Human rights and foreign policy organizations press President Obama on human rights in China

In an open letter released on January 13, nine human rights and foreign policy organizations pressed President Obama to make a shift in U.S.-Chna policy by meeting with dissidents in advance of the state visit of General Secretary Hu Jintao on January 19 and “speaking frankly abou the deterioration in human righs in China” to Hu during the leaders’ meetings.  The complete text of the letter follows:


January 13, 2011

Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Via facsimile: +1-202-456-2461

Dear President Obama,

To be a success, the forthcoming US-China summit should demonstrate your administration’s commitment to human rights issues in China.

We welcome your and Secretary Clinton’s public comments in October and December 2010 regarding Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet human rights issues have been downplayed in past official visits, such as your first visit to China in November 2009. Taking clear action in advance of and during the forthcoming summit will signal that the United States takes seriously the multiple challenges posed by the Chinese government’s stand on human rights, and will prioritize human rights issues during the remainder of your presidency.

We urge that on the occasion of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington next week you indicate a shift in US policy by:

  • Personally meeting with prominent Chinese, Tibetan, and Uighur critics of Beijing’s human rights violations in the White House in advance of the summit;
  • Speaking frankly and publicly about the deteriorating human rights environment in China, ideally with reference to Tibet and Xinjiang, tightening restrictions on the freedom of expression, enforced disappearances, a profoundly politicized judicial system, and the death penalty;
  • Countering the restrictions placed on your comments and activities in November 2009 by finding ways to speak directly to the people in China, such as through internet discussions and with independent Chinese-language media;
  • Publicly and privately reiterating your call that Liu Xiaobo and others imprisoned for doing nothing more than peacefully criticizing the Chinese government immediately be freed; and
  • Enabling the media here to have the access they are denied in China.

On December 10, 2010, you eloquently reminded the world that, “All of us have a responsibility to build a just peace that recognizes the inherent rights and dignity of human beings—a truth upheld within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” We hope you will seize the opportunity before you—an opportunity nearly all Chinese lack—to confront the Chinese leadership about its profound disrespect for universal human rights.

T. Kumar
Director, International Advocacy
Amnesty International, USA

Ellen Bork
Director, Democracy and Human Rights
Foreign Policy Initiative

Paula Schrieffer
Director of Advocacy
Freedom House

Elisa Massimino
President and CEO
Human Rights First

Sophie Richardson
Acting Director, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch

Mary Beth Markey
International Campaign for Tibet

Kelley Currie
Senior Fellow
Project 2049 Institute

Jean-Francois Julliard
General Secretary
Reporters without Borders

Rebiya Kadeer
Uyghur American Association

- Download a PDF copy of this letter

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
Read More