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Groups Call for Meeting between President Bush and Chinese Activists
Freedom House, together with seven of the U.S.’s most prominent human rights organizations, issued a letter today urging President George Bush to meet with Chinese human rights activists if he attends the 2008 Olympics in Beijing this summer.
“The current repression of demonstrators in Tibet is only the most recent example of attempts by the Chinese government to silence those who dare to speak out about the incongruity of China’s human rights abuses and its hosting of the Olympic Games,” read the letter. “We urge you to demonstrate your commitment to democracy and human rights by meeting Chinese human rights activists at the American Embassy in Beijing, much as Ronald Reagan met with 98 dissidents in Moscow in 1988.”
The letter was signed by Amnesty International USA, Global Rights, Human Rights First, International Justice Mission, International League for Human Rights, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, and The Advocates for Human Rights, as well as Freedom House.
The text of the letter is below.
April 2, 2008
President George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Via Fax: 202-456-0200
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to ask you to concretely demonstrate your commitment to human rights in China by meeting with human rights activists if you attend the 2008 Olympics in Beijing this summer. While some of the organizations signing this letter have called for you not to attend the Olympic Games because of China’s actions in Darfur, Tibet, and elsewhere, we all agree on the vital need for you to visibly demonstrate your support for China’s human rights activists if you do attend.
On February 28, China’s foreign minister ridiculed the international community’s concern over human rights in China and implied that there has been no worsening of conditions for dissidents in the months preceding this summer’s Olympic Games.
According to press reports, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stated, “You could ask ten people on the street to stand in front of public security officers and freely say ‘human rights are far more important than the Olympics,’ ten times or even one hundred times and I’ll see which officer arrests them. If they get tired, the public security officer would probably offer them a cup of tea.”
Minister Yang’s comments are patently false. There are far more than ten Chinese people who, in trying to speak out in favor of human rights in China, have been detained and arrested. The current repression of demonstrators in Tibet is only the most recent example of attempts by the Chinese government to silence those who dare to speak out about the incongruity of China’s human rights abuses and its hosting of the Olympic Games. The U.S. Department of State’s annual report on human rights cites “tens of thousands of political prisoners” in China, including journalists, internet writers, labor activists, political party activists, religious and family planning activists, Uighurs, and Tibetans.
Mr. Yang’s contempt for the bravery of the many thousands of Chinese people incarcerated for their political and religious beliefs poses a challenge to democratic leaders who will attend the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are far more than a global sporting competition. According to the Olympic Charter, the Olympic Movement is intended to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world.”
Mr. President, if you travel to China for the Olympics, we urge you to demonstrate your commitment to democracy and human rights by meeting Chinese human rights activists at the American Embassy in Beijing, much as Ronald Reagan met with 98 dissidents in Moscow in 1988. Such a meeting would demonstrate the American people’s fundamental desire to create a more peaceful and better world by standing with those in China who simply want to share in those basic human rights and freedoms we already enjoy.
Mr. Larry Cox, Executive Director
Amnesty International USA
Ms. Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director
Mr. Salih Booker, Executive Director
Ms. Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director
Human Rights First
Mr. Gary Haugen, President
International Justice Mission
Mr. Robert Arsenault, President
International League for Human Rights
Ms. Felice D. Gaer, Director
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights
Ms. Robin Phillips, Executive Director
The Advocates for Human Rights
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.