Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Standing Up to…Senegal

by Elliott Abrams
December 6, 2013


In today’s Washington Post, Fred Hiatt notes that Vice President Biden chose not to mention human rights matters when he faced the press alongside the Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week. Hiatt’s column is about human rights and he criticizes Biden for raising the matter only in private:

After Vice President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on Wednesday, they both, in short statements to reporters in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, hailed the prospect of what Biden called a “new model of major-country cooperation.”

Later, a senior Obama administration official briefed reporters on the subjects they covered during 5½ hours of talks:

“They spent a good amount of time . . .stepping back to look at the overall bilateral relationship and its complexities. . . . They spent a substantial amount of time on North Korea. . . . They obviously spoke about the air defense identification zone and about the broader regional issues. . . . They had an extensive conversation on economics. . . . They talked about climate and clean energy. . . . And then they, over dinner, had more esoteric conversations about politics and history and governance.”

The official concluded: “So that’s — am I missing any significant issues?”

As it happens, Danielle Wang could have suggested one.

Wang has not seen her father since Chinese police dragged him from his bed early one morning in July 1999 and imprisoned him for “the peaceful practice of Falun Dafa,” she told me, referring to a spiritual group that the Chinese Communist Party finds threatening….

Like the other daughters, Ti-Anna Wang was clear on her goals: China should honor its laws and respect its people’s human rights; their fathers should be freed; and President Obama should do more to press for that result.

“His personal intervention is our fathers’ best chance of freedom,” she said.

U.S. officials said Thursday that Biden did raise human rights during his meetings with Xi and other officials, even if he chose not to discomfit Xi by mentioning the subject when they faced the press, and even if it did not come up in the readout to reporters.

This criticism is fair, and is especially fair in view of a remark made this week by National security Adviser Susan Rice in a speech about human rights:

No one–no one–should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.  So, we are working to lead internationally, as we have domestically, on LGBT issues.  This summer, President Obama championed equal treatment for LGBT persons while standing next to the President of Senegal, a country that is making progress on democratic reforms, but like too many nations, still places criminal restrictions on homosexuality.

Does Rice actually seek to present this as a profile in courage?  So it seems.

The administration kowtows to China, but courageously stands up to Senegal. It’s bad enough to do this, and in a way even worse to seek credit for it as Rice did in this speech.



Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    Joe Biden is the last person to be trusted with “complexities” of an “overall bilateral relationship” but hey … that’s the Obama administration for you !

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