Liu Xiaobo, a primary author of the Charter 08 document calling for better human rights and democracy in China, has just won the Nobel Peace Prize. At the G-20 Summit this November in South Korea, President Obama, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, will meet with President Hu Jintao, the leader of China and the country where Liu Xiaobo is in jail. It’s a perfect opportunity for President Obama to put America’s actions where its mouth is.
Members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and some their colleagues in the House of Representatives have written to President Obama urging him to push Chinese President Hu Jintao for the release of Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng, Chinese prisoners of conscience.
Liu Xiaobo and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng have both received previous support from the Administration. Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, mentioned their cases, both at the release of the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and at the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in May. Yet raising these cases at a leader level will show that the U.S. commitment to human rights can’t be compartmentalized and forgotten by the Chinese.
In his recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama evoked the importance of human rights and called on other countries to be more vocal in advocating freedom. Pressing Hu Jintao to release Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng would signal that the U.S. will take that leadership role on human rights. Human rights in China are a continual problem, and the U.S. must display fortitude in advancing freedom when the opportunity presents itself.