WASHINGTON — Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived Tuesday for a state visit amid protests and concerns over China’s human rights policies.
The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama will address human rights with Hu during meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, though it is unclear how much pressure he will put on the Chinese president to improve the regime’s performance.
Advocates worried that Chinese human rights policy will fall by the wayside in light of the list of pressing topics the two leaders have to discuss. In a press conference Tuesday, Rep. Chris Smith, D-N.J., said, “human rights will be trivialized, though I hold with a passionate belief that it matters.”
Human rights activists, former prisoners of the Chinese Communist Party, and family members of currently incarcerated dissidents spoke out the alleged use of torture by Chinese authorities, the disappearance of known dissidents, the treatment of Tibetan nuns and dissidents and state policies limiting the size of families.
“I particularly want to mention Chinese women. The Chinese government’s one-child-per-couple policy, with its attendant horrors of forced abortion campaigns and rampant sex-selective abortion, is, in scope and seriousness, the worst human rights abuse—the worst gender crime—in the world today,” said Smith.
The plight of dissidents like Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng were cited as example of China’s violation of human rights.
“In December 2009, the Chinese government sentenced human rights and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison due to his involvement in drafting…a historic manifesto advocating for democracy and a greater respect for human rights in China,” said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said of the Nobel laureate.
The award was announced with an empty chair on stage, as a reminder that Liu was currently incarcerated. The Chinese government responded harshly to the award, and placed Liu’s wife under house arrest, calling for a boycott of the ceremony.
Eight months ago, human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng disappeared for the second time. He has not been heard from since. More than 150,000 pledges have been made to help “Free Gao Zhisheng,” but his whereabouts still remain unknown.
Zhisheng was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and 2010.
Zhisheng’s wife Geng He shared her stories as proof of the CCP’s violation of their human rights policy, which was supposedly improved over a two-year program which ended last November.
“I remember during a father’s day speech, Obama said that his courageous mother and grandmother…made him who he is today, but he can still remember the void he had without a father, she said. “This kind of void is something no government can fill. My children do not know where their father is right now, maybe he is no longer alive or he is being tortured in rural China.”
Zhisheng’s daughter attempted suicide two times, in response to the pressure of missing her father.
“How many times, because we don’t know where Gao Zhisheng is we have been crying at night, how many times… and how many times have we just hugged together at night and cried and cried,” said Geng He.
A Tibetan nun said she was incarcerated at the ages of 13 and then again at 15 by the Chinese authorities, when she was routinely beaten “with iron rods, water hose, and a variety of weapons,” which included electric prods. She was released on Oct. 17, 2002 after 11 years in prison thanks to external pressure.
Regardless of the results, Hu’s visit is at the very least a public show of Sino-American cooperation, and an attempt at releasing some tension on the global stage. While groups outside the administration are fighting to move human rights up the agenda, most agree that Hu’s visit will do little to change China’s human rights policy.
Harry Wu, a survivor of 19 years in a Chinese forced labor camp and president of the Laogai Research Foundation, said that the focus of Hu’s visit will be economics. “Americans care about the Chinese business,” Wu said.