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June 22, 2011

Locke Must Keep Human Rights on the Forefront of U.S.-China Relationship

Washington, D.C.—The Senate will vote on Thursday to confirm Secretary Gary Locke as the new U.S. ambassador to China. Once confirmed, Ambassador Locke will assume one of the most difficult responsibilities in U.S. foreign policy – managing what some consider this century’s most important bilateral relationship. The U.S.-China agenda is teeming with pressing economic and security issues, but Ambassador Locke must make clear that he and the Obama administration will keep human rights on the forefront of the relationship. China is a regular and systematic violator of human rights at home and abroad. Recent trends show little hope for improvement. In 2010, China “took additional steps to rein in civil society, particularly organizations and individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, and increased attempts to limit freedom of speech and to control the press, the Internet, and Internet access," according to the most recent State Department Human Rights Report on China. “Globally, China has enabled conflict and instability that cost civilian lives on a daily basis,” said Human Rights First’s Winny Chen. “China has for over a decade served as a leading enabler of the government of Sudan, providing Khartoum political backing at the United Nations, investment and economic aid, and a steady supply of arms that help sustain deadly campaigns in Darfur, South Kordofan, and beyond.” Violence throughout Sudan has worsened as South Sudan’s official secession date, July 9, draws closer. Now, reports of civilian massacres and ethnic cleansing raise the possibility of another genocide.  “The United States should take all practical steps to prevent such mass atrocities, including interrupting the supply chain for crimes that originates in China,” added Chen. Human Rights First calls on Ambassador Locke to:
  • Urge Beijing to rescind its invitation to host a State visit by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for a litany of serious charges, including genocide and war crimes, and Beijing’s invitation to him is a direct affront to international justice. Al-Bashir’s scheduled meeting with Chinese president Hu Jintao only serves to condone Khartoum’s continued perpetration of atrocities in Darfur and South Kordofan, and legitimize the North’s military occupation of the Abyei region. Together, these actions threaten to unravel the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and return  Sudan to the brink of war.
  • Persuade China to suspend arms transfers to the government of Sudan immediately. China supplies the government of Sudan with major military platforms, including attack and combat aircrafts, as well as 72 percent of Khartoum’s small arms. A 2010 U.N. panel of experts report found that dozens of types of Chinese ammunition have been used in Darfur and in attacks on U.N. peacekeeping forces, in direct violation of an international arms embargo against transferring weapons to Darfur. China’s supply of arms to the Khartoum government sustains fighting in Sudan, enables the commission of mass atrocities, and undercuts the Chinese envoy’s commitment to “stability and peace in Sudan.”
  • Work with Beijing not to veto or block any U.N. resolution authorizing action to halt acts of violence against civilians in Sudan. In March, China stated it “support[ed] the UN ‘Security Council's adoption of appropriate and necessary action to stabilize as soon as possible the situation in Libya and to halt acts of violence against civilians.’” Should the United Nations take similar action in Sudan on humanitarian grounds, the United States and the international community should make clear they fully expect China not to obstruct necessary action to prevent genocide or other mass atrocities.

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