Even in the context of China’s steadily deteriorating human rights situation, the developments of the last few weeks have been remarkable.
On July 9, Thailand, under pressure from Beijing, deported more than 100 Uighurs, a Muslim, ethnically Turkic Muslim people who live in China’s Northwest province of Xinjiang. In repatriating the Uighurs, Thailand’s government broke international law regarding the protection of refugees and ignored a plea from the United States, a longtime ally. According to the Uighur Human Rights Project, Uighurs previously sent back to China from countries including Malaysia, Burma, and Cambodia have been imprisoned.
Also last week, Chinese security agents rounded up more than 100 human rights lawyers and activists, though some were later released. As of July 16, the operation, spanning at least 15 cities and provinces, continued, according to the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. The organization reports that several have been officially arrested. Among them is Zhou Shifeng, a prominent lawyer who was was abducted from a hotel just after his client Zhang Miao, a journalist working for the German magazine Die Zeit, was released from jail after a nine month detention. Zhang was detained after she accompanied her German colleague to Hong Kong to report on democracy protests last fall.
On Monday as well, a prominent Tibetan political prisoner, the monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, died in prison at 65. A 2004 report by Human Rights Watch described his imprisonment as “the culmination of a decade-long effort by Chinese authorities to curb his efforts to foster Tibetan Buddhism, his support for the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, and his work to develop Tibetan social and cultural institutions.”
Then there is the new, expansive, and vague National Security “law” China adopted earlier this month. Rather than limit the Communist Party’s powers, or protect the nation from any objective threat, the new measure is intended to uphold the party’s supremacy and prevent any challenge to its hold on power. Other pending measures on counter-terrorism and civil society have drawn criticism.
General Secretary Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit the White House in September. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. hosted top Chinese leaders for the ‘Strategic and Economic Dialogue.’ Nothing about the U.S. approach to China suggests there will be a meaningful response to this intense and continuing crackdown. Without one, America’s standing with its allies, and prospects for the Chinese people’s future will be compromised. If the White House doesn’t mount an appropriate response, Congress should.