Human rights panel chairman: Hosting Hu gave Beijing moral legitimacy

January 22, 2011

By Bridget Johnson, The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room

The new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that focuses on human rights said Friday that President Obama’s summit and state dinner with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week left many Chinese “bewildered, demoralized and left behind.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said on Fox Business Network that despite human rights issues the Chinese government was able to create a picture of moral legitimacy through the visit with Obama.

“If you go online and read the People’s Daily, in the English version, and certainly the Chinese versions are identical, if not worse, they are touting this as a master stroke of diplomacy for President Hu Jintao,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, the president was silent. Here he is, a Nobel Peace Prize winner himself in 2009, meeting with the jailer of Liu Xiaobo who is the Peace Prize winner for 2010. While he languishes in prison, his wife is under house arrest.”

Obama stressed that he brought up human rights concerns with Hu. But the Chinese leader brushed off concerns levied at him by members of Congress.

“I mean, it can’t get any worse,” Smith said. “The president should have looked him in the eye, been very firm, yes, diplomatic, and said, you must free the dissidents, you must ease the freedom for these men and women who are suffering not just incarceration, but torture. They torture these people.”

On Thursday the chairwoman of Foreign Affairs, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), handed Hu a copy of a letter she had sent to Obama expressing concern about its human rights, economic and security policies.

“I then had an opportunity at the end of today’s meeting to challenge Mr. Hu to free Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng, and other dissidents held in prison, to respect the rights of the Tibetan and Uyghur people, to end the persecution of the underground Christians and Falun Gong practitioners, and to end China’s policy of forced abortion,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

“Out of all of the issues I raised, the only one which received a response from Mr. Hu was my statement urging the end of China’s forced abortion policy,” she said. “I was astonished when he insisted that such a policy does not exist.”


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