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Hillary Clinton China visit blamed for the detention of activists

February 22, 2009

Hillary Clinton has come under fire for her attitude to China's human
rights record after it emerged that a dozen dissidents were placed under
house arrest during her trip.

By David Eimer in Beijing
The Telegraph, London
Last Updated: 5:21PM GMT 21 Feb 2009

Before travelling to the People's Republic on Friday for a two day
visit, the new American Secretary of State, said she would not let the
issue "interfere" with efforts to resolve the global economic crisis and
combating climate change.

Human rights groups claimed her comments lifted the pressure on Beijing
to address the issue, making it easier for the Chinese to justify fresh
restrictions on dissidents.

"I am under house arrest because Hilary Clinton came," said Zeng Jinyan,
the wife of China's most prominent activist Hu Jia, via an email message.

Mrs Zeng said she had been told by the police who monitor her that she
and her baby daughter would not be allowed outside. Her husband is
serving a three-and-half-year prison sentence.

Mrs Clinton's failure to press Beijing on human rights appears to
contradict the desire of President Obama to restore America's
reputation, after the Bush administration was criticised for flouting
international law by torturing terrorist suspects and detaining them
indefinitely.

Last month, President Obama was hailed for his decision to close the
controversial Guantanemo Bay detention facility in Cuba, where some
prisoners have been held without trial for more than seven years.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a group comprising some of China's
most determined activists, said the authorities had told dissidents that
they would not be allowed to move freely during Mrs Clinton's visit.

They were either placed under increased surveillance or locked in their
homes and barred from receiving visitors.

Some activists were reported to have been detained by police at
guesthouses outside Beijing.

Many of those who have been targeted by the Chinese authorities signed
the Charter 08 petition in December. The petition, which was issued on
the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
called for political reform, freedom of expression and democracy in China.

It was signed by 303 intellectuals and activists, including Yu Jie, a
blacklisted writer who was visited by plainclothes police on Friday.

"They said I was to receive heightened monitoring throughout Clinton's
visit, but it would end once she left," said Mr Yu.

Although China always steps up the harassment of dissidents during
visits by foreign leaders, 2009 is also a particularly sensitive year
for Beijing.

The 50th anniversary of the failed uprising in Tibet, which resulted in
the Dalai Lama fleeing into exile, falls in March, while June 4 marks
the 20th anniversary of the crushing of the Tiananmen Square
pro-democracy protests.

It also represents a dramatic volte-face by Mrs Clinton.

Last year she called for then President Bush to boycott the opening
ceremony of the Beijing Olympics as a protest against China's crackdown
in Tibet last March and its failure to do more to end the genocide in
the Darfur region of Sudan.

In 1995, while in Beijing for a UN conference, Mrs Clinton described
China's one-child policy as a "violation of human rights".
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