For Immediate Release: April 27, 2011
Washington, DC – Today as the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue begins, Human Rights First is calling on the Obama Administration to make clear that it views the Chinese Government’s worst crackdown on human rights in a generation as a key stumbling block to improved relations between the two countries.
The group says the dialogue on human rights is insufficient in the face of the deteriorating human rights situation in China and is urging U.S. officials to use the current dialogue to inform the Chinese Government that human rights will be a key feature of the upcoming bilateral strategic and economic dialogue, scheduled for May 9-10. The U.S. government should also make clear the importance of ending the crackdown, releasing prisoners of conscience and making progress to reform its repressive laws and policies to holding productive discussions next month.
“Lawyers and other human rights defenders have been systematically targeted in the run up to this week’s dialogue,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “The current U.S. strategy to prevent or reduce human rights violations in China is not working, a fact clearly demonstrated by the worsening situation on the ground. It’s time for the United States to make a clean break with its ’agree to disagree’ approach when it comes to protecting human rights.”
According to Human Rights First, since President Hu Jintao returned to China from his visit to the United States in January, activists have been rounded up in increasing numbers. Since the middle of February, dozens of lawyers, journalists, bloggers and other activists have been arrested and more than 100 have been targeted by other repressive measures, including house arrest. The group notes that artist Ai Weiwei and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo are just two of the many human rights defenders in detention whose cases the United States delegation should raise insistently in this week’s dialogue. The U.S. government should also seek a direct dialogue with activists within China and those working outside of the nation’s borders.
“President Hu appeared to concede during his U.S. visit a few months ago that China had some progress to make on human rights, but his government’s approach since then has been a peculiar way to address that,” Dooley concluded. “The United States approach has not had an impact on ending disappearances, arbitrary detention or torture in China. It needs to reorient the relationship between the two countries and demonstrate its commitment to securing improved human rights in China. One way to do that is to ensure that the protection of human rights has a central role in bilateral security and economic discussions.”