Li Xiaorong: Speaking of Human Rights

Li Xiaorong, a research scholar at the Institute for Philosophy & Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, who does consultant work for Chinese NGOs, published in the Baltimore Sun the speech she wishes President Obama would give while in Beijing:

I am proud to say that my administration is actively pursuing its agenda to promote clean energy and reduce carbon emissions. President Hu, I urge you to build on what your government has already done to combat pollution and promote alternative energy.

I also want to express my admiration for the independent environmental activists who have sprung up across China. In my country, activists have played a vital role in mobilizing public opinion, blowing the whistle on polluters and developing energy-saving measures. I salute them as part of the solution to environmental problems.

For this reason, I am concerned that they still cannot express their views freely. One of this country’s most vocal environmentalists is behind bars. Wu Lihong, a farmer, should be released from prison where he is serving a three-year sentence in retaliation for exposing the illegal dumping of industrial waste in the famous Tai Lake. Another hero, Sun Xiaodi, is currently serving two years in a labor camp. He fought for recognition of the health problems caused by nuclear contamination among workers in a plant in Gansu Province.