Pittenger presses China to respect human rights


McClatchy Washington Bureau

Speaking at a dinner reception at the Chinese Embassy Thursday, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger called on the communist government to respect the human rights and religious beliefs of its citizens, he said.

The speech came a day after the Charlotte Republican joined Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House members who recognized the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre by co-sponsoring a bill that honored the dead. The bill also urges the Obama administration to make human rights with China a higher priority in bilateral talks. The bill passed the House 379 to 1.

Pittenger also joined a bipartisan group of House members who called on Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray and the city council to rename a street that runs by the Chinese Embassy in honor of imprisoned Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Pittenger was invited to speak at the embassy by the second highest ranking leader at the Chinese Embassy, Minister Lu Kang. Pittenger was asked to talk about trade and terrorism to a group of Chinese and U.S. business leaders. But he also used the opportunity to press the issues of human rights and religious freedom. Pittenger said he did not want to be condescending and acknowledged that the United States had its own issues, including violence, pornography and drug trafficking.

“I was not lecturing to them because America has its own problems. My statement to them basically was I’m honest about China as I acknowledge and am honest about my own country,” Pittenger said on Friday. He did not bring up Tiananmen Square, but said his position was clearly known. He did talk to Minister Lu after the talk about the potential for releasing several individuals being held in prison on human rights cases.

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