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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

US rights groups furious with Clinton

February 22, 2009

By William Lowther, Taipei Times
Sunday, Feb 22, 2009, Page 1

US human rights groups were furious that US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton appeared to be letting China off the hook on her current visit
to Beijing.

Just before arriving in the Chinese capital, Clinton told reporters that
while she would press concerns over human rights: “Those issues can’t
interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate change
crisis and the security crisis.”

Her remarks have been widely interpreted in the US as a signal that she
is prepared to put human rights on the back burner.

A spokesman for Amnesty International USA said he was “shocked and
extremely disappointed” by Clinton’s remarks.

“The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully
stand up to China on human rights issues,” the spokesman said. “But by
commenting that human rights will not interfere with other priorities,
Secretary Clinton damages future US initiatives to protect those rights
in China.”

Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of the New York-based Students for a Free
Tibet, said: “The US government cannot afford to let Beijing set the
agenda. Leaders really need to step up and pressure China. It’s often
easy to wonder whether pressure makes a difference. It may not make a
difference in one day or one month, but it would be visible after some

Sophie Richardson, a director of Human Rights Watch, said: “Secretary
Clinton’s remarks point to a diplomatic strategy that has worked well
for the Chinese government — segregating human rights into a dead-end
dialogue of the deaf. A new approach is needed, one in which the US
engages China on the critical importance of human rights to a wide range
of mutual security interests.”

“A successful strategy for the US doesn’t entail agreeing to disagree,
but rather convincing China it is in its own interest to protect
dissent, peaceful protests and the creation of a truly independent legal
system,” Richardson said. “Most importantly, ordinary people, workers,
intellectuals and even government and party representatives in China
will also appreciate hearing the United States raise human rights issues
in ways that echo their own day-to-day concerns about rule of law and
government accountability.”

Because Clinton openly criticized China’s human rights record in a 1995
speech in Beijing, there had been high hopes that she would give
priority to the issue again.

But leaving Seoul on Friday for her final stop in Beijing on a week-long
tour of Asia, Clinton said she would concentrate on the global economic
crisis, climate change and security challenges, such as the North Korean
nuclear weapons program.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that questions of Taiwan, Tibet, human rights,
the whole range of challenges that we often engage in with the Chinese
are not part of the agenda. But we pretty much know what they are going
to say,” Clinton said.

Before leaving Washington, Clinton received a letter from seven US human
rights groups urging her to make human rights “a prominent topic” in her
public and private discussions with the Chinese leadership.

“Your visit will set the tone for the US-China relationship in the new
Obama administration,” the letter said. “This will be the crucial moment
to signal to the Chinese government that the quality of its relationship
with the United States will depend in part on whether it lives by
universally accepted human rights norms in its domestic and foreign
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