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Confront China on Human Rights

9:22 AM, Jan 14, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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A bipartisan group of China watchers and human rights advocates have written a letter to Barack Obama, urging the president to "seize the opportunity before [him]—an opportunity nearly all Chinese lack—to confront the Chinese leadership about its profound disrespect for universal human rights." China's president Hu Jintao is coming to Washington next week for an official state visit.

Here's the full text of the letter:

Dear President Obama,

To be a success, the forthcoming US-China summit should demonstrate your administration’s commitment to human rights issues in China.

We welcome your and Secretary Clinton’s public comments in October and December 2010 regarding Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet human rights issues have been downplayed in past official visits, such as your first visit to China in November 2009. Taking clear action in advance of and during the forthcoming summit will signal that the United States takes seriously the multiple challenges posed by the Chinese government’s stand on human rights, and will prioritize human rights issues during the remainder of your presidency.

We urge that on the occasion of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington next week you indicate a shift in US policy by:

· Personally meeting with prominent Chinese, Tibetan, and Uighur critics of Beijing’s human rights violations in the White House in advance of the summit;

· Speaking frankly and publicly about the deteriorating human rights environment in China, ideally with reference to Tibet and Xinjiang, tightening restrictions on the freedom of expression, enforced disappearances, a profoundly politicized judicial system, and the death penalty; 

· Countering the restrictions placed on your comments and activities in November 2009 by finding ways to speak directly to the people in China, such as through internet discussions and with independent Chinese-language media;

· Publicly and privately reiterating your call that Liu Xiaobo and others imprisoned for doing nothing more than peacefully criticizing the Chinese government immediately be freed; and

· Enabling the media here to have the access they are denied in China.

On December 10, 2010, you eloquently reminded the world that, “All of us have a responsibility to build a just peace that recognizes the inherent rights and dignity of human beings—a truth upheld within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” We hope you will seize the opportunity before you—an opportunity nearly all Chinese lack—to confront the Chinese leadership about its profound disrespect for universal human rights.

T. Kumar
Director, International Advocacy Amnesty International USA

Ellen Bork
Director, Democracy and Human Rights Foreign Policy Initiative

Paula Schriefer
Director of Advocacy Freedom House

Elisa Massimino
President and CEO Human Rights First

Kelley Currie
Senior Fellow Project 2049 Institute

Sophie Richardson
Acting Director, Asia Division Human Rights Watch

Jean-Francois Julliard
General Secretary Reporters Without Borders

Mary Beth Markey
President International Campaign for Tibet

Rebiya Kadeer
President Uyghur American Association

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