U.S. Embassy, Beijing
As the U.S. Ambassador to China, I count myself lucky to work with China every day. China is a remarkable country that has made tremendous progress in many areas, including lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. We would like to see that trend continue and we know China’s success benefits our own.
China’s ability to achieve the innovation and stability to ensure lasting prosperity requires protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. We know that safeguarding these freedoms is difficult. Every country — including our own — has work to do. That work is not easy, and we welcome public debate over how best to grapple with our problems. Censorship, restrictions on fundamental freedoms, and discrimination undermine the trust societies place in their leaders.
There are efforts underway to improve certain protections in China, including the beginning of some judicial reforms. However, China’s own laws are often either implemented selectively or ignored. We remain concerned over the crackdown on human rights lawyers and others who seek peacefully to contribute their views to the public discourse on the future of China. In some cases, these Chinese citizens have been detained in secret locations without access to their families or their lawyers. This is deeply troubling and calls into question China’s commitment to the rule of law.
Lawyers such as Wang Yu, Li Heping and Zhang Kai bravely fight for the legal rights of religious believers, journalists, victims of forced evictions, and women who simply want to protest sexual assault. They should be embraced as partners, not enemies, of the government. Another lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, has been recognized around the world for supporting the rule of law in China, but has been in jail awaiting trial for more than 18 months. Releasing him would be a step toward a more just society. Such a society also allows all of its citizens to practice their culture and religion in peace and dignity.
Today, on the 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we celebrate the idea that human dignity is the foundation for justice, freedom, and peace. We are reminded that all countries have a responsibility to do more to protect the human rights of every citizen. And today, we urge China to uphold its international human rights obligations and commitments. Respect for the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would create a more stable and prosperous China.