ResourcesPress Release

Following State of the Union, PHR Challenges Obama on China

For Immediate Release

PHR today issued a challenge to President Obama to hold Chinaaccountable for not only the human rights violations committed on its own soil,but also the human rights abuses that China enables in Burma and Sudan.

Last night during the State of theUnion address, President Obama proudly announced that the United Statesrecently signed agreements with India and China that will support the creationof more than 250,000 jobs in the United States.

And later in his speech, thePresident said, "America's moral example must always shine for all who yearnfor freedom, justice, and dignity. And becausewe have begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has beenrenewed and America's standing has been restored.”

"Although the sentiment is commendable,it is unrealistic,” said Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights. "ThePresident and the American people need to recognize that we can’t have leadershipwithout the courage and the conviction of our actions. Of course the economyand American jobs are important, but so are the human rights of all peoplearound the world. We must recognize that China supports states that routinelycommit human rights violations.”

Recently, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the WhiteHouse, President Obama said, "We have somecore views as Americans about the universality of certain rights — freedom ofspeech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly — that we think are veryimportant and that transcend culture… Occasionally, they are a source of tensionbetween our two governments.” ThePresident went on to say, "We can engage and discuss these issues in a frankand candid way, focus on those areas where we agree while acknowledging thereare going to be areas where we disagree.”

"This is not an area where we canpolitely disagree,” said Donaghue. "China benefits greatly from Sudan’s oil andBurma’s natural resources. As a major patron of both regimes, China needs toforget about their bottom line and actively support human rights among itsclient states.”

PHR’s recent report, Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State, revealed that an estimated 92% of the citizensof Burma’s Chin State were likely subjected to forced labor. In Sudan, PHR and numerousother human rights groups have delivered eyewitness accounts of indigenousAfrican civilians from Darfur, Sudan being systematically killed, raped, anddisplaced as their villages are destroyed.

In March of 2009, Secretary of StateHillary Clinton wrote in a letter to Human Rights First, "As Sudan's largestexport partner and greatest source of foreign investment, China is in aposition to exert pressure on Khartoum to resolve the conflict in Darfur andimplement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.”

It is time to move beyond rhetoric to action. As Obama said, "America’smoral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom, justice, anddignity.” The United States needs to demand action from China before expectingChina to exert pressure on the leaders in Burma and Sudan.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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Kevin Short

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