Human rights not ‘interference’ in U.S.-China relations, critics say

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks that human rights concerns should not “interfere” with U.S.-China cooperation on economic, environmental and other issues drew criticism from several Congressmen and a former political prisoner who argued the comments ignore the regime’s practices of coerced abortion, religious persecution and forced labor.

Speaking to reporters in Seoul, Korea on Friday, Secretary Clinton noted past U.S. administrations’ focus on human rights issues and issues such as Chinese action in Tibet.

“We have to continue to press them but our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises. We have to have a dialog that leads to an understanding and cooperation on each of those,” she said.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) called the remarks “a shocking display of pandering” and argued they make clear that the Obama Administration “has chosen to peddle U.S. debt to the largest dictatorship in the world over combating torture, forced abortion, forced labor, religious persecution, human sex trafficking, gendercide, and genocide.”

“Secretary Clinton said concern for the protection of human rights of the Chinese people can’t ‘interfere’ with the economic crisis, climate change, and security – as if human rights were somehow disconnected and irrelevant to those issues,” he charged.

Rep. Smith said that Chinese political prisoners “languish” in concentration camps and face “unspeakable torture and abuse.” He claimed about half a million Chinese are in such labor camps.

He also argued the Obama Administration and the Democratic leadership is about to “lavishly” fund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with $50 million in U.S. taxpayer money.

He said the UNFPA has “shamelessly and systematically” aided the Chinese government’s one child policy, which includes forced abortions.

“That cruel, anti-family policy has made brothers and sisters illegal in China and murdered tens of millions of children and wounded countless Chinese women,” Rep. Smith said.

Under Secretary of State Colin Powell, the U.S. State Department verified the pro-life Population Research Institute’s allegations that the UNFPA was cooperating with coercive abortion program in China.

“UNFPA's support of, and involvement in, China's population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion,” Powell said in a July 21, 2002 letter to Congress.

Chinese state policy requires monitoring of all Chinese women’s reproductive cycles, mandatory birth permits, mandatory contraception or sterilization, and extreme fines for those who do not comply with the one child per couple policy.

Also critical of Secretary Clinton was Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who argued that “bold public proclamations on the importance of liberty” give hope to political prisoners.

“Words have power,” he continued. “They have the power to inspire, or deflate; they have the power to give vision or to stifle hope. But for words to inspire the hope for a day when the Chinese people can worship freely, where the press is not censored, where political dissent is permitted – they must first be spoken.

“…We should not turn our backs on the importance of international human rights because we are in a recession. We must not let human rights become trivialized.  I urge Secretary Clinton to repair the damage she has done with her comments by expressing the importance of human rights in the U.S. relations with all nations, especially China.”

Wei Jingsheng, a former Chinese political prisoner who chairs the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition, in a Feb. 21 letter to Secretary Clinton said her remarks sent the message that U.S. human rights-centered diplomacy has “come to an end.”

Rep. Smith recounted a conversation he had with Wei:

“He told me ‘When the U.S. government panders, they beat us more. When the U.S. government talked tough, they beat us less’.”

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