March 7, 2017
Wilberforce A!ert: The U.S. Should Boldly Speak Out Against Continuing Human Rights Abuses in China
Last week, the Congressional Executive Commission on China convened a hearing in Washington, D.C. entitled, “The Broken Promises of China’s WTO Accession: Reprioritizing Human Rights.” Led by the Commission’s co-chairs Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), the purpose was to review the landscape of human rights and the rule of law in China 15 years after being granted Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) and entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Testimonies – from Rep. Nancy Pelosi; Rep. Frank R. Wolf (Ret.); Michael R. Wessel, Commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission; James Mann, author of The China Fantasy; Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch China Director; and Jeff Gillis, husband of American businesswoman Sandy Phan-Gillis, detained in China for the past two years – painted a bleak picture of China’s human rights record the past decade and a half.
Proponents of the approach to allow China these economic freedoms with the hope they would encourage human rights cannot claim that China has made any progress. 21CWI Distinguished Senior Fellow said in his testimony before the commission that,
“The irony is that due to the great wealth, increased economic interconnectivity and international influence that China has been able to achieve in the past 15 years, the U.S. has less leverage than it once did to push back against these abuses. However, it doesn’t mean that we can’t – and shouldn’t – use every lever we still have to address the egregious human rights violations of one of the most repressive regimes in the world.”
During the hearing, those testifying made many recommendations, including pushing the U.S. to prioritize the circumvention of China’s Internet firewall, but one of the refrains that echoed over and over was the need for the U.S. to boldly speak out against these continuing abuses. Sophie Richardson with Human Rights Watch stated,
“Why do governments fret so much about Chinese officials’ ‘face?’ Chinese officials do not concern themselves with the ‘face’ of the people they are torturing, imprisoning or harassing. And why do those governments not seek to help those unlawfully detained and at risk of torture, by confronting their tormentors?”
Indeed, it is difficult to differentiate between the landscape of human rights and religious freedom 15 years ago and now. The most recent report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom states,
“During the past year, the [Chinese] government increased its targeting of human rights lawyers and dissidents, some of whom advocated for religious freedom or represented individuals of various beliefs … authorities across China undertook a sweeping dragnet rounding up lawyers and human rights defenders, including religious freedom advocates, with nearly 300 arrested, detained or disappeared. Many of these individuals came under government suspicion precisely because they chose to represent politically undesirable groups, such as the Uighur Muslims, unregistered Christian leaders and members, and Falun Gong practitioners.”
Both the U.S. and its citizens need to commit themselves to speak out on behalf of those who are persecuted and imprisoned in China for following the dictates of their conscience.
1. Read testimonies from the March 1 Congressional Executive Commission on China hearing.
2. Adopt a prisoner of conscience and encourage your member of Congress to adopt one as well.
3. Read about the Internet firewall in China and what the U.S. can do about it.