WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, in a sweeping review of global human rights practices, singled out China and Russia for criticism on Wednesday over how they treat their citizens.
The adviser, Susan Rice, specifically cited the detention in China of Xu Zhiyong, a legal scholar and rights defender, and Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient who was jailed in 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging the overthrow of one-party rule.
“The Chinese people are facing increasing restrictions on their freedoms of expression, assembly and association. This is short-sighted,” Rice said in remarks to the “Human Rights First Annual Summit.”
“When courts imprison political dissidents who merely urge respect for China’s own laws, no one in China, including Americans doing business there, can feel secure,” she said.
Rice’s speech came as Vice President Joe Biden was on a visit to China that has been dominated by U.S. and Japanese concerns about Beijing’s declaration of an air defense zone around disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Rice also had strong words for Russia, with whom the United States has had strained relations in recent months over Moscow’s decision to grant temporary asylum to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Russia has engaged in “systematic efforts to curtail the actions of Russian civil society,” has stigmatized the lesbian and gay community in Russia and coerced neighbors like Ukraine, said Rice.
“We deplore selective justice and the prosecution of those who protest the corruption and cronyism that is sapping Russia’s economic future and limits its potential to play its full role on the world stage,” she said.
The United States still engages in active diplomacy with both China and Russia and other governments that have rights practices at odds with Washington.
Rice acknowledged the United States sometimes must strike a difficult balance.
“We make tough choices,” she said. “When rights are violated, we continue to advocate for their protection. But we cannot, and I will not, pretend that some short-term tradeoffs do not exist.”
Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Jackie Frank