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Ambassador Locke 2013 Human Rights Day Statement
 

STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR GARY F. LOCKE

ON THE OCCASION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DAY 2013 

Today we celebrate International Human Rights Day and commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document President Obama called "revolutionary" because it "recognized the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all people as the 'foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.'"  This is a time to reflect on progress made and work yet to be done.

As China prepares to implement new reforms, we encourage attention to human rights and look forward to progress on China's recent decisions to end the re-education through labor system and to strengthen the rule of law.  All persons, including the accused, must be treated with dignity and fairness.  The attorneys who defend sensitive clients should be protected, not punished.  Gao Zhisheng and other rights lawyers who are in jail or have had their law licenses revoked should be set free and permitted to return to their important work.

We continue to see official acts of harassment and retribution against family members of rights defenders and activists.  We call on China to restore Liu Xia's freedom and free her husband Liu Xiaobo – the only Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the world who remains imprisoned.

As Vice President Biden said recently in Beijing, innovation thrives where people can speak freely.  Yet, several Chinese citizens, including Xu Zhiyong, Wang Gongquan, and Yang Maodong, recently were jailed for their activism in support of transparency and clean government.  Equally troubling is a vague and broad legal interpretation that justifies charges of criminal defamation for spreading “online rumors,” a development that greatly threatens freedom of expression online.  China's creativity will be fully unleashed only when its people are free from censorship.

As Ambassador, I have witnessed China's rich diversity first-hand.  I have also seen cases where heavy-handed policies deny basic freedoms to ethnic and religious minorities, including ethnic Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians, undermining the trust that binds diverse societies.  The United States calls on the Chinese government to protect the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens without discrimination.  We also urge China’s leaders to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, as a means to reduce tensions.

As we celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today, we are reminded that all countries, including the United States and China, have a responsibility to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in this important document.  I am hopeful that China's leaders will soon bring substance to the notion that certain inalienable rights pertain to all citizens.  With this recognition, I can imagine an unlimited future for China and its great people.