Saturday, September 26, 2015

Obama Exchanges Views With China's President On Human Rights and Religious Freedom

China's President Xi Jinping is on a state visit to the United States. (Background).  The two leaders held a joint news conference yesterday (full text) covering a wide range of topics.  Among the topics addressed were human rights and religious freedom in China:
President Obama: ... [W]e had a frank discussion about human rights, as we have in the past.  And I again affirmed America’s unwavering support for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including freedom of assembly and expression, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.  And I expressed in candid terms our strong view that preventing journalists, lawyers, NGOs and civil society groups from operating freely, or closing churches and denying ethnic minorities equal treatment are all problematic, in our view, and actually prevent China and its people from realizing its full potential.  
Obviously, we recognize that there are real differences there.  And President Xi shared his views in terms of how he can move forward in a step-by-step way that preserves Chinese unity. So we expect that we’re going to continue to consult in these areas.  
Even as we recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China, we continue to encourage Chinese authorities to preserve the religious and cultural identity of the Tibetan people, and to engage the Dalai Lama or his representatives....
President Xi: ... Democracy and human rights are the common pursuit of mankind.  At the same time, we must recognize that countries have different historical processes and realities, and we need to respect people of all countries in the right to choose their own development path independently. 
The Chinese people are seeking to realize the great renew of the Chinese nation, which is the Chinese history.  This process in essence is a process to achieve social equity and justice and advancing human rights.  China stands ready to, in the spirit of equality and mutual respect, conduct human rights dialogue with the United States, expand consensus, reduce differences, learn from each other, and progress together.