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Clinton must press China on rights

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But, despite progress in realizing social and economic rights and some increases in individual freedoms, China today remains responsible for profound violations of its people's civil and political rights, from restrictions on free expression and religious freedom to detention without trial, torture, excessive use of the death penalty, involuntary resettlement, and forced abortions. In its foreign policy, China often backs repressive regimes around the world, including Sudan and Myanmar (Burma), and waters down international sanctions against them.

America and China's interrelated responsibilities to address climate change are expected to dominate Clinton's conversations with the Chinese. Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions is critical to our bilateral relations and to the health and prosperity of the planet. But China is unlikely to meet its environmental obligations without the accountability provided by democracy and human rights.

In addition to the Tiananmen anniversary, 2009 is also a year of multiple significant political anniversaries as well as the year for China's evaluation under the UN Universal Periodic Review. In fact, the Human Rights Council and several UN member states have called on China to extend to its citizens – especially ethnic minorities, journalists, and human rights defenders – full access to human rights.

In anticipation, the Chinese government has already intensified security. Strong crackdowns against protesters in Tibet have been under way since January. Authors of Charter 08 have been harassed and detained. Beijing police barred organizers of the "20 Year Anniversary of China/Avant-Garde Exhibition" from hosting events, and other Tiananmen-related crackdowns are likely to continue in the coming months as the government attempts to avoid Tiananmen-related "embarrassment."

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