Lawyers, Activists Denied Access

Chinese rights lawyers and petitioners were closely watched and prevented from meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Beijing.
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao arrive at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 17, 2009.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao arrive at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 17, 2009.

HONG KONG—Rights lawyers and activists in Beijing during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit were restricted from meeting with him to voice their concerns, they say.

Well-known Beijing rights lawyer Mo Shaoping said that Beijing police had been alerted when the U.S. embassy inquired about his willingness to meet with President Obama when he arrived in the capital.

“The American side contacted me about 20 days ago asking if I wanted to meet with him, and I agreed. But the meeting time was not finalized,” Mo said.

“However, last Saturday the Beijing police asked me whether I wanted to meet [with Obama], and I said that the American side had spoken with me but this had not been finalized. I then asked the police: ‘Do you want to block the meeting?’ They answered ‘No,’” he said.

And while other eminent rights lawyers were not directly contacted by American diplomats, many found themselves under tight police surveillance during Obama’s visit.

One of the lawyers, Li Heping, said he had been followed for days ahead of Obama’s arrival.

“Police have been following me for two or three days, and they stayed in front of my residence during the night. They explicitly told me that this was to prevent any possible meeting with Obama,” Li said.

Another rights lawyer in Beijing, Li Fangping, met with the same problem.

“Police have been monitoring me since last Saturday, and now if I go out I have to ride in their car. They bar me from going to the places where President Obama might appear,” he said.

Petitioners taken away

As Obama arrived in China, a group of overseas Chinese from the United States, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong came to Beijing to petition the central government over business losses related to China-based investment scams.

But Chinese police immediately restricted the groups upon their arrival in the capital.

A businessman from Hong Kong, who asked to remain anonymous, said “Police restricted our movement after we arrived. Friends from the United States and Canada suffered the same.”

He added that Chinese officials from the Supreme Court on Tuesday promised to investigate the problems the group raised with local officials.

Chinese petitioners in Beijing were treated less humanely, despite Obama's presence in Beijing.

Petitioner Chen Qiyong said a group of petitioners that went to greet Obama were confronted by police.

“On Monday night, more than 90 of us went to the Diaoyutai State Guest House to welcome President Obama, but the police requested us to leave,” Chen said.

“After our refusal, they took 42 of us away and sent us to the relief and rescue center near the railway station in southern Beijing.”

Joint conference

Obama held a private meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday in Beijing, which yielded a joint statement promising the two nations would work toward building bilateral strategic trust, and promising to work together to tackle ongoing global challenges.

Following the meeting, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency posted online the full text of the speech President Obama made to college students in Shanghai as well as his speech at a press conference in Beijing.

Earlier reports said that the live feed and text of Obama’s allusions to human rights had been omitted from coverage of the Shanghai event.

Following the private meeting, the two presidents met jointly with the press.

Hu spoke first at the press conference, emphasizing that “China and the United States share extensive common interests and a broad prospect for cooperation on a series of major issues important to mankind’s peace, stability and development.”

President Obama again described the protection of human rights as a universal value following a similar talk he gave during a town hall meeting with students in Shanghai a day earlier.

"I spoke to President Hu about America's bedrock beliefs that all men and women possess certain fundamental human rights. We do not believe these principles are unique to America, but rather they are universal rights and that they should be available to all peoples, to all ethnic and religious minorities,” the U.S. president said.

Obama added that the United States and China “agreed to continue to move this discussion forward in a human rights dialogue that is scheduled for early next year."

He then called on Beijing to restart talks on Tibetan autonomy with envoys of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

“While we recognize that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have.”

Obama also “applauded the steps that the People's Republic of China and Taiwan have already taken to relax tensions and build ties across the Taiwan Strait.”

Obama and Hu did not take questions from the audience and left immediately after the press conference.

Original reporting by Shenhua, Xin Yu, Qiao Long, Fang Yuan and Ding Xiao for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Ping Chen. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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