Obama Should Press Xi on Human Rights in China | Freedom House

Obama Should Press Xi on Human Rights in China

Washington

Photo Credit | Department of Defense

June 6, 2013 – Freedom House today urged President Obama to emphasize in his upcoming meetings with President Xi Jinping that political reform and an improved human rights environment in China are critical to a strengthening of overall ties between China and the United States.

“President Obama’s first meeting with President Xi is a crucial opportunity to stress that human rights and progress toward democracy are closely tied to the United States’ other political and economic interests,” said David J. Kramer, President of Freedom House. “Experience has taught us that genuine, sustainable cooperation is impossible if one of the parties consistently represses its own people, mistreats minority groups, and suppresses freedom of expression. The Obama administration needs to challenge China’s policies in a more direct and forthright way.”

“Realists will admonish us that raising human rights with Beijing is an exercise in futility and an impediment to better cooperation. In fact, close cooperation will be impossible if the Chinese government continues to imprison innocent people, reject transparent government, and flout the rule of law. For example, we cannot expect an end to the widespread hacking from China until the Chinese government enforces laws against the theft of intellectual property.”

China is one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights. Tens of thousands of political activists, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, Tibetans, and Uighurs are believed to be in prison or extralegal detention, and torture is widespread. Impunity for security forces is common, and the government regularly targets human rights defenders. Recent victims of such harassment include Chen Guangcheng, a lawyer and activist who advocated for justice and transparency in China. Last year, Chen escaped extralegal house arrest and moved to the United States after seeking asylum at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Despite his departure, the government continues to harass his family in an effort to silence his ongoing activism. Other activists have languished in prison for years, such as Wang Bingzhang, who was kidnapped in Vietnam by Chinese agents in 2002 and given a life sentence in China the following year; he inspired Fred Hiatt’s recent book, Nine Days.

These abuses and restrictions extend to freedom of expression. China’s extremely restrictive media environment is characterized by high degrees of content control, dismissals and imprisonment of journalists who do not follow the state line, and harassment of foreign journalists. The Chinese government routinely withholds information from the public on critical issues of safety and health, and operates the world’s most sophisticated system of online surveillance and censorship.

“It is important to let Chinese activists know that the United States supports their aspirations and will always endorse their efforts to secure greater human rights,” said Sarah Cook, China analyst at Freedom House. “There is no better way to express that than for President Obama to communicate this message directly to President Xi when they meet this week.”

China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2012.

To learn more about China, visit:

Freedom in the World 2013: China

Freedom of the Press 2013: China

Freedom on the Net 2012: China

Blog: Freedom at Issue

Video: Chen Guangcheng on Human Rights in China

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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.

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