U.S. House Members Urge Obama to Raise Human Rights in Talks with Chinese President Hu
Posted by Author on January 15, 2011
(Midland, Tex – Jan. 15, 2011) Thirty-two members of Congress on Friday sent an open letter to President Obama urging him to raise China’s “egregious human rights record” in his talks next week with visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao. Meanwhile, Obama issued a presidential proclamation declaring Jan. 16 to be National Religious Freedom Day.
Also Friday, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced that ChinaAid founder and president Pastor Bob Fu would be joining other human rights crusaders and House members at a press conference next Tuesday to focus attention on China’s human rights abuses on the first day of Hu’s Jan. 18-21 visit.
Just as ChinaAid received news of the joint congressional letter to Obama, Fu got a message from Beijing that ailing rights activist Hu Jia, who is serving a three-year sentence for subverting state power because of his work on behalf of AIDS victims and environmental protection, collapsed on Friday during a prison visit with his wife and mother. He complained of severe abdominal pain and had to be sent to the prison hospital.
Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, said she appealed once again for Hu to be released for health reasons, but was again refused. He is seriously ill with liver disease and has 160 days left in his sentence.
Friday’s open letter to Obama was a truly bipartisan endeavor that called on the president to raise “China’s egregious human rights record …as a key issue in your discussions” with Hu during their meetings on Jan. 19 and 20.
“China touts its continued economic progress and integration into the world economy while refusing to acknowledge and uphold universal standards applicable to human rights. This was clearly manifest in the run-up to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony,” the letter said.
It listed six specific issues that the signers wanted Obama to raise, including releasing all prisoners of conscience, recognizing and respecting the rights to freedom of speech and association, the need to implement and respect the rule of law, and the need to recognize and respect religious freedom.
The letter raised by name the cases of Gao, imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, and the jailed sons of Uyghur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer. ChinaAid has worked closely with members of Congress for years on these cases, particularly Gao and Chen, and has been pressing hard to get them raised in U.S.-China talks.
The letter reminded Obama that when he received the Nobel peace prize, he had pledged that “America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal to all human beings,” and urged him “to speak with a strong and clear voice in representing the American people in holding China accountable for its troubled human rights record and demanding improvement.”
Coincidentally, on the same day of the congressional letter, Obama issued a presidential proclamation declaring Jan. 16 to be National Religious Freedom Day, saying, “My Administration continues to defend the cause of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.”
On National Religious Freedom Day, ChinaAid, whose mission is to advance the cause of religious freedom in China, particularly for China’s house churches, plans to specially remember those who are being persecuted for their religious beliefs, especially those cases for which we have been longtime advocates. They include house churches and government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches; they include Han Chinese religious believers and religious believers from ethnic minority groups.
In 2006, President George W. Bush was the recipient of the Southern Baptist Convention’s John Leland Religious Liberty Award. In 2007, that award was given to Fu. In 2009, the honoree was Christian human rights lawyer Fan Yafeng. But since October 2010, Fan and his family have been the victims of increasingly severe government persecution, and he is now under house arrest in Beijing. He and his family have paid a heavy price for their religious beliefs.
At next Tuesday’s congressional press conference organized by Congressman Smith, the plight of one of Fan’s friends and colleagues, Gao Zhisheng, will be highlighted when his wife, Geng He, speaks about their experiences.
Smith, a longtime champion of human rights around the world, joined Fu in Oslo, Norway, last month, where both were attending the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, in delivering a petition signed by nearly 150,000 people from 180 countries calling for the release of Gao, who in April 2010 disappeared for the second time into government custody.
“We thank congressional leaders like Congressmen Chris Smith and Frank Wolf for their persistent and tireless courageous efforts in advocating for human rights and religious freedom in China,” Fu said. “The continued silence from senior Obama administration leaders regarding the grave and deteriorating situation in China can only lead to a high price being exacted in the long run from Americans and the entire free world, just as happened in the 1930s in Europe.”
Fu added, “ChinaAid calls on the Chinese government to release all prisoners of conscience, including the ailing jailed rights activist Hu Jia, who collapsed during a prison visit with his wife and mother.”
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