DHARAMSHALA, July 31: A global human rights group has urged the United States to use its ongoing human rights dialogue with the Chinese government to “demand concrete public commitments to change policies and practices that violate human rights.”
New York based Human Rights Watch in a release Tuesday pointed out that Beijing has made “little discernible improvement” in its human rights record, while calling the country’ new leadership “intolerant of dissent and criticism.”
The US and China are holding their annual dialogue on human rights on Tuesday and Wednesday in the southern Chinese city of Kunming, Yunan province. It is the first since the new Chinese leaders, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, assumed power in March.
“American officials should approach this interaction acutely aware that people in China who are trying to have exactly the same discussions with the government are being arbitrarily detained and prosecuted,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW. “US officials should use this opportunity to do what people in China want: to try their best to hold the Chinese government accountable for its human rights violations.”
The group noted that the Chinese government has “refused to address the underlying grievances in the Tibetan areas and Xinjiang, and instead pursued repression in both regions.”
Since 2009, as many as 120 Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
“The US government should press the Chinese government to adopt concrete and clear benchmarks, and evaluate the progress in subsequent dialogues,” HRW said. “Without these benchmarks, the human rights dialogue risks serving as a perfunctory diplomatic exercise, rather than a genuinely useful advocacy tool.”
The group also called on the US delegation to provide “as much information as possible” about the topics discussed and the nature of the Chinese government’s replies following the dialogue.
The US State Department last week said that Washington would seek improvements in China’s human rights record, including its treatment of ethnic minorities, during the talks.
“The promotion of human rights remains a key tenet of US foreign policy, including toward China, and we are committed to continuing candid and in-depth discussion with the Chinese government on this issue,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
“The two sides will discuss rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, labor rights, rights of ethnic minorities, and other human rights issues over the course of the dialogue.”
The two nations started the annual human rights dialogue in the wake of China’s 1989 clampdown on demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, although Beijing refused talks from 2002 to 2008 out of anger at US criticism.