Hillary Clinton has royally pissed off human rights groups. I hate to say it, but she really has. On Friday she told reporters that issues like religious freedom and human rights “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and security crises. We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on each of those.” While this does subordinate their interests to other issues, these groups need to stay quiet on this one. Hillary is right here.
Secretary Clinton’s commentsÂ prompted Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, to say:
“Secretary Clinton’s remarks point to a diplomatic strategy that has worked well for the Chinese government – segregating human rights issues into a dead-end â€˜dialogue of the deaf.’ A new approach is needed, one in which the US engages China on the critical importance of human rights to a wide range of mutual security interests.”
Before I get to my response to these statements, I will add this response from Secretary Clinton:
“We know we are going to press them to reconsider their position about Tibetan religious and cultural freedom and autonomy for the Tibetans, and some kind of recognition or acknowledgment of the Dalai Lama. I have had those conversations for more than a decade with Chinese leaders, and we know what they are going to say about Taiwan and military sales.”
I have to throw in my lot with Secretary Clinton on this one. Conversations between the United States and China on human rights have been going on for a long time, with little effect. Often, it seems that we have only angered China by preaching about human rights.
Also, the question of how to get China to improve its human rights practices tends to ignoreÂ other issues on which we are far more likely to get strong cooperation. A great example of this is the Six Party Talks. China is an excellent partner in these negotiatons, carrying a lot of weight toÂ make that process move along. Neither China nor the United States want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, or to sell nuclear weapons if theyÂ keep what they have,Â leaving the two countries as natural allies on that issue. There are plenty of otherÂ issues, economic, security, and even some aspects of climate change, that provideÂ many promising opportunities for cooperation.
It is great to see Hillary Clinton take this stanceÂ towards China. It keeps political realities in mind,Â while still looking for as many ways as possible for China and the United States to cooperate. HerÂ stance is not pretty, but it is exactly what is called for. Groups like Human Rights Watch are indeed doing valuable work to call our attention to where human rights are not being emphasized, but they have a narrow focus when they look at policy.Â The Secretary of State has to look at the complete picture, and Hillary Clinton is doing exactly that.