Rights to Remain Core Issue

China's leader-in-waiting is told that Washington will not bury human rights issues.

xi-jinping-obama-305 China's Vice President Xi Jinping speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Room of the White House, Feb. 14, 2012.

U.S. leaders told visiting Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping on Tuesday that Washington will continue to highlight human rights as its moves to strengthen relations with Beijing.

China’s future leader replied that Beijing is prepared for a "candid and constructive" dialogue with Washington on the prickly issue as long as it is conducted on the basis of mutual respect.

He assured that Beijing will take more steps to improve the human rights situation in the world’s most populous nation.

Facing a deluge of criticism from rights groups that the United States might sidestep human rights in its eagerness to build ties with the world’s second-largest economy, President Barack Obama told Xi that China has to  live up to “increased responsibilities” as it assumes expanding power and prosperity.

“And so we want to work with China to make sure that everybody is working by the same rules of the road when it comes to the world economic system, and that includes ensuring that there is a balanced trade flow between not only the United States and China, but around world,” Obama told Xi at a White House meeting.

“It also means that on critical issues like human rights, we will continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of recognizing the aspirations and rights of all people,” he stressed.

Obama said the U.S. wants to manage tensions with China in a "constructive way" and to together grapple with global political, security, and economic issues such as the nuclear problems with Iran and North Korea and the world economic crises.

Protest outside White House

As the leaders met, several hundred protesters outside the White House chanted slogans against China's crackdown in Tibet, an issue that could come up in meetings with Xi.

U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden, speaking during a State Department lunch for Xi, noted that human rights will remain a fundamental aspect of Washington’s foreign policy.

Xi, who is widely expected to take over the leadership of the ruling Chinese Communist Party later this year ahead of becoming president in 2013,  told Biden that China stands ready to hold a "candid and constructive" dialogue with Washington on human rights, as long as the talks are conducted on the basis of "mutual respect."

"Of course there is always room for improvement when it comes to human rights," Xi added.

“Given China's huge population, considerable regional diversity, and uneven development, we are still faced with many challenges improving people's livelihood and advancing human rights," Xi said.

Trust-building has been billed as the key theme of Xi's trip, although economic and trade disputes, world security issues, and growing regional tensions are also likely to be on the agenda.

Greater pressure urged

Rights groups have called for for greater pressure on Beijing amid a harsh crackdown on political dissent.

In an open letter to President Obama, the U.S.-based editor of the pro-democracy magazine Beijing Spring and political activist Yang Jianli, called on the U.S. government to pay greater heed to the situation in China.

"China's human rights problems aren't just China's problem," the letter said. "Increasingly, they are becoming the world's problem."

"From the point of view of a politcian, they represent a crisis, but also an opportunity."

The letter called on Xi to pay greater heed to public opinion and to universal values of human rights.

"If he did so ... from his position of power, he could pursue the task of democratization and influence the entire world," the letter said.

'Arrogant attitude'

Meanwhile, U.S. citizen and pro-democracy activist George Ge wrote an open letter of complaint at his recent 21-day detention at the hands of state security police after he tried to visit Ding Zilin, a campaigner on behalf of relatives of those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, at her home in Beijing.

"The Chinese authorities are in flagrant breach of international law with the violation of the personal freedom of a U.S. citizen," the letter said.

"This shows the arrogant attitude of the government, that it can do whatever it pleases."

Yang said in an interview on Tuesday that Chinese rights activists have continued to put pressure on Obama and other U.S. politicians to bring up human rights in dialogue with top Chinese leaders.

"China is the only county with a Nobel Peace Prize winner currently in jail," Yang said. "How are you going to respond to this?"

He also cited the case of missing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose whereabouts have been unknown for almost two years, and the sudden increase in self-immolation protests among Tibetans under Chinese rule.

"Why are so many Tibetans setting fire to themselves?" he said. "If you ask [Chinese leaders] direct questions like this, they will find it pretty hard to answer you, and this will increase the pressure on them to address the issues."

Dissidents jailed

The writers' group Independent Chinese PEN also issued a statement to coincide with Xi's Washington trip, citing the case of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, as well as a string of harsh jail sentences meted out to high-profile dissidents in recent weeks.

Guizhou-based rights activist Chen Xi, Sichuan-based Chen Wei, and Wuhan-based Li Tie were all handed jail terms upwards of seven years for "incitement to subvert state power," in the wake of a nationwide crackdown on activists sparked by the Arab Spring.

"We call on the Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo and all the other jailed authors and prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally," the group said.

It cited the recent sentencing of veteran pro-democracy activist Zhu Yufu to seven years' imprisonment for subversion by a court in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, after Zhu penned a poem calling on the Chinese people to vote with their feet by taking to the streets.

Zhu wrote and shared the poem during online calls for 'Jasmine' rallies inspired by protests in the Middle East in early 2011, which prompted the detention and suveillance of hundreds of dissidents and rights defenders across the country.

Chinese activists say they were subjected to beatings, humiliation, and brainwashing techniques during the crackdown.

And while dozens of those detained by the authorities were eventually freed, many remain under close police surveillance.

"The letter was mainly addressed to President Obama, asking him to engage with Xi Jinping on these issues," said Sweden-based Independent PEN spokesman Zhang Yu on Tuesday.

"There should be concern that, in China, words are considered a crime," he said. "We want those people who have been jailed for their words alone, to be released."

After his day of meetings in Washington Tuesday, Xi is due to travel Wednesday to the Midwestern state of Iowa and then to California before returning to China on Friday.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie and Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.


Feb 16, 2012 12:45 AM

Xi Jinping spoke of mutual respect in human rights discussion. What sort of respect did the Party's State Security police show to the US when they arrested, beat, and tortured US citizen Ge Xun for the supposed crime of trying to deliver a flower wreath to Ding Zilin?

Feb 14, 2012 02:19 PM

Tylenol can't be cured chronicle illnes,it's temporarily relieve only,the best ways to be treated destroyed,conquer,peaces will last longer on global and reset economice from page one.