A congressional committee asked President Barack Obama to confront Chinese President Xi Jinping on the worsening human rights situation, including imprisonment of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, during his US visit last week.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and US Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), who co-chair the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to take note of "severe erosion" of human rights in China and to speak with Premier Xi about these violations. Premier Xi was in the country to attend the Nuclear Security Summit held from March 31 to April 1.
The bipartisan committee expressed concern regarding the violation of human rights in China, including the imprisonment of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo on subversion charges, persecution of religious leaders and lawyers who protested the removal of crosses, and alleged coerced prisoner confessions.
"Over the course of the last year we have seen scores of civil society actors, including lawyers and legal advocates, arrested, detained, and disappeared. Some are facing criminal charges categorized as endangering state security, accusations the Chinese government typically uses against dissidents," the letter states.
In a press conference entitled, "Sidelining Human Rights a Strategic Mistake the US Cannot Afford to Make," Smith underscored the importance of raising human rights issues with President Xi.
"These cases should all be raised with President Xi, as should the plight of prominent political prisoners such as Uyghur scholar Professor Ilham Tohti and seven of his students from Minzu University in Beijing and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who continues to languish unjustly in prison while his wife, Liu Xia suffers under illegal confinement at home," Rubio and Smith said in the letter to the President.
The letter asked the Obama to have a "full and frank discussion about human rights and civil society" with President Xi.
"Nearly all of those still being held have been denied access to a lawyer. Of those who have been released, roughly 30 have been restricted from traveling abroad," the CECC letter notes.
The letter sought to draw President's attention towards what it said was an "extraordinary assault on civil society, the rule of law, and the freedoms of religion, association, and assembly."
During the last several years, state persecution of churches had been on rise with the cross-removal campaign, the closing down of several churches over regulatory issues, and detention of pastors and lawyers who defend state suppression of religion.