November 10, 2005
The Honorable George Bush
President of the United States
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
This month you will visit the People’s Republic of China to meet with the leadership of that nation. These summit meetings provide an opportunity for the United States and China to discuss a wide range of important issues. During your meetings, I urge you to raise human rights issues with the Chinese government and emphasize that respect for human rights is a critically important element in the U.S.-China relationship. Specifically, I hope you will raise with the Chinese government the following points.
Since first introduced in 1979, China’s one-child policy has evoked strong concern over human rights abuses. These abuses have reportedly included denial of social benefits, fines, detention, destruction of property, forced abortion and forced sterilization. Such practices reflect the fundamental injustice inherent in a system that interposes government in choices that should be made by women and their families. In 1995, as a participant in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, I heard first hand about these practices and spoke against them. In 2002, China enacted a Population and Family Planning Law aimed at ending human rights violations associated with the one-child policy. However, the 2004 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices suggests uneven Chinese enforcement of the law, with continuing use of psychological and economic pressure and threats to force women to terminate pregnancies or undergo sterilization. I urge you to make clear the United States strongly opposes these abuses, supports non-coercive family planning programs, and wants China to end any population policies that violate human rights.
In addition, although the Chinese Constitution provides for freedom of religious belief, in reality the Government works to restrict religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship. Unregistered religious groups are subjected to varying levels of intimidation, harassment and detention. Since 1999, the Secretary of State has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for its severe violations of religious freedom. You raised the issue of religious freedom during your December 2003 meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao and November 2004 meeting with President Hu Jintao. However, the 2005 State Department International Religious Freedom Report still rates China’s respect for freedom of religion and conscience as “poor” and the November 2005 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Policy Focus on China report found that “the Chinese government systematically violates the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, contravening both the Chinese constitution and international human rights norms.” I ask you to raise this matter again with China, to emphasize the importance of freedom of religion and conscience, and to urge China to end any repressive practices.
As you know the United States continues to press China to respect the unique religious, linguistic, and cultural heritage of the Tibetan people and to fully respect their human rights and civil liberties. In 2001, I was pleased to co-sponsor the Tibetan Policy Act to support substantive dialogue between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives and to strengthen the capacity of the United States Government to promote such dialogue. The United States has raised the issue of Tibet with China on a number of occasions, most recently during Secretary Rice’s July 2005 visit. I urge you to again bring this longstanding and pressing matter to the attention of China and to prompt them to achieve a fair resolution.
Finally, regarding worker’s rights, eighteen months after rejecting the AFL-CIO's Section 301 petition alleging China's repression of workers' rights was an unfair trade practice, the Bush Administration has yet to progress in raising the issue with China. The Chinese government has failed to make any significant reforms, either in its labor laws or enforcement practices. As the bilateral trade deficit with China soars, and American workers lose manufacturing jobs, employers take advantage of Chinese workers who cannot exercise their right to form independent unions and bargain. Unfortunately, the only concrete outcome of the high-profile visit by Secretary Chao to China in the summer of 2004 was a series of letters pledging more seminars, high-level visits, and dialogues on workplace issues. But this dialogue has yielded few, if any, tangible results, on issues of crucial importance, both to Chinese and American workers. U.S. concerns over worker’s rights should be re-emphasized during this summit.
I strongly support continuing efforts to improve the relationship on all levels between our country and China. It is to our mutual benefit to work together to address the range of challenges facing both of us. However, economic and social advances will be lasting only if they are built on a foundation of respect for human rights.
Thank you for your consideration.
Hillary Rodham Clinton