November 07, 2014

Cardin, Rubio Urge President Obama to Press China On Human Rights During Visit

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today urged President Barack Obama to raise the issue of human rights and the need for political reform with President Xi Jinping during his visit to China next week.

 

In a letter to President Obama, Cardin and Rubio, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, respectively, expressed concern over the Chinese government’s emphasis on “authoritarian control at the expense of human rights and rule of law,” and encouraged the President to stand up for “those Chinese who are unjustly imprisoned, tortured, or harassed because of their political views, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.”

 

“Human rights are too important to the future of U.S.-China relations to be treated as a side issue handled by low-level officials,” the Senators wrote. “The ultimate success of U.S. engagement with China will ultimately depend on whether the Chinese people one day have a government that allows them to fulfill their aspirations rather than restricts their fundamental freedoms and limits their potential. As the Congressional-Executive Commission stated in their report, ‘There is a direct link between concrete improvements in human rights and the rule of law and the security and prosperity of the United States and China.’

 

“That is why your visit is so important not just to the cause of freedom in China, but also to America’s long-term interests in a productive relationship with China and prosperity and stability in East Asia,” they added. “We hope that you will use this opportunity to publicly and privately speak out on behalf of these individuals and all in China who yearn for the day when their government will truly reflect their interests and values.”

 

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the full text of the letter is below:

 

November 7, 2014

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

As you meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, there are many important issues on the U.S.-China bilateral agenda.  China continues to pursue troubling territorial claims in the South and East China Seas and uses cyber theft as a tool of statecraft.  The United States is facing challenges to the international order in central Europe and the Middle East that Beijing could play a more constructive role in responding to if its leadership so desired.  But even as you discuss these irritants in the bilateral relationship we urge you to make human rights and the need for political reform in China a key element of your discussions with President Xi.

 

Since your meeting with President Xi at Sunnylands in June 2013, the plight of many Chinese citizens fighting for their fundamental rights has noticeably declined.  According to a recently released report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, over the last year, “The Chinese government and Communist Party continued to emphasize authoritarian control at the expense of human rights and the rule of law.  The limited space for peaceful expression, assembly, and religious practices constricted further.”  Even in recent months, we have seen Beijing take extreme measures to ensure its control of Hong Kong and ignore the people of Hong Kong’s desire for a voice in their future.  And we have seen the great lengths that the Chinese state has taken to censor news from Hong Kong on the mainland.

 

This has all occurred even as the Chinese government declined to hold what had been an annual U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, which makes it even more important that you raise these issues at the Presidential level with President Xi.  We thus hope that you will heed the advice of the nine human rights groups that sent you the attached letter on October 10th urging you to raise the cases of specific prisoners of conscience with President Xi.  These include Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, Uighur economist Ilham Tohti, Tibetan Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Tie Liu, Pu Zhiqiang, and Chen Kegui as well as those who suffer under house arrest such as Liu’s wife Liu Xia and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng whose family is trying to get him to be allowed to join them in California.

 

It is important to remember that the Chinese people will be watching what you, as the leader of the world’s greatest democracy, say about the deteriorating situation in China very closely during your visit.  We hope you will lend your voice to the cases we have highlighted above as well as to the broader plight faced by those Chinese who are unjustly imprisoned, tortured, or harassed because of their political views, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.

 

Human rights are too important to the future of U.S.-China relations to be treated as a side issue handled by low-level officials.  The ultimate success of U.S. engagement with China will ultimately depend on whether the Chinese people one day have a government that allows them to fulfill their aspirations rather than restricts their fundamental freedoms and limits their potential.  As the Congressional-Executive Commission stated in their report, “There is a direct link between concrete improvements in human rights and the rule of law and the security and prosperity of the United States and China.”

 

That is why your visit is so important not just to the cause of freedom in China, but also to America’s long-term interests in a productive relationship with China and prosperity and stability in East Asia.  We hope that you will use this opportunity to publicly and privately speak out on behalf of these individuals and all in China who yearn for the day when their government will truly reflect their interests and values.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ben Cardin

 

Marco Rubio

 

 

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