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Clinton must press China on rights

A stable, open China is in America's best interests.

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When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton touches down in Beijing this week she will face an authoritarian Chinese government wringing their hands over a remarkably brazen online petition for human rights and an end to autocratic rule that is circulating among its citizens.

This petition, Charter 08, is not what China's rulers expect to talk about with Secretary Clinton on her first trip abroad for the new Obama administration. She should insist that they do.

The reason: Charter 08 is the longest sustained human rights campaign in China since the Tiananmen Square massacre 20 years ago this June and continues to spread throughout China despite the government's best attempts.

It was released by Chinese intellectuals, lawyers, and dissidents on the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Dec. 10 and has since been signed by over 8,000 ordinary Chinese citizens, who are bravely displaying their names, addresses, and occupations online for all to see, including China's fearsome secret police.

Clinton should capitalize on the momentum created by the charter to promote a responsible human rights agenda. To be sure, much has changed in China since Tiananmen Square.


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