Chinese Activists Urge Clinton to Raise Rights Concerns on Her First China Trip

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Chinese Activists Urge Clinton to Raise Rights Concerns on Her First China Trip

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, February 11, 2009) – Chinese human rights activists affiliated with the network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton today asking her to raise a number of critical human rights issues during her first visit to China, scheduled for next week.

The full text of the letter is included here:



Her Excellency Hillary Clinton

United States Secretary of State


Chinese human rights activists and other members of Chinese civil society affiliated with the network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)

Your Excellency Ms. Clinton:

Please accept our congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of State of the United States. Upon learning of your upcoming visit to China next week, we, members of the Chinese civil society, would like to welcome you and bring to your attention serious human rights concerns in our country.

We perfectly understand the importance of a strong US-China relationship for dealing with issues of economic stability, climate change, and regional security. However, we believe that a mutually beneficial relationship must be based not only on cooperation in commerce, but more importantly on cooperation in promoting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

The United States of America under the Obama administration has a special place in our hopes for change and our aspirations for building a just, humane, and peaceful China. China is at a critical crossroads in her development. We are trying our best, often at great risk to our personal freedom and safety, to push China to make a transition towards a free and democratic society based on universal values and human rights, and to steer clear of the consolidation of authoritarian rule. The US has for a long time been a beacon of freedom and hope for us. With a quarter of the world’s population, the world’s future hinges upon that of China. We believe that the US is now in a unique position to positively influence China and therefore lead the rest of the world towards a brighter future.

We would also like to draw your attention to the numerous commitments the Chinese government has made to the international community as a signatory to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions.

We hope, during your first brief visit to China in the capacity of the US Secretary of State, you would raise concerns with your hosts, the Chinese leaders, over serious and ongoing human rights violations. Taking such an initiative would set the tone for the Obama administration’s China policy, one that breaks away from previous US administrations’ policies of “engagement” at the expense of speaking up openly and strongly against abuses of human rights. The following is a short list of top priorities that we hope you can bring up in your meetings with Chinese leaders:

Ending Torture

Except for some progress in the promulgation of legislation and administrative documents, China has made no discernible improvement in prohibiting the use of torture or of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment twenty years after it ratified the Convention against Torture (CAT) in 1988. Torture continues to be practiced by government personnel with a wide variety of official duties as well as by persons affiliated with or working on behalf of the state. Perpetrators of torture are almost never held criminally accountable and victims of torture almost never receive adequate compensation. Please ask Chinese authorities to take effective measures to implement the CAT and ensure that perpetrators of torture are held legally accountable. For further analysis on torture in China, please see our report: Persistent Torture, Unaccountable Torturers

Abolishing Arbitrary Detention

Please urge the Chinese authorities to abolish various existing arbitrary detention facilities such as Re-education through Labor (RTL), “black jails” and psychiatric hospitals that are often used to punish dissidents, human rights defenders, religious practitioners, and “petitioners” (people who bring grievances, usually against local officials, to higher authorities to seek redress). We have also documented abuses in these detention facilities:

Secret Detention Facilities in Beijing Are Illegally Incarcerating Petitioners

Silencing Complaints: Human Rights Abuses against Petitioners in China,

Re-Education through Labor Abuses Continue Unabated: Overhaul Long Overdue.

Ending the Criminalization of Free Speech

Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident intellectual, is in police custody for participating in drafting and signing an online appeal for political reform, Charter 08. Police are holding him under suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”, a crime stipulated under Article 105(2) of the Criminal Code. Please ask Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo, protect freedom of expression and abolish the practice of using Article 105(2) to persecute individuals for exercising basic human rights. CHRD has documented the routine use of this law to detain and imprison individuals solely for exercising their rights in our report, Inciting Subversion of State Power”: A Legal Tool for Prosecuting Free Speech in China Among those imprisoned or awaiting trial for this crime, we specifically ask you to demand the release of Hu Jia, an HIV/AIDS and human rights activist, and Yang Chunlin, a grassroots organizer, both convicted and serving sentences, as well as Huang Qi, a human rights activist detained and awaiting trial.

We hope you will take this opportunity to show your support to the several thousands of Chinese citizens who have signed Charter 08, which calls for the promotion of values consistent with those long-cherished by Americans, such as human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. Please call on the Chinese government to stop harassing and intimidating individuals for their endorsement of Charter 08.

We would also like to take this opportunity to urge you and the Obama administration to pursue a strong human rights policy with countries, including China, where abuses are systematic, using all diplomatic means available to you, including conducting a U.S.-China human rights dialogue with teeth – one that involves genuinely independent members of the civil society and human rights organizations.

Sincerely yours,

Chinese activists and members of the Chinese civil society

in affiliation with

Chinese Human Rights Defenders

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