(Washington, D.C.—March 31, 2016) U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chair and Cochair, respectively, of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued a letter requesting that President Obama address China’s “severe erosion” of human rights and rule of law when he speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a meeting on the fringes of the Nuclear Security Summit later this week.
In the letter, Rubio and Smith address a variety of human rights and rule of law concerns, including the cases of China 18 member Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia, who currently remains under house arrest as her husband. Liu Xiaobo is a Nobel Prize laureate, currently serving an 11-year sentence on subversion charges. They also mentioned the ongoing persecution of religious practitioners who peacefully petition for their rights and the growing trend of televised prisoner confessions, which appear coerced.
Additionally, Smith commented on the importance of raising human rights to President Xi in a press conference for the Obama-Xi meeting entitled, “Sidelining Human Rights a Strategic Mistake the U.S. Cannot Afford to Make.”
China Aid works alongside the CECC by exposing abuses such as the ones listed above in order to promote religious freedom, human rights and rule of law in China.
The CECC’s letter can be read in full below:
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20050
Dear Mr. President:
As you meet on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping we urge you to prioritize human rights in your discussions. As you know, President Xi is overseeing an extraordinary assault on civil society, the rule of law, and the freedoms of religion, association, and assembly. President Xi must not be permitted to again visit Washington without any accounting for the severe erosion of human rights and rule of law which has taken place on his watch and with his authorization.
As the Congressional-Executive Commission on China documented in its most recent Annual Report, human rights and rule of law conditions in China have markedly deteriorated since Xi Jinping took power—in fact the Communist Party’s efforts to silence dissent, suppress human rights advocacy, and control civil society are broader in scope than any other period documented since the Commission started issuing Annual Reports in 2002.
Over the course of the last year we have seen scores of civil society actors, including lawyers and legal advocates, arrested, detained, and disappeared. Some are facing criminal charges categorized as endangering state security, accusations the Chinese government typically uses against dissidents. Nearly all of those still being held have been denied access to a lawyer. Of those who have been released, roughly 30 have been restricted from traveling abroad. Meanwhile, we have witnessed a troubling increase in televised, presumably coerced, “confessions” on state television, in direct violation of Chinese law and international human rights norms. Such “confessions,” on the rise since President Xi took power, defy any notion of rule of law in China. Among the individuals who have been paraded on television for public humiliation are Hong Kong bookseller, Gui Minhai and rights lawyer Huang Liqun.
These cases should all be raised with President Xi, as should the plight of prominent political prisoners such as Uyghur scholar Professor Ilham Tohti and seven of his students from Minzu University in Beijing and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who continues to languish unjustly in prison while his wife, Liu Xia suffers under illegal confinement at home. Many such cases are featured in the CECC’s Political Prisoner Database—we commend the database to your attention and urge you to present President Xi with priority political prisoner lists and press him for the immediate and unconditional release of these individuals.
We are also deeply concerned by a series of unexplained disappearances of Chinese and foreign citizens extending beyond mainland China—to include most notably the Hong Kong booksellers. A troubling pattern is beginning to emerge in these cases involving disappearances and arbitrary detention, sudden returns to Hong Kong and the eschewing of assistance by Hong Kong authorities, followed by sudden returns to the mainland. Beijing’s reach is growing and threatens the “high degree of autonomy” which it pledged to the people of Hong Kong.
There is no shortage of other concerns to include in your discussions with President Xi: The draft overseas non-governmental organization management law; the continued harassment, detention, and other mistreatment of individuals who seek to peacefully practice their religion, express their views, or seek legal redress; the draconian anti-terrorism law being used to crack down on Tibetans, Uyghurs, and broader civil society, at the very time that China’s internal security apparatus is expanding and remains largely unaccountable; the crackdown on labor advocates and further restrictions on labor NGOs and the continued use of coercive population control policies and forced abortions.
Additionally, we remain deeply concerned that U.S. citizen and businesswoman, Sandy Phan-Gillis, has been detained without charge for more than a year. She has been denied access to lawyers and at various points held in solitary confinement and interrogated. This abusive treatment raises serious concerns about the safety of Americans doing business in China—this should be made clear to President Xi.
There is a growing consensus that the pillars upon which U.S.-China policy were built are crumbling. Trade, investment, and people-to-people exchanges have not brought political reforms or ensured human rights or made China a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system. Rather, Beijing seems emboldened in its repression both at home and abroad. We believe that a full and frank discussion about human rights and civil society is vital during every encounter with President Xi and senior Chinese leadership, particularly during the NSS as well as the G-20, which China will host later this year.
We urge you to start addressing this challenge by prioritizing these issues in your discussions with President Xi this week.