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In a speech to America’s diplomats at the State Department on May 19, 2011, President Obama declared the United States’ commitment to pursue policies that promote and protect human rights around the world. These rights, he argued, include “free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders—whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.”

A year has passed since that much-lauded speech gave voice to a commitment that human rights advocates had long been pushing for. In that time, the president and his foreign affairs team have struggled with the difficult task of channeling the rhetoric, which rightfully places human rights and democratic governance at the top of America’s priority list, into meaningful policies.

Freedom House welcomes the Chinese government’s decision to allow blind Chinese activist and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng to travel with his wife and two children to the United States, where he will study law and English through a New York University fellowship. Freedom House calls on the Chinese authorities to cease their harassment of Chen’s family members who remain in China, and release those being held in detention.

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Senior Research Analyst for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

Sarah Cook is a Senior Research Analyst for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan at Freedom House.

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Director of Advocacy

Annie Wilcox Boyajian is Director of Advocacy at Freedom House and leads Freedom House’s engagement with the US government and collaboration with American human rights groups.

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