US Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, issued the following statement today regarding the opening of the Fifth US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington:
"We welcome the Chinese delegates to the Fifth Strategic and Economic Dialogue to Washington. The relationship between the United States and China will affect the lives of much of the world's population in the decades to come. The Dialogue is an opportunity to pursue cooperative solutions to important bilateral, regional and global challenges while also fostering a frank and honest exchange on issues important to the American and Chinese people.
"Last week, we celebrated our country's independence and were reminded that our founders recognized that all men and women are created with unalienable rights. It has been a consistent theme of American foreign policy to support the Declaration of Independence's goals of, in the words of President Lincoln, "spreading and deepening the influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.'
"As President Obama told President Xi during their Summit last month, history shows that upholding universal rights is ultimately a key to the success, prosperity and justice for all nations. We welcome those sentiments and call upon the Administration to continue to uphold its pledge to make human rights a primary focus of this year's Dialogue. While the U.S. and China engage in a separate human rights dialogue process, we believe that the importance of this issue necessitates its prominent inclusion in all senior-level U.S.-China bilateral meetings, including this Dialogue.
"Last month marked the 24th anniversary of the violent crackdown on political activists in Tiananmen Square. Today, the Chinese people, like all of mankind, continue to express their desire to be free. Unfortunately, the Chinese government continues to enforce policies that deny Chinese citizens their fundamental and universally accepted human rights by limiting freedoms of expression, religion and assembly, and persecuting religious and political minorities.
"In addition to broader concerns about Chinese policies that limit human freedom, we urge the Obama administration to raise specific issues such as the Chinese government's handling of unrest in Xinjiang, its policy toward Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders, political prisoners and their families, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo.
"The People's Republic of China has made tremendous economic strides by lifting millions of people out of poverty; however, the government's clamp down on fundamental freedoms limits the innovation and creativity required for truly sustainable growth.
"We urge the US officials involved in this week's Dialogue to emphasize the critical importance of progress on human rights for our bilateral relationship and for China's continued success and prosperity."