freedom for the activist. But Mrs Clinton's trip should be seen for what it is in terms of Sino-US relations - an irrelevance.