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(New York) - American policy toward China should reflect a more principled, high-profile approach to human rights in China, said a group of human rights advocates and China experts in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The letter was sent by Amnesty International, the Foreign Policy Initiative, Freedom House, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, Project 2049, Reporters Without Borders, and the Uighur American Association.

The letter applauds President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton for the support shown to the October 2010 awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese government critic Liu Xiaobo, but urges Clinton to take a series of steps prior to the US-China summit, tentatively scheduled for January 2011, between Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Specific recommendations include:

  • Reinforcing the commitments made in Clinton's statement on Liu's Nobel victory by raising the cases of those who have been harassed by virtue of their association with Liu Xiaobo or Charter '08, and by enlisting the assistance of other Cabinet members who meet regularly with Chinese officials to raise human rights concerns;
  • Reaching out to the Chinese people with messages of support for universally-recognized human rights as a key element of productive US-China relations; and
  • Making a specific and public effort to meet in Beijing and Washington with Chinese, Uighur, and Tibetan democracy and human rights defenders, and ordinary Chinese citizens.

The letter notes the Secretary's recent comments on the importance of human rights and freedoms, in which she stressed the need to support human rights advocates, and that "when fundamental freedoms need a champion, people turn to [the US]...not just to engage but to lead."

"Secretary Clinton has taken an important step towards overcoming her comments last year that human rights ‘shouldn't interfere' in the US-China relationship," said Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "But that momentum has to translate into specific policies and practices in order to be more than just rhetoric."

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