Marco Rubio calls on Obama to press human rights during China visit

in Uncategorized by

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin are calling on President Barack Obama to raise the issue of human rights and needs for political reform with President Xi Jinping during next week’s visit to China.

Rubio and Cardin, in a letter to President Obama today, expressed concern over the Chinese government’s emphasis on “authoritarian control at the expense of human rights and rule of law.”

The two senators encouraged the President to stand up for “those Chinese who are unjustly imprisoned, tortured, or harassed because of their political views, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.”

Rubio is the Republican Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the panel chaired by Democrat Cardin.

“Human rights are too important to the future of U.S.-China relations to be treated as a side issue handled by low-level officials,” the Senators wrote. “The ultimate success of U.S. engagement with China will ultimately depend on whether the Chinese people one day have a government that allows them to fulfill their aspirations rather than restricts their fundamental freedoms and limits their potential.”

Both lawmakers cited a Congressional-Executive Commission report, saying there is a direct link between improvements in human rights, the rule of law and the security and prosperity of China and the U.S.

“That is why your visit is so important not just to the cause of freedom in China, but also to America’s long-term interests in a productive relationship with China and prosperity and stability in East Asia,” they added.

The text of the full letter:

November 7, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, there are many important issues on the U.S.-China bilateral agenda.  China continues to pursue troubling territorial claims in the South and East China Seas and uses cyber theft as a tool of statecraft.  The United States is facing challenges to the international order in central Europe and the Middle East that Beijing could play a more constructive role in responding to if its leadership so desired.  But even as you discuss these irritants in the bilateral relationship we urge you to make human rights and the need for political reform in China a key element of your discussions with President Xi.

Since your meeting with President Xi at Sunnylands in June 2013, the plight of many Chinese citizens fighting for their fundamental rights has noticeably declined.  According to a recently released report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, over the last year, “The Chinese government and Communist Party continued to emphasize authoritarian control at the expense of human rights and the rule of law.  The limited space for peaceful expression, assembly, and religious practices constricted further.”  Even in recent months, we have seen Beijing take extreme measures to ensure its control of Hong Kong and ignore the people of Hong Kong’s desire for a voice in their future.  And we have seen the great lengths that the Chinese state has taken to censor news from Hong Kong on the mainland.

This has all occurred even as the Chinese government declined to hold what had been an annual U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, which makes it even more important that you raise these issues at the Presidential level with President Xi.  We thus hope that you will heed the advice of the nine human rights groups that sent you the attached letter on October 10th urging you to raise the cases of specific prisoners of conscience with President Xi.  These include Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, Uighur economist Ilham Tohti, Tibetan Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Tie Liu, Pu Zhiqiang, and Chen Kegui as well as those who suffer under house arrest such as Liu’s wife Liu Xia and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng whose family is trying to get him to be allowed to join them in California.

It is important to remember that the Chinese people will be watching what you, as the leader of the world’s greatest democracy, say about the deteriorating situation in China very closely during your visit.  We hope you will lend your voice to the cases we have highlighted above as well as to the broader plight faced by those Chinese who are unjustly imprisoned, tortured, or harassed because of their political views, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.

Human rights are too important to the future of U.S.-China relations to be treated as a side issue handled by low-level officials.  The ultimate success of U.S. engagement with China will ultimately depend on whether the Chinese people one day have a government that allows them to fulfill their aspirations rather than restricts their fundamental freedoms and limits their potential.  As the Congressional-Executive Commission stated in their report, “There is a direct link between concrete improvements in human rights and the rule of law and the security and prosperity of the United States and China.”

That is why your visit is so important not just to the cause of freedom in China, but also to America’s long-term interests in a productive relationship with China and prosperity and stability in East Asia.  We hope that you will use this opportunity to publicly and privately speak out on behalf of these individuals and all in China who yearn for the day when their government will truly reflect their interests and values.

Sincerely,

Marco Rubio

Ben Cardin

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.