July 28, 2009
Obama Touches on Religious Freedom
President Obama touched on religious freedom and human rights at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in front of about 200 Chinese officials on Monday.
[T]he United States respects the progress that China has made by lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Just as we respect China's ancient and remarkable culture, its remarkable achievements, we also strongly believe that the religion and culture of all peoples must be respected and protected, and that all people should be free to speak their minds. And that includes ethnic and religious minorities in China, as surely as it includes minorities within the United States.
Support for human rights and human dignity is ingrained in America. Our nation is made up of immigrants from every part of the world. We have protected our unity and struggled to perfect our union by extending basic rights to all our people. And those rights include the freedom to speak your mind, to worship your God, and to choose your leaders. These are not things that we seek to impose -- this is who we are. It guides our openness to one another and to the world.
Earlier this month, The AFP reported that U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said it was "gravely concerned" about China's "repression" of the cultural and religious traditions of the ethnic group Uighurs.
China says 192 people died on July 5 in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in the country's worst ethnic violence in decades pitting Uighurs against the growing number of settlers from China's Han majority.
The religious freedom commission called for President Barack Obama to consider sanctions on exports coming from Xinjiang or travel restrictions on Chinese government officials in charge of the northwestern province.