Bipartisan Congress Letter Urges Clinton to Raise Human Rights in China

A bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week to urge her to make sure her talks with the Chinese government are consistent with the true state of human rights in the eastern superpower.

In the March 4 letter, signed by 16 members of congress, Clinton was urged not to separate the issues of security threats, troubled economies, and environmental concerns from human rights.

"As long as practices of forced abortions, imprisonment of human rights lawyers, and persecution of unregistered churches continues, the people of China will be neither free nor safe," the congressmen wrote.

Signers highlighted that the State Department Human Rights Report released last week "clearly" describes a "deterioration" of human rights condition in China during 2008.

"Please make certain that your conversations with the Chinese government are consistent with the findings of this report," they urged, adding that they "desire" and are willing to work with Clinton and the State Department to help ensure the United States continues to be a leader in promoting human rights in the world.

The bipartisan congressional letter was in response to the Secretary of State's recent visit to China where she made controversial remarks that human rights issues will take a lower priority in U.S.-China talks than the economic crisis, climate change, and security threats.

Clinton's statement drew criticism from human rights groups as well as congress members for appearing to signal a U.S. change of values where human rights is no longer a top priority.

"America has always been a friend to the oppressed, the persecuted, the forgotten. Has our allegiance changed?" wrote Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, in a personal letter dated Feb. 23 to Clinton. "I urge you to change course, lest this country itself be changed."

Signers of the March 4 letter urging Clinton to keep human rights as a top priority in talks with China include: Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.); Rep Michael Michaud (D-Maine); Rep Mike Rogers (R-Mich.); Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas); Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-Penn.); and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio).