Congressmen Say Clinton’s China Trip Remarks ‘Debased Human Rights’

February 24, 2009 - 10:02 PM
Lawmakers are upset that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Chinese officials that "Our pressing on those [human rights] issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis." 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Oliver Weiken, Pool)


(CNSNews.com) - Though President Barack Obama promised to improve U.S. standing in the eyes of the international community, two top Republican lawmakers said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first official trip to China last week did little to help the cause.
 
“Last week, the Obama administration effectively dismissed, devalued and debased human rights – especially women’s rights – in the People’s Republic of China,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said at a press conference Tuesday.
 
“Secretary Clinton said concern for the protection of human rights of the Chinese people can’t ‘interfere’ with the economic crisis, climate change, and security – as if human rights were somehow disconnected and irrelevant to those issues,” he said.
 
During an appearance with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi last week, Clinton said the U.S. and China disagree on human rights, but at the moment, there are more important issues to tackle. 
 
“Our pressing on those [human rights] issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis,” she said. 

Smith was angry at Clinton's comments.
 
“Is it too much to ask that our Secretary of State firmly and boldly raise human rights rather than a tin cup?” he asked.
 
Smith told CNSNews.com that President Obama has promised that his administration would improve the reputation of the United States abroad. 
 
“On human rights, this administration – coming out of the blocks – has made a serious, serious error and I think people all over the world are looking at that,” Smith told CNSNews.com. 

Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), also spoke out at the press conference, which took place the same day the Obama administration said it would grant $50 million to the United Nations Population Fund -- a group that has done little to limit the Chinese government’s "One-Child" forced abortion policy that limits couples to one birth only.
 
Wolf said Clinton’s words would reverberate far beyond the Chinese borders. 

“I think the secretary’s conduct and words in Beijing have a bigger impact throughout the entire world,” Wolf told CNSNews.com.
 
Wolf also said if human rights violations are not addressed in China – which he said many believe to be the number one violator – it could lead to further problems in North Korea, the Middle East and other regions and Sudan’s Darfur province.
 
In Darfur, Muslims and Christians are routinely massacred by roving bands of Islamist militia backed by the Sudanese government – and indirectly subsidized by China’s state-owned oil company, which buys oil from the oil-rich country. 

“China holds the link as to what takes place in Darfur,” Wolf said.
 
According to a 2006 report by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, China was guilty of more than 20 serious human rights violations, including torturing prisoners, trafficking women and children and using coercive birth limitation policy. 

Smith and Wolf said they traveled to China before last summer’s Olympics and saw the violations firsthand. Wolf said that the two were often followed while on their way to meetings, and almost all of the Chinese citizens who they attempted to meet were either detained or put under house arrest. 

Smith noted that the global press -- including several British newspapers -- had ran headlines saying the Secretary of State was “pandering": to the Chinese.
 
“I think people get it – that this has been a capitulation on human rights,” Smith said. 
 
CNSNews.com’s calls to the State Department seeking comment were not returned.