Statements by CECC Chairs on the Eve of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Statements by CECC Chairs on the Eve of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Urge Secretary Kerry to Raise Priority Prisoner Cases, Hong Kong’s Autonomy, Internet Freedom, and Overseas NGO Management Law

June 3, 2016

(Washington DC)—As the eighth and final U.S-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) of the Obama administration begins next week (June 5-7, 2016) in Beijing, Representative Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio, the Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued the following statements highlighting that progress on human rights in China is essential to U.S. economic and strategic interests.

“It is disappointing that the highest level U.S.-China dialogue has produced so little by way of human rights advances or even prisoner releases.  Human rights are banished to an annual human rights dialogue whose only recent outcome is agreement to continue talking. The U.S. needs a radical rethinking of our diplomatic approach. You can’t lead by giving a few speeches and raising issues in low-level meetings. Human rights and rule of law concerns must be integrated at every level of the bilateral relationship for a clear message to be sent,” said Representative Smith. “President Xi wants a ‘new type’ of relationship with the U.S., but that can’t happen when there are thousands of prisoners of conscience; when Hong Kong’s autonomy is threatened; when a new NGO law stifles civil society; when draconian population control efforts are the cause of festering social and economic problems; and when China seeks to stifle dissent globally with abductions, harassment, and cyber-attacks. We can no longer afford to separate human rights from our other interests in China. It is increasingly clear that the health of the U.S. economy and environment, the safety of our food and drug supplies, the security of our investments and personal information in cyberspace, and the stability of the Pacific region will depend on China complying with international law, allowing the free flow of news and information, and the developing an independent judiciary and civil society.”

“The Obama Administration’s final U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue is just days away in Beijing.  It comes on the heels of the 27th anniversary of the brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protestors—sadly the aspirations of the Tiananmen generation remain unfulfilled,” said Senator Rubio.  “For too long, China has gotten a free pass.  What will it take for human rights and rule of law concerns to be prioritized in our bilateral relationship? What will it take for every participating U.S. government agency to be charged with bringing these issues to the forefront with their Chinese counterparts?  What will it take for there to be consequences for China’s increasingly bold extraterritorial reach, brazen violations of human rights including persistent controls on the Internet and freedom of speech and ever-tightening space for civil society as evidenced by the recently passed Overseas NGO Management Law?  In March, the United States spearheaded a collective statement at the U.N. Human Rights Council voicing serious concern about a number of these issues. The S&ED will be a litmus test for this Administration—the statement was commendable, but will words translate into action?”

Congressional Letter on Tiananmen Anniversary:  On June 2, 2016, a bipartisan group of CECC Commissioners issued a letter to President Xi Jinping urging him to lift restrictions on public discussion of the Tiananmen massacre and end reprisals against those seeking information about missing family members and former student leaders. The letter also urged the release of individuals detained for commemorating the Tiananmen anniversary including Yu Shiwen who is reportedly in poor health having suffered a stroke in detention.

Secretary Kerry Urged to Raise Prisoner Cases:  The chairs also noted with great concern several priority political prisoner cases and urged Secretary Kerry to raise them during the S&ED, including Pastor Li Guozhi (Yang Hua); rights activist Guo Feixiong; Gui Minhai and the other Hong Kong booksellers; U.S. citizen Sandy Phan-Gillis, and those from the CECC’s #FreeChinasHeroes initiative who remain imprisoned, detained or disappeared.

Many of these cases are featured in the CECC’s Political Prisoner Database (PPD), which contains records on more than 1,300 political and religious prisoners currently known or believed to be detained or imprisoned in China.