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U.S.-China Summit: “Human Rights with Chinese Characteristics” Hurt Chinese and American people

April 4, 2017

On the eve of a summit meeting on April 6-7 between leaders of two of the world’s most powerful nations, Human Rights in China urges U.S. President Donald Trump to press Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop the serious violations of human rights, attack on the rule of law, and repression of civil society in China.

Xi’s government has tried to dodge these issues by attacking its critics and by rejecting the universality of human rights under the banner of “sovereign equality.” The Trump administration must stand firm on international human rights standards as the core principle of U.S. relations with China. As China asserts itself as a global political leader, its disregard for the rights and dignity of its own people has regional and global impacts, including on the U.S. economy and American people.

“As President Trump came to office on promises of redressing the serious U.S. trade deficit against China and of job creation, he should not ignore the fact that the costs of China’s ‘competitive advantage’ have been borne by Chinese workers, future generations, and the environment,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “The U.S. trade deficit and loss of jobs cannot be solved without improving the human rights situation in China. Instead of a mutual finger-pointing exercise at this summit, Presidents Trump and Xi can demonstrate true leadership and engage human rights challenges in a frank and critical manner.”

The so-called human rights with Chinese characteristics are the driver of China’s development model and the very tool with which Chinese authorities maintain the one-party rule of the Communist Party of China. The steep deterioration of human rights since Xi took office in 2012 has included the suppression of lawyers by prosecution on subversion charges, torture, and pro-longed detention without trial, deepening censorship online and offline, sweeping securitization of daily life in the name of state security, and politicized restrictions of foreign NGO support for Chinese civil society groups.

"In the end, it is the Chinese people who are waging this struggle for human rights. But they need the support of and pressure on China by the international community," said Hom. "It is critical that the United States assume a leading role in countering China’s systematic erosion of international human rights protections and processes."