Women’s Rights Advocate Chides First Lady for Not Addressing Human Rights Abuses in China

March 27, 2014 - 12:03 PM

Michelle Obama China

In this March 23, 2014, photo, U.S. first lady Michelle Obama walks with her daughters Malia, left, and Sasha, right, as they visit the Great Wall of China in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(CNSNews.com) – First Lady Michelle Obama has wrapped up what was billed by the White House as a cultural exchange visit to China, but a women’s rights activist who fights against forced abortion, gendercide and other human rights violations in that country said that an important opportunity to help girls and women was missed.

“I am extremely disappointed that Mrs. Obama has deliberately ignored egregious women's rights abuses while in China,” Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

“Mrs. Obama has positioned herself as an international women's leader,” Littlejohn said. “She could have done so much good if she had been willing to use her position to advance women's rights in a nation that tramples them.”

Littlejohn said Obama should especially be sensitive to the Chinese policy of forced abortion and sex-selective abortions of females.

“As the mother of two children, Mrs. Obama could have spoken out against forced abortion under the One Child Policy,” Littlejohn said. “As the mother of two daughters, she could have taken aim also against gendercide – the sex-selective abortion of baby girls.”

On March 21, Mrs. Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who commented on her “two lovely daughters.”

“I’m going to focus my visit on education, which is an important issue to both of our nations,” Mrs. Obama said. “We’ve got to continue to highlight the importance of student exchange between our countries.”

Speaking at a roundtable discussion with Chinese educators, parents and students in Beijing on March 23, Mrs. Obama saideducation is a priority for President Barack Obama.

“So the President and I have made education a key focus of our work over the coming years because we want to make sure that as many young people in the United States and around the world, quite frankly, have access to education,” she said.

The only reference to human rights Mrs. Obama spoke about during her trip was freedom of speech in her remarks at Peking University on March 22.

“And as my husband has said, we respect the uniqueness of other cultures and societies, but when it comes to expressing yourself freely and worshipping as you choose and having open access to information, we believe those universal rights -- they are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet,” Obama said.

In her statement, Littlejohn also cited Cao Shunli, a Chinese human rights activist who died recently after having been denied medical treatment, and Liu Xia, wife of the 2010 Nobel Peace Price recipient Liu Xiaobo, who has been under house arrest since her husband was jailed in 2009.

According to an Amnesty International report of March 25, 2014, Liu Xia has finally received medical evaluation after recently suffering a heart attack. Doctors have warned that her condition will not improve unless her current living situation changes, Littlejohn said in her statement.

“It is disheartening to see Mrs. Obama leave China without conveying any message on behalf of women’s rights,” Littlejohn said. “Instead, Mrs. Obama has chosen to ignore the intense suffering of hundreds of millions of women who have been victims of forced abortion, involuntary sterilization, gendercide and sexual slavery.”

Mrs. Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and her mother did visit the Chengdu Panda Base, which the first lady wrote about in her travel blog on Wednesday.

“It is our last day in China, and we’re here in Chengdu at the Panda Base,” Mrs. Obama said in a video on the blog on Whitehouse.gov.

“So how much will they eat,” Mrs. Obama asks a caretaker, who responded the bears would eat all of the food supplied.

Mrs. Obama has described the trip as a “real treat” for three generations of Obama women.