Rep. Smith: Obama Should Address Chinese Regime’s ‘Extraordinary Assault on the Rule of Law’

By Penny Starr | March 30, 2016 | 4:45pm EDT
Police officers push away supporters of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and foreign journalists near a Beijing court last December. Pu, who was accused over online commentaries critical of the communist party, received a three-year suspended jail sentence. (AP Photo, File)

( – Ahead of a visit to Washington by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) joined Chinese human rights advocates urging President Obama not to “sideline” what he called the “extraordinary assault on the rule of law” by the communist regime.

“If human rights are sidelined again this week in the Obama-Xi meeting – it will not only be an unconscionable abandonment of China’s best and brightest who today suffer jail, torture, and death for freedom, but it will be a colossal strategic mistake, as well,” Smith said at a press conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

“The U.S. cannot meekly ‘raise’ human rights concerns when it is increasingly clear that our security and economic interests with China will not be ensured without dramatic human rights improvements and advances in the rule of law,” he added.

“Mr. Xi has also presided over an extraordinary assault on the rule of law and civil society,” said Smith, co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “The scope of Mr. Xi’s repression is immense with more arrests, censorship, and control now than at any time since Chairman Mao ruled China.

“The people of China deserve better,” he said.

Obama is scheduled to meet with Xi  on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit. Smith and Congressional-Executive Commission on China co-chairman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have sent a letter to the president, urging him to make human rights a priority during the meeting.

In a press release, Smith said that under Xi’s leadership, the Chinese government has made laws and drafted legislation that would legitimize political, religious, and ethnic repression, further curtail civil liberties and civil society, and expand censorship of the Internet.

“Draconian population control policies remain in place,” he said, citing sex-selective abortions of baby girls.

“A government that does not respect the rights and basic dignity of its own people cannot be assumed to be a responsible actor in the global arena,” Smith said. “A government that brutally crushes the yearning of its citizens for fundamental freedoms cannot be a trusted partner able to work on a number of pressing bilateral and global issues.”  

“The U.S. must raise human rights because U.S. interests and better U.S.-China relations depend on it,” Smith said. “President Xi’s shift toward a hard authoritarianism is a disturbing development.

“More than any time in recent memory, China is becoming a garrison state, with security forces empowered by new laws to silence dissent and drive a wedge between the Chinese people and the international community.”

On Wednesday, Smith and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), co-chairman of the commission, sent a letter to Obama detailing their concerns about China's human rights abuses and urging the president to take a stand during the Communist head of state's visit in the U.S. 

"There are no shortage of other concerns to include in your discussions with President Xi: the draft overseas non-governmental organization management law, the continued harassment, detention, and other mistreatment of individuals who seek to peacefully practice their religion, express their views or seek legal redress; the draconian anti-terrorism law being used to crack down on Tibetans, Uyghurs, and broader civil society, at the very time that China's internal security apparatus is expanding and remains largely unaccountable; the crackdown on labor advocates and further restrictions on labor NGOs and the continued use of coercive population control policies and forced abortions," the letter stated.

"Additionally we remain deeply concerned that U.S. citizen and businesswoman, Sandy Phan-Gillis, has been detained without charge for more than a year," the letter stated. She has been denied access to lawyers and at various points held in solitary confinement and interrogated. 

"This abusive treatment raises serious concerns about the safety of Americans doing business in China--this should be made clear to President Xi," the letter stated.

Joining Smith at the press conference were Dr. Yang Jianli, president of a movement called Initiatives for China which advocates a peaceful transition to democracy in China; Ma Yongtian  and Li Huanjun, victims of China's forced eviction policy, who work with IFC; Columbia University scholar Dr. Wang Tiancheng; Pastor Guo Baosheng of ChinaAid; International Campaign for Tibet vice-president Bhuchung Tsering; and Wei Jingsheng, former political prisoner and president of the Wei Jingsheng Foundation.

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