Obama reaffirms "unwavering support" for human rights in China

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama
Xi Jinping and Barack Obama
1st October 2015

Calls for action on Tibet

President Obama took the opportunity of the recent state visit to the United States by Chinese President Xi Jinping to raise the issue of human rights in China very publicly during a joint news conference with the Chinese leader.

The President also spoke of Tibet, although his comments fell short of backing self-determination for Tibetans.

Addressing China's "problematic" human rights record, the US president said:

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.

Action on Tibet

The President also addressed the thorny issue of Tibet. He told the news conference:

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. 

The US government has traditionally taken a more robust stance on Tibet and human rights in China than other governments but in stating that it considers Tibet a part of China, the president failed to reflect the views and hopes of Tibetans, and address the genuine legal status of Tibet.


Pressure mounting on Cameron ahead of Xi UK visit

President Xi Jinping will visit the UK from 20-23 October; he is the first Chinese president to do so in a decade.

In light of Obama's public comments against the stance of the Chinese government on Tibet and human rights, pressure is mounting on British Prime Minister David Cameron to also raise the issue in public when he meets the Chinese premier.

Take action

While the US is more robust on human rights in Tibet than the UK, both refuse to support Tibetans' struggle for freedom. Contact China's government directly and call for action on Tibet's religious political prisoners.