On the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to China, during which he will discuss with Chinese leaders issues critical to U.S.-China relations, Human Rights in China (HRIC) urges President Obama to ensure that urgent human rights cases and issues are not once again sidelined.
From hosting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to staging the elaborate celebrations of October 2009 to mark 60 years of Communist rule in China, the Chinese government has been successful in focusing the world’s attention on the country’s rapid economic development over the past 30 years and away from serious, ongoing human rights problems. These problems include information control; the detention and imprisonment of lawyers, writers, internet activists, and religious practitioners; crackdowns on civil society groups; disappearances; and illegal black jails.
As many of the world’s most prestigious academic, cultural, and professional institutions have rushed in recent months to celebrate Chinese art and culture, there is also a disturbing trend towards conflating China’s people, culture, and history with the policies, practices, and repressive culture of a one-party government.
“President Obama should not join this China fan club, and should not give China a free pass on human rights. One-quarter of humanity – as well as the rest of the international community – deserves better,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC.
As the President of a new U.S. administration and as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, President Obama has a unique opportunity to demonstrate global leadership with wisdom and courage. HRIC urges President Obama to send a strong human rights message to the Chinese leaders and people. Two concrete steps are to raise urgent and representative cases of individual detentions, imprisonment, and disappearances with the Chinese authorities and press for greater openness on the Internet.
The well-being of the U.S. and the international community is affected not only by China’s trade and economic policies and practices: China’s adherence to human rights norms is vital to ensuring global peace and security, and the integrity and effectiveness of the international human rights system.