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Freedom House Urges President Trump to Include Support for Fundamental Freedoms at the Summit with President Xi
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
The U.S.-China relationship is one of the world’s most consequential, and your first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping will set the tone for bilateral relations for years to come. Omitting human rights would be a strategic mistake. On behalf of Freedom House, I strongly urge you to include support for fundamental freedoms on the agenda of your summit with President Xi later this week.
Foreign governments, including China’s, closely observe the actions of high-ranking U.S. officials, looking for signs of strength or weakness. U.S. policy is most effective when it demonstrates moral leadership and firm adherence to core principles, including equality, hope, and fairness, which you have rightly heralded. Raising with President Xi the serious threats to human rights and intrinsic freedoms in China today, both publicly and privately, will signal U.S. resolve and strength, demonstrating that your administration will not acquiesce to the Chinese government’s long-standing insistence that Washington should not question the country’s dreadful record of political repression.
The last U.S. administration played down human rights from its first encounters with Beijing and focused primarily on security and economic concerns. But public U.S. support for human rights in China actually protects America’s economic, political, and security interests. Chinese government restrictions on basic freedoms, such as Beijing’s policies of internet censorship and a recently adopted law restricting foreign non-governmental organizations, directly harm U.S. companies and cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year. The law was passed over strong objections from U.S. businesses. These same policies constrain ordinary Chinese citizens’ freedom of expression, access to information, and understanding of the United States.
Therefore, we urge you to:
- Meet with Chinese civil society: In advance of your summit with President Xi, we hope you will consider hosting at the White House a small group of Chinese civil society representatives and victims of persecution. This would provide you with an opportunity to hear firsthand about current conditions in China, signal that the U.S.-China relationship extends beyond the narrow confines of the ruling Communist Party, and demonstrate that the United States—not the Chinese government—will decide who the President meets.
- Condemn worsening repression: We urge you to express concern to President Xi regarding the overall trend of tightening political controls and increasing repression in China in recent years, a development noted by the U.S. State Department in its annual human rights reports. A recent Freedom House study also found that the ongoing—and in some cases escalating—persecution of Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners could threaten China’s economic, political, and social stability. We hope you can register your concern about these developments and the reports of torture and grave human rights violations being committed against lawyers, grassroots activists, religious believers, ethnic minorities, and others.
- Name political prisoners facing abuse and punishment: We urge you to demonstrate leadership for other U.S. officials by raising specific cases of political prisoners. Worthy individuals facing prosecution but who have yet to be sentenced and could especially benefit from timely U.S. pressure on their behalf include: Mr. Jiang Tianyong (human rights lawyer), Mr. Wang Quanzhang (human rights lawyer), Mr. Huang Qi (citizen journalist), Mr. Gu Yuese (Christian pastor), Mr. Tursunjan Memet (Uighur website administrator), Mr. Tashi Wangchuk (Tibetan education advocate), and Ms. Chen Huixia (Falun Gong practitioner).
U.S. leadership on human rights issues is critical to protecting vital interests of the United States. The strongest bilateral relationships are the ones in which leaders can speak honestly and openly with one another. Speaking the truth is an asset to U.S. diplomatic relations and to freedom around the world. A government in China that respects the inherent rights and fundamental freedoms of all people will foster a sincerely cooperative U.S.-China relationship that benefits the people of both countries. Your ability to clearly and publicly communicate this message to President Xi will set the course for a new, more constructive bilateral relationship and stronger partnership between the American and Chinese people.
Thank you for your attention to these concerns as you prepare for this important summit meeting.
Michael J. Abramowitz
President, Freedom House
Cc: The Honorable Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State
The Honorable Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations