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China: Spotlight Rights in US Summit with Xi Jinping

Obama Must Deliver Clear Message on “Worsening” Rights Climate

(New York) – United States President Barack Obama should publicly and privately challenge China’s Vice President Xi Jinping on the deteriorating human rights environment in China during Xi’s February 14 visit to Washington, Human Rights Watch said in a letter released today. Xi is expected to assume leadership of the Chinese government later this year.

“The Chinese government will be watching closely to see how Xi’s visit to Washington unfolds,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Failing to deliver the clearest possible message about the deteriorating human rights environment would be disastrous for all those struggling every day in China to assert their rights.”

The letter urges President Obama to:

  • Invite to the White House Chinese government critics and former political prisoners who have sought refuge in the United States, to seek their opinions on the current human rights crackdown and how to reverse it;
  • Give an interview in advance of Vice President Xi’s visit, specifically addressing US concerns about human rights abuses in China to Caixin, the Southern Metropolis Group, Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America, and other outlets with broad reach inside China;
  • Present a list of human rights issues that will be raised by each of the agencies participating in this year’s US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue;
  • Systematically collect information on cases of acts that violate international law, such as torture, murder, and enforced disappearance, committed by state security officials who enjoy impunity for these acts, and inquire regularly about these cases; and
  • Articulate a set of benchmarks that must be met before the next US-China Human Rights Dialogue takes place, such as the locating and freeing of persons detained, disappeared, and/or sentenced for peacefully exercising their rights, and a commitment from the Chinese government to resume meaningful negotiations with representatives of ethnic minority communities to address longstanding grievances.

“Quite simply, Vice President Xi should not receive the benefits and recognition that come with a state visit without having to answer publicly for his government’s increasingly harsh crackdown on critics and human rights defenders,” said Richardson. 

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