Clinton must press China on rights
A stable, open China is in America's best interests.
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In anticipation, the Chinese government has already intensified security. Strong crackdowns against protesters in Tibet have been under way since January. Authors of Charter 08 have been harassed and detained. Beijing police barred organizers of the "20 Year Anniversary of China/Avant-Garde Exhibition" from hosting events, and other Tiananmen-related crackdowns are likely to continue in the coming months as the government attempts to avoid Tiananmen-related "embarrassment."Skip to next paragraph
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The Obama administration should not allow these anniversaries – and the human rights values they represent – to go forgotten. Not only does the United States have a moral obligation to confront human rights issues in China, but it is in the best strategic interests of the US to do so. Given the high degree of interdependence between the US and Chinese economies and China's growing military reach, American interests are best served by a stable China with a robust commitment to the rule of law. Those conditions are undermined by a failure to respect human rights.
Recalling her groundbreaking pronouncement as first lady at the 1995 Beijing Women's Conference that "Women's rights are human rights," Clinton should take similar advantage of this week's discussions to persuade China that it will not be able to address these pressing issues successfully if it ignores human rights. The secretary must stress that greater democracy and human rights will be integral to China if it is to be the highly respected global leader it aspires to be.
No one is better placed than Clinton with her international reputation for hard-headedness and high ideals to help China make the connection between greater freedom and respect for the rule of law and more effective government and less civil unrest. Her message should be straightforward: It's a new day in America and can be a new day in US-China relations, but bilateral relations will never be fully harmonious without real progress on human rights.
• William F. Schulz, a senior fellow in human rights policy at the Center for American Progress, is former executive director of Amnesty International USA. Sarah Dreier and Winny Chen are researchers at the center.