BEIJING, China – The United States learned little regarding the condition and treatment of detained activists during its yearly rights dialogue with China, and officials are growing increasingly concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
Uzra Zeya, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said the dialogue between the United States and China did not meet Washington’s expectations but that these talks remain important for U.S. diplomacy. Zeya also said she mentioned specific examples of human rights abuses during the talk, such as the jailing of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and the extra-judicial house-arrest of his wife, but she noted that she received little response regarding these abuses.
Leading the U.S. delegation at the talks that took place in the Chinese city of Kunming on July 30th and 31st, Zeya said U.S. diplomats “conveyed [their]deep concern about attempts to control and silence activists by targeting family members and associates of the activists.” Zeya called the jailing of activists and their loved ones “a worrisome trend” that reveals “a deterioration in the overall human rights situation in China.”
Many Chinese citizens hoped that the appointment of President Xi Jinping as Communist Party chief would bring political reform and reduce the number of human rights abuses, but rights groups note that there has been no reduction in the pressure placed on activists, dissidents and groups such as the Tibetans that are fighting for reforms.
Governments and human rights organizations monitoring the situation in China have been struck in recent years by Chinese officials’ targeting relatives of high-profile dissidents such as Chen Guangcheng, a blind attorney who exposed abuses in the enforcement of the one-child policy, and Liu Xiaobo, who has been imprisoned since 2009 on subversion charges after campaigning for peaceful democratic change in his country.
Chen’s family has been repeatedly harassed in their hometown in the Shandong province, and Liu’s wife has been put under house arrest. Her brother was also sentenced to 11 years in prison because of a business dispute, which supporters speculate is a consequence for his association with Liu.
Regardless of the visible deterioration in China’s human rights situation, Beijing denies U.S. claims regarding China’s human rights record. An editorial posted on a news website administered by the Chinese government said “A real human rights dialogue should be based on mutual trust and respect,” implying that U.S. claims inhibit diplomacy between the two powers.
– Katie Bandera