Hillary Clinton Criticized for Not Defending Human Rights in China

Critics: Former secretary of state could have done more to help dissidents, has close ties to government

No foreigners, please. (AP)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is facing new criticism of her record on human rights violations in China.

In Clinton’s book Hard Choices, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate for 2016 touted her efforts to secure asylum in the United States for Chen Guangcheng, a blind Chinese dissident lawyer. Chen fled house arrest in April 2012 and sought refuge at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, where Clinton’s staff did "what Chen said he wanted every step of the way," she wrote.

However, Chen recounts events differently in his new memoir. After helping him evade authorities to enter the embassy and treating his injuries, he said U.S. diplomats succumbed to pressure from Chinese officials and urged him to leave the embassy. Chen, who had been persecuted for years by the Chinese government, relocated to a state-run hospital before obtaining passage to the United States for himself and his family. But that only occurred after U.S. lawmakers—not Clinton—raised an outcry about his plight, he said.

"Negotiating with a government run by hooligans, the country that most consistently advocated for democracy, freedom, and universal human rights had simply given in," Chen wrote of Clinton and her staff, who at the time were preparing for a bilateral summit in Beijing.

A report by CBS News has also raised questions about Clinton’s ties to the Chinese government. Rilin Enterprises, the company owned by Chinese billionaire Wang Wenliang, donated $2 million in 2013 to the Clinton Foundation while it was also lobbying Congress and the State Department. Rilin is closely linked to authorities in Beijing, where Wang serves as a delegate to the national parliament.

"If the point is you are not going to take money from foreign governments, then [Wang’s] construction company is as close to not just the Chinese government, but its Ministry of State Security as they could possibly be," Jim Mann, an author and expert on U.S.-Chinese relations, told CBS.

A spokesman for Clinton did not respond to a request for comment.

Clinton did challenge the Chinese government in 2010 on their aggressive claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea. While not necessarily taking sides in the conflict between Beijing and smaller Asian countries, she said, "the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea"—comments that rankled top Chinese officials.

China’s human rights record continues to worsen under President Xi Jinping. The activist group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said on Sunday that dissidents who protest against the rights violations are subject to torture, arbitrary detention, and other abuses by authorities. CHRD documented more than 200 detentions of activists last year in its annual report, most of which occurred around the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June and the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong last fall.

"In releasing this report, we urge the UN Human Rights Council, which is meeting in Geneva this month, to investigate the Chinese government’s systematic and gross violations of human rights under Xi Jinping’s leadership," said Victor Clemens, CHRD’s research coordinator, in a statement.

China is currently a member of the Human Rights Council, which gives it a platform to resist any condemnation of its abuses by the international body.