Thirty members of Congress this week urged President Obama to press Chinese President Hu Jintao to release two prominent human rights activists when he attends an economic summit in South Korea next month.
"We strongly believe that China must be discouraged from detaining individuals for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression," the House members said in a letter to Mr. Obama.
They referred to the arrests of Gao Zhisheng, a human rights lawyer who has defended religious minorities, and Liu Xiaobo,sentenced to 11 years in prison last year for his role in drafting "Charter '08," which calls on China's ruling Communist Party to respect human rights and the rule of law.
The Chinese Embassy did not respond to e-mail seeking comment.
"The Chinese government's conviction of Dr. Liu violates both the Chinese constitution and international law. Furthermore, Dr. Liu's trial failed to meet even the minimum standards of due process of law," the House members said in a letter to Mr. Obama.
"Dr. Liu's detention is symbolic of the Chinese government's repression of the peaceful freedom of expression of its citizens."
Mr. Gao, known as the "conscience of China," was jailed without charge or trial last year. He was released in March but detained again in April and is now held incommunicado.
"Mr. Gao's case is the most egregious example of China's growing pressure on human rights lawyers," the House members said. "If lawyers are hauled away for the 'crime' of defending their clients, then even the pretense of rule of law in China has failed," they said.
The letter was organized by Reps. James P. McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat, and Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, and signed by 27 other House members. They serve as co-chairmen of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, named for the late California Democrat and Holocaust survivor.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote a separate letter to Mr. Obama calling for the release of the two Chinese dissidents.
"There are many others illegally and unjustly imprisoned in China," she said, "but I fear if China is allowed to continue illegally detaining such prominent dissidents, then even more will soon disappear like Mr. Gao."
The House members called on Mr. Obama to raise the issue at the G-20 Summit in Seoul on Nov. 11-12.
India's national security adviser is confident that President Obama's visit to New Delhi next month will demonstrate he is committed to building on the strong foundations laid by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
"Ours is a partnership that has come a long way in a relatively short time and that still has enormous potential," Shivshankar Menon said last week at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
"It has not always been easy, but, to my mind, now is the time for both our countries to be ambitious about the relationship."
Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have met six times over the past 18 months, Mr. Menon noted.
Last year, some foreign policy experts worried that Mr. Obama was placing more emphasis on relations with China, while minimizing ties with India. Those concerns deepened when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton bypassed India on an Asian visit in February 2009. She visited India five months later and praised the nation as a "key partner" of the United States.
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