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US Senators ask Obama to raise human rights issues with Xi

Washington: Ten powerful Senators today asked US President Barack Obama to raise concern with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over human rights conditions in China, particularly on the issues of Tibetan lamas, when the two leaders meet here in September.

“We understand that there are many important issues in the US-China bilateral relationship we expect that China’s recent actions in the East and South China Seas, economic and trade issues, climate change, as well as the recent cyberattacks, will figure prominently in your discussions,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Obama.

“While these issues deserve a full and robust exchange of views, so too do human rights…Mr President, we recognise that managing the US-China relationship is an enormous and complex task. We firmly believe that a full and frank discussion of our concerns regarding human rights and civil society in China would serve to strengthen our relationship,” the Senators wrote in the letter released to the press.

Xi will visit the White House next month where Obama will host him over a State Dinner.

The letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin, John McCain, Pat Leahy, Kelly Ayotte, Sherrod Brown, Tom Cotton, Tammy Baldwin, Susan Collins, Robert Menendez and John Cornyn.

Under President Xi, there has been an extraordinary assault on rule of law and civil society in China.

Beginning on July 9, for example, Chinese law enforcement officials have detained or harassed more than 250 lawyers and political activists, they alleged.

“These detentions send a chilling message to civil and political rights advocates, and to the Chinese people. Their only crime was to seek to build a stronger and more inclusive China. Therefore, we ask that you call publicly and privately for China’s immediate release of these detained lawyers and activists, or at the very least, that China grant them due process,” the Senators demanded.

In the letter, the Senators hoped that the President’s administration will continue to urge China to end the harassment, detention, and other mistreatment of individuals who seek to peacefully practice their religion, and express their views or seek legal redress.

“In particular, we hope that you will emphasise to President Xi that China should respect the basic and universally recognised right of religious freedom, to include refraining from persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and from interference in the centuries-old system of recognising reincarnate Tibetan Buddhist lamas,” he said.

“To these ends, we ask that you press President Xi to immediately and unconditionally release Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and to put an end to the illegal house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia,” the letter said.