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(New York) – United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew should use the upcoming US-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue to forcefully advocate better human rights protections in China, nine human rights organizations said today in a letter to Kerry and Lew. The dialogue will take place in Washington, DC, on June 22-24, 2015.

The letter was sent by Amnesty International, China Aid, Freedom House, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, Project 2049, Reporters Without Borders, and the Uighur Human Rights Project.

“Hardly anyone in the US administration thinks the human rights situation in China is improving, and that reality is limiting key aspects of the relationship,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “As a result, US officials who sit down to talk with Chinese counterparts have an interest in urging an end to those abuses.”

The groups expressed appreciation for US efforts to push back against a draft law that would restrict the operations of foreign nongovernmental groups in China and to support some human rights defenders from China. But the organizations questioned whether the US is truly pursuing its stated “whole of government” approach to human rights in China. They recommended that the US:

  • Explain frankly that a failure by the Chinese government to withdraw or to rewrite in compliance with international human rights standards its draft laws on counterterrorism, national security, and foreign nongovernmental groups presents significant obstacles to bilateral cooperation on issues ranging from economic ties to law enforcement cooperation to cultural exchanges;
  • Publicly call for the release of people imprisoned for doing nothing more than peacefully exercising their rights;
  • Publicly express concerns about ongoing and multiplying threats to freedom of expression in China;
  • Demonstrate commitment to the “Stand with Civil Society” initiative by hosting prominent human rights defenders from China at the White House; and
  • Report publicly after the dialogue about what human rights issues were raised, and by whom, to build confidence in the “whole of government” approach.

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