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ICC NOTE: Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Chris Smith yesterday wrote to President Obama, calling on him to raise human rights issues, including religious freedom, with President Xi Jinping during his visit to Washington D.C. this week. Senator Rubio and Congressman Smith, the co-chairs of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, said that the current crackdown on human rights being overseen by the president of China is the worst the Commission has reported on since its inception 14 years ago, in 2002. ICC has been carefully tracking campaigns in China to destroy church crosses and shut down scores of Christian churches, while church leaders and Christian human rights lawyers attempting to defend them have been detained on a regular basis”.

3/31/2016 Washington, D.C. (CECC) – In advance of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of this week’s Nuclear Security Summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi, Representative Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio, the Chair and Cochair respectively of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to press the Chinese President on the marked deterioration in human rights and rule of law conditions since Xi Jinping took power.

The Chairs highlighted the arrest and disappearances of human rights lawyers and the expanded use of televised confessions as trends that “defy any notion of the rule of law in China.” They expressed concern about the unexplained disappearances of the Hong Kong booksellers and the arrest of foreign citizens, particularly U.S. citizen Sandy Phan-Gillis, as issues that raise questions about the durability of China’s promises to ensure “a high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong and the safety of Americans doing business in China. The Chairs raised several prominent cases of prisoners of conscience, including Ilham Tohti and Liu Xiaobo, and urged President Obama to present the Chinese President with a “priority prisoner list.”

The full text of the letter is included below. In addition, see remarks by Representative Smith, made at a March 29, 2016, press conference on the Obama-Xi meeting entitled, “Sidelining Human Rights a Strategic Mistake the U.S. Cannot Afford to Make.”

March 30, 2016
The Honorable Barack Obama
The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20050

Dear Mr. President:

As you meet on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping we urge you to prioritize human rights in your discussions. As you know, President Xi is overseeing an extraordinary assault on civil society, the rule of law, and the freedoms of religion, association, and assembly. President Xi must not be permitted to again visit Washington without any accounting for the severe erosion of human rights and rule of law which has taken place on his watch and with his authorization.

As the Congressional-Executive Commission on China documented in its most recent Annual Report, human rights and rule of law conditions in China have markedly deteriorated since Xi Jinping took power—in fact the Communist Party’s efforts to silence dissent, suppress human rights advocacy, and control civil society are broader in scope than any other period documented since the Commission started issuing Annual Reports in 2002.

Over the course of the last year we have seen scores of civil society actors, including lawyers and legal advocates, arrested, detained, and disappeared. Some are facing criminal charges categorized as endangering state security, accusations the Chinese government typically uses against dissidents. Nearly all of those still being held have been denied access to a lawyer. Of those who have been released, roughly 30 have been restricted from traveling abroad. Meanwhile, we have witnessed a troubling increase in televised, presumably coerced, “confessions” on state television, in direct violation of Chinese law and international human rights norms. Such “confessions,” on the rise since President Xi took power, defy any notion of rule of law in China. Among the individuals who have been paraded on television for public humiliation are Hong Kong bookseller, Gui Minhai and rights lawyer Huang Liqun.

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