At a press briefing following the recent annual U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said the United States welcomes the rise of a strong, stable and prosperous China. But, while China has had an extraordinary record of economic development over the last three decades, political reforms in China have not kept pace with economic advances.
Mr. Posner said the overall human rights situation in China continues to deteriorate, at a time when human rights issues, including government restrictions on free expression and Internet freedom, religious and ethnic minorities, and internationally recognized labor rights, are being increasingly raised by China’s citizens.
During the two-day dialogue, Mr. Posner said the United States focused particular attention on a number of cases “where lawyers, bloggers, NGO activists, journalists, religious leaders and others are asserting universal rights and calling for peaceful reform in China:”
“A number of these individuals have been arrested and detained as part of a larger pattern of arrests and extralegal detention of those who challenge actions and policies in China.”
Among the cases raised by the U.S. were those of lawyers like Gao Zhisheng and Ni Yulan, “who have been imprisoned because of their legal advocacy on behalf of clients who espouse controversial positions and who are critical of official actions,” said Assistant Secretary Posner:
“We urge the Chinese Government to release such lawyers as well as imprisoned democracy activists like Liu Xiaobo, Chen Wei and Chen Xi, who have actively pursued political openness and the promotion of fundamental freedoms for Chinese citizens.”
Mr. Posner said the U.S. also expressed concerns over China’s counterproductive policies toward its minorities; the more than 40 self-immolations in Tibetan parts of China; the denial of access to legal counsel to defendants like Chen Kegui, nephew of human rights activist Chen Guangcheng; and the beating and forced abortion endured by Feng Jianmei, and others subjected to coercive birth limitation measures.
“Societies that respect human rights and address the aspirations of their own people are more prosperous, successful and stable,” said Mr. Posner. “In China as elsewhere, we strongly believe that change occurs from within a society.
These discussions, then, are ultimately about Chinese citizens’ aspirations and how the Chinese themselves are navigating their own future. In every society it is incumbent on government to give its own people an opportunity to voice their concerns and pursue their aspirations.”