Chinese democracy activists have asked U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to raise the prickly subject of human rights abuses with top government leaders during his visit to China from Wednesday.
Experts believe that Biden’s visit, at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Vice-President Xi Jinping who is tipped to become China's leader next year, is expected to center on discussions over Washington's fiscal woes and the prospect for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
However, activists in China hope Biden will express concern over China’s “deteriorating” human rights record and pressure Beijing to release jailed dissidents and rights activists.
“I hope he can focus his attention on the human rights conditions in China, and on the conditions of human rights activists and religious rights activists in particular,” said He Depu, an eminent political dissident in Beijing.
In 1998, He helped found the currently banned China Democracy Party, and was subsequently arrested in 2002 and given an eight-year jail term a year later. He was released in January of this year.
“I also want Mr. Biden to raise the issue of jailed dissidents and the extremely dreadful situation in China’s prisons to Chinese leaders,” He said.
“There are a lot of people still behind bars today, such as Mr. Liu Xiaobo,” He said, referring to the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who had called for political reforms and the end of Communist one-party rule in China.
For his political activities, Liu was tried on subversion charges in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment.
During the U.S.-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue in May, Biden bluntly criticized China's crackdown on dissent and detention of government critics, human rights advocates, and lawyers—some of whom have since been released.
U.S. National Security Senior Director for Asian affairs Daniel Russel said on Monday that rights issues would be raised during the visit.
“Naturally, there are issues that the Chinese themselves typically raise like Taiwan and Tibet. And there are issues that every senior official who meets with Chinese leaders is going to raise, like human rights,” he told a media briefing in Washington.
Russel said that the protection of human rights globally is a central part of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in China, as elsewhere.
“And, as we do consistently, we will raise our concerns about the human rights situation throughout China. We do this directly and privately with Chinese leaders and policymakers. And, as the Vice President did during the S&ED—the Security and Economic Dialogue in Washington in May—we’ll also make our views known publicly as well.''
Biden is scheduled to meet with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, and his own counterpart, Vice President Xi.
Zha Jianguo, another Chinese activist in Beijing, urged Biden to particularly raise the issue of rights campaigner Wang Lihong.
“Days ago the Chinese authorities tried Wang Lihong, whose only crime was her involvement in defending human rights for ordinary people,” said Zha.
“This is the latest violation of human rights in China. I hope Mr. Biden will pay attention to this case,” he said.
Wang, 56, went on trial last Friday for "creating a disturbance.” She was detained in March amid a sweeping crackdown on the rights movement, apparently triggered by government fears of protests inspired by uprisings in the Middle East.
She faces up to five years in prison, and a court in Beijing will hand down the verdict soon.
After his trip to Beijing, Biden will visit Chengdu in southwestern China and travel to Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
The nine-day trip will end in Japan, where Biden will reaffirm U.S. support for the country as it recovers from the earthquake and tsunami in March.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.