This is a pivotal moment for U.S. human rights diplomacy. The United States must stand firmly with this broadly popular individual or risk losing credibility as a defender of freedom and the rule of law.
I understand being cautious about harming relations with China. But what I also understand is the Chinese government brutally represses individuals who have done absolutely nothing wrong, and uses the law as a tool to advance the government and party’s interests, rather than to provide for justice. When someone who suffers under the government’s arbitrary rule stands up to it, we should support them. And we should support them when they are silenced, too, because that’s especially when they need spoken for.
The Chinese government argues that advocating on behalf of persecuted lawyers, human rights activists and dissidents is meddling in their own domestic affairs and is an attempt to violate their sovereignty. That’s bullshit. We have every right to, in the course of our relations with a country as large and powerful as China, to demand that basic human dignity be respected, and the rule of law operate unfettered. Not only do we have a right to, we have a responsibility to recognize and oppose repression of people whose only crime is pointing out the government and party’s wrongs. It isn’t about politics or advancing our interests. It’s about respecting human dignity.