WASHINGTON -- Human rights groups have wasted little time calling on Vice President Joe Biden to focus on human rights abuses as he meets with high-level Chinese officials during a four-day stay in China this week.
"Vice President Biden should speak clearly and publicly about human rights activists who have been targeted in recent months, including artist and activist Ai Weiwei," said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First in a press statement released Tuesday. "He should also renew U.S. calls for the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner and renowned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo."
Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner currently detained by the Chinese government, has factored heavily in U.S. human rights groups' calls for action on the part of Biden and the U.S. government.
In an Aug. 5 letter to the vice president, Jared Genser, founder of Washington-based human rights advocacy group Freedom Now and lead counsel for Xiaobo, urged Biden to request a meeting with the detained dissident's wife, Liu Xia, who, according to independent reports, is currently being held under house arrest. Freedom Now confirmed in an Aug. 15 press release that, at this point, "it is unknown whether the Vice President has made the request, though Freedom Now did confirm receipt of the request and was informed it would be considered."
The White House has been quick to point out that human rights issues will be raised among a host of others during the vice president's trip.
"The protection of human rights globally is a central part of President Obama’s foreign policy in China as it is elsewhere," said National Security Staff Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel during a Monday conference call with reporters. "As we do consistently, we will raise our concerns about the human rights situation throughout China."
Advocates however, are adamant that human rights issues should play a fundamental role in the future of any U.S.-China ties, including those formed over business and the economy.
"Absolutely it's appropriate for the U.S. to talk to China about economic policy, about trade and business, about sport, about a whole host of ties," Human Rights First's Brian Dooley told The Huffington Post. "But the elephant in the room can't be ignore; it's still about human rights violations and in fact if the U.S. is looking to it's long term interests, the long term interests are in a peaceful, stable China."