Ahead of President Obama’s trip to China, the White House said national security adviser Susan E. Rice assured Chinese dissidents that the U.S. is committed to promoting religious freedom in the face of a reported crackdown by Beijing.
Ms. Rice’s discussion with human-rights advocates focused on “concerns regarding the deterioration of conditions inside China for both human rights generally and religious freedom specifically,” the White House said Wednesday.
“Participants lamented the reported removal of crosses from churches, demolition of houses of worship, and restrictions on the observance of Ramadan and other Muslim practices, as well as the continued crackdown on human rights lawyers and the importance of preserving space for civil society,” said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
Mr. Obama will attend a G-20 summit in China starting Friday, and will hold a separate meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders are expected to make a high-profile announcement on a climate change agreement, but a White House adviser said Mr. Obama also intends to discuss “longstanding differences on human rights.”
Activists told Ms. Rice that Mr. Xi has presided over a ramped-up offensive against dissidents and opponents of the Communist Party since taking control in 2012.
Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer living in exile in New Jersey, said after the meeting with Ms. Rice that he wants Mr. Obama to speak out about human rights on what is expected to be his last meeting with Mr. Xi.
“China is experiencing its worst human rights crackdown since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989,” Mr. Teng told the Guardian newspaper. “Especially since Xi Jinping came to power, many human rights lawyers and activists were detained and disappeared; many, many NGOs were shut down; and other civil society organizations, universities, media, internet, Christian churches and other religious groups were also targeted.”
The White House said Ms. Rice “affirmed the U.S. view that improving human rights conditions is in China’s long-term interest and will continue to feature in the U.S.-China dialogue.”
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