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Critics: Clinton, in China visit, neglected human rights

WASHINGTON (BP)–On her first trip to China as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton downplayed the Asia giant’s human rights record and instead emphasized concerns over global warming and the world economy.

“Successive administrations and Chinese governments have been poised back and forth on these [rights] issues, and we have to continue to press them,” Clinton told reporters in Seoul, South Korea, just before leaving for Beijing.

“But our pressing on those issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,” she said.

Clinton’s remarks drew intense criticism from human rights advocates including Amnesty International and some members of Congress.

“Secretary Clinton’s remarks point to a diplomatic strategy that has worked well for the Chinese government — segregating human rights issues into a dead-end ‘dialogue of the deaf,'” Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times.

Congressmen Chris Smith, R.-N.J., Frank Wolf, R.-Va., and Joe Pitts, R.-Pa., held a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Feb. 24 to call for the Obama administration to take a stronger stance on human rights violations.

“In a shocking display of pandering, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear in Beijing that the Obama administration has chosen to peddle U.S. debt to the largest dictatorship in the world over combating torture, forced abortion, forced labor, religious persecution, human sex trafficking, gendercide and genocide,” Smith said, according to a news release.

About half a million people each day endure the cruelty and humiliation of labor camps in China, Smith said, noting that the Obama administration is “poised to lavishly fund” the U.N. Population Fund with $50 million in U.S. taxpayer money. The UNFPA, he said, “has shamelessly and systematically aided and abetted the Chinese government’s one child per couple forced abortion policy.”

“That cruel, anti-family policy has made brothers and sisters illegal in China and murdered tens of millions of children and wounded countless Chinese women,” Smith said.

Wolf, who traveled to China with Smith last summer to assess human rights conditions prior to the Beijing Olympics, called on Clinton to speak up on the difficult matter.

“Silence is itself a message. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends,'” Wolf said. “America has always been a friend to the oppressed, the persecuted, the forgotten. Has our allegiance changed?”

Also at the news conference, Pitts emphasized the priority human rights must take over other issues.

“For 200 years, people living in oppression around the world have looked to the United States for inspiration and support for their cause,” Pitts said. “We should not turn our backs on the importance of international human rights because we are in a recession. We must not let human rights become trivialized. I urge Secretary Clinton to repair the damage she has done with her comments by expressing the importance of human rights in the U.S. relations with all nations, especially China.”

In addition to the well-known violations of religious freedom in China, the news release from Smith’s office detailed the harsh treatment of women in the communist nation, noting that more women commit suicide there than anywhere else in the world.

“The Chinese government violates Chinese women with a state policy of mandatory monitoring of all Chinese women’s reproductive cycles, mandatory birth permits, mandatory contraception or sterilization and extreme fines, up to 10 times the annual salary of both husband and wife if they don’t comply with the one child per couple policy,” Smith’s office said.

In remarks alongside China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing Feb. 21, a moderator asked Clinton to address the criticism she had received after the previous day’s comments on not letting human rights “interfere” with other goals.

“The promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of U.S. global foreign policy,” Clinton said. “I have raised the issue on every stop on this trip, and have done so here, in my conversations with the foreign minister. Our candid discussions are part of our approach, and human rights is part of our comprehensive agenda.

“At least as important in building respect for and making progress on human rights are the efforts of civil society institutions, NGOs, women’s groups, academic institutions, and we support those efforts. And I have highlighted their good work in each capital I have visited, and I will do so here, as well, tomorrow,” Clinton added.

In early February, China Aid, a U.S.-based watchdog organization, released its annual report on persecution in China, documenting a significant increase in persecution of house church Christians in China. The report also indicates a trend toward targeting Christians in urban areas with tougher tactics.

“The year of the Beijing Olympic Games marks a year of increased persecution of house church Christians. In 2008, the total number of house church Christians persecuted in the nation increased 157 percent. In Beijing alone, persecution increased 418 percent,” China Aid said.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.

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