News / Asia

Human Rights Activist Describes White House Meeting on China

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (file photo)
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (file photo)

The head of a prominent human rights organization has spoken about a meeting he and three other rights activists had with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, urging the White House to focus on human rights during next week's visit by China's Vice President Xi Jinping.  

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, called the roughly 45 minute meeting with Biden a "candid and productive exchange."

The White House announced the Wednesday meeting with Roth and three other activists in a statement released on Thursday.  It said Biden discussed "the deterioration of China’s human rights situation, prospects for reform, and recommendations for U.S. policy.”

In addition to Roth, the group included Xiaorong Li of the group Human Rights in China, Benjamin Liebman, a Columbia University expert on China’s legal system, and Jianying Zha, an expert on Chinese media and popular culture.

Roth said they asked Biden to ensure that human rights be given a "central public place" in conversations with China's vice president, something, he said, Biden indicated he was determined to do.

"He really volunteered that he felt the U.S.-China relationship has to be based on the truth, that the truth is that HR [human rights] are universal values; they are not [only] Western [values], they are actually going to be central to China's success in the future," said Roth.

Roth's summary agreed with the official White House account of the meeting, which said Biden discussed how "greater openness and protection of universal rights is the best way to promote innovation, prosperity, and stability in all countries, including China."

Roth said the group did not get a White House commitment on a request Human Rights Watch made in a letter to President Barack Obama last month, that he invite former Chinese political prisoners and government critics to the White House.

The Human Rights Watch official said the discussion with Biden did not get into specific circumstances of political prisoners in China, noting that the White House is fully aware of these cases.

Roth pointed to a broader objective of focusing on "systematic" human rights violations in China.

"While obviously we all want to see particular political prisoners freed, no one is satisfied by that kind of tokenism," he said. "There are systematic problems in China today with their human rights record.  And those are the key things to address.  I don't think we should leave the impression that China can buy off criticism by releasing a prisoner here or there when the end result is usually that they just arrest someone else."

In a discussion in Washington on Thursday sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, experts echoed Roth, saying that they do not expect specific human rights cases to come up during Xi Jinping's White House talks.

Michael Green, who served as Asia Director for the National Security Council during the administration of former President George W. Bush, says it remains to be seen how Xi Jinping might respond to pressure on human rights during next week's meetings.

"It will be interesting to find out, if we can, if in the meetings with the president and the vice president, he [ Xi] actually contests the issue and says, 'Oh yeah, well you have human rights [issues].'  I could see him pushing back more privately, and maybe even publicly, because he has done it before," said Green.

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said he and other activists urged Vice President Biden to work to ensure that the United States adopts a "whole government approach" to human rights in China.

Roth said they stressed that the audience for an intensified public and private approach is not just Vice President Xi, but the Chinese people - including reformers who would feel abandoned if such discussion does not take place.   

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid