Department of State addresses China's human rights, religious freedom abuses in 19th U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Department of State discussed
China's human rights and religious
freedom abuses in the U.S.-China
Human Rights Dialogue.
(Photo: Department of State)
China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

(Washington—Aug. 17, 2015) The Department of State addressed the importance of improved human rights in China in its Aug. 13 briefing on the 19th U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue.

In the State Department’s briefing, Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski summarizes the State Department’s recent meeting with a delegation of Chinese government agencies, during which he highlighted the growing American concern regarding human rights and religious freedom abuses in China. 

In the dialogue, Malinowski addressed China's crackdown on lawyers and legal personnel, using examples of previously detained and arrested individuals:
First and foremost, we discussed the Chinese Government’s crackdown on lawyers, which has resulted in over 250 attorneys, activists, and their family members being detained, questioned, interrogated, or held incommunicado. While most have been released, many are still in custody, many reportedly have been denied access to defense counsel. Some have been forced to make televised confessions, actions as we explained today that run contrary to China’s own criminal procedure law. In this context, we called for the immediate release of lawyers still being held and charged with crimes including Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, Li Heping, and Liu Xiaoyuan, among others.
In continuing the discussion of Chinese lawyers, Malinowski referenced the ongoing plight of former China 18 member Gao Zhisheng, who was released in August 2014 but is still denied medical attention and freedom of movement:
We also discussed other prominent cases of attorneys and legal activists who have been detained or imprisoned for peaceful activities, including Pu Zhiqiang and Gao Zhisheng who was released last year but is still not free to travel or live a normal life.
Malinowski also mentioned the U.S.'s concern regarding freedom of speech and brought up the case of China 18 member Liu Xiaobo:
We also took time to talk about the importance of free discourse both online and offline, and expressed our concern for those imprisoned for peaceful expression, including Liu Xiaobo. We talked about how critical a free media is to the Chinese Government’s – any government’s – efforts to address citizen demands. We pressed for the release of Gao Yu, a 71-year-old journalist who is in poor health. We also highlighted our strong interest in China committing to timely and predictable adjudication of journalist and academic visas and fair and equitable treatment for U.S. news outlets operating in China.
Along with human rights abuses, the assistant secretary used the dialogue as an opportunity to discuss the recent cross demolitions in China's coastal Zhejiang and advocated for China 18 member Zhang Shaojie:
We talked about religious freedom, and in that discussion we raised our concerns about the government’s recent campaign to remove crosses and demolish Christian churches in Zhejiang province and other regions. We noted that the spread of Christianity and other religions and the peaceful advocacy of religious leaders such as Pastor Zhang Shaojie should not be feared; rather, religious belief can be a source of stability and comfort in communities that have gone through changes during China’s rapid modernization. 
The assistant secretary stated that the Human Rights Dialogue is intended to open a conversation regarding human rights abuse for further discussion at the summit scheduled during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s September visit to the U.S.

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