Jiang Tianyong, human rights lawyer, September 17, 2015
The late September visit of Xi Jinping to America, and his meeting with president Obama, is a perfect opportunity for exerting pressure on China over rule-of-law and human rights. The United States should of course use this chance to apply leverage! America should, and can, demand that the Chinese authorities immediately release all the lawyers and human rights defenders who have been arrested, immediately cease its crazed suppression of NGOs, stop its persecution of Christians, and stop its current high-pressure crackdowns on the Uighur and Tibetan minority groups.
As long as the Obama administration is resolute in making the demands, Xi Jinping will accept them all. This is why: in the midst of domestic crises and external pressure, Xi’s leadership team can’t bear anything going wrong during his grand visit to America. In order to ensure that the summit with President Obama goes off without a hitch, Xi Jinping will go along with any condition you could imagine.
The key is whether President Obama and his government truly see human rights as important, or whether they’ll instead focus on the economy and overlook human rights—just going through the motions on rights issues. We call for President Obama to, now, clearly demand that Xi Jinping release all the human rights lawyers and human rights defenders who have been arrested, in order to create a good atmosphere for the Xi-Obama meeting. (He could communicate the matter privately if that would be better.)
What we don’t want is for Obama to wait until the time of the meeting and then just bring up human rights in a typically perfunctory manner.
Over the past few years, I’ve personally gotten the impression that the Obama administration had a strong streak of opportunism and pragmatism—they find it difficult to stick to their principles, and they’re extremely short sighted.
Originally I thought that, with increased contact with the Chinese Communist Party, President Obama would get an understanding of that regime and draw some lessons. But it seems that hasn’t happened. Instead, President Obama will more likely take on the visage of a merchant during this Xi visit, putting aside all his principles, completely neglecting the burning fact that all these human rights lawyers and human rights defenders have been “legally” and secretly disappeared by the authorities. He’ll likely only bring up human rights and rule-of-law in a symbolic manner, and then get back to discussing business with Xi.
The eagerness of the Americans to receive Xi Jinping, and Obama’s friendly interactions with him, will be yet another demonstration of the overall moral decline of Europe and America as they fall over each other to appease, or even ingratiate themselves with, the Communist Party.
All the same, realizing constitutional government, democracy, rule of law and human rights in China will in the end rely on the Chinese people’s efforts. No matter the difficulties, no matter how long it takes, the Chinese people will in the end realize this dream. The West will eventually see that they’re having placed their bet on the Communist Party while ignoring the Chinese people is a mistake of monumental proportions.
Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) is a Chinese human rights lawyer based in Beijing. Due to his taking on politically sensitive cases, including those of Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, petitioners, and others, he has had his license to practice law cancelled. In 2011 he was taken into custody by Chinese security forces for two months, during which time he was tortured. He was also briefly detained in the recent crackdown.
From China, Messages to President Obama Before Xi Jinping’s Visit (1), Liu Shihui, September 16, 2015.