On Monday, acclaimed journalist and PBS talk show host Charlie Rose interviewed Gary Locke, the U.S. ambassador to China. In their discussion, they touched on many of the hot topics that dominate most Western discussions about China, the implications of its economic rise, and the contemporary situation in the Middle Kingdom. An AFP article details Locke’s response to a question about human rights in China:
The US ambassador to Beijing said that China’s human rights record was deteriorating as its communist rulers feel threatened in the wake of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East.
“The human rights climate has always ebbed and flowed in China, up and down, but we seem to be in a down period and it’s getting worse,” Ambassador Gary Locke told “The Charlie Rose Show” on US public television.
Locke pointed to China’s detentions of dissidents, lawyers and other perceived critics since the onset of the “Arab Spring” which toppled authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia last year.
“The Chinese leaders are very fearful of something similar happening within China,” Locke said.
“So there’s been a significant crackdown on dissension, political discussion, even the rights and the activities of lawyers who advocate on behalf of people who have been poisoned from tainted food and medicines.”
Below is the section of the interview in question, via Youtube (Rose’s question about human rights is posed at 0:52):
Locke’s candid reply to a topic of ongoing contention in the U.S.-China dialogue piqued an official response from Beijing. China Daily reports:
China objects to other countries’ interference in its internal affairs and the violation of China’s judicial sovereignty by making an issue of human rights, a Foreign Ministry spokesman [Liu Weimin] said on Tuesday.
[…]Liu told reporters at a regular news conference what Locke said is “not the truth”.
“China has attached great importance to promoting and safeguarding the basic rights of the Chinese people, including the freedom of belief and speech,” Liu said. “China’s progress in human rights is obvious to all”.
The Charlie Rose interview includes a discussion of many other topics, including cyber-espionage, domestic protest, internet censorship and activism, the space program, globalization, economic disparity, China’s relationship with Iran, currency manipulation, US ambitions in the Asia-Pacific, and some “good news” about China. The entire interview can be seen at Charlie Rose’s homepage. Ambassador Locke’s opinions about China can also be heard in an interview conducted by NPR’s Morning Edition. Also see “Why China Seems so Fascinated by US Ambassador Gary Locke” via CDT.