Barack Obama and Hu JintaoYang Jianli

The author makes an appeal to President Obama to consider human rights and the democratization of China when he meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week. He suggests that President Obama politely but pointedly ask President Hu about his father’s denunciation by the Communist Party and draw the parallel between Hu’s father and political prisoners like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Obama could ask why Liu Xia, wife of Liu Xiaobo, remains under house arrest without being accused of any crime (Chinese law makes no provision for imprisonment without cause). Obama could then press Hu toward a more democratic approach to government, which would be in the best interest of the United States, China, and “all humanity,” says Yang Jianli. While the writer understands the potential awkwardness of such an encounter between Obama and Hu, he also recognizes the opportunity.

The writer is president of Initiatives for China and a Harvard fellow. He served a five-year prison term in China, from 2002 to 2007, for attempting to observe labor unrest. He is the liaison to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee on behalf of Liu Xia, the wife of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving 11 years in prison for his writings.

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