The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Your meeting tomorrow with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Crawford, Texas is an important opportunity to make progress on the overall U.S. China relationship. Clearly, China is beginning to take some positive steps on global security matters. This weekend the American people will be interested to see if President Jiang makes commitments of support regarding strong United Nations action toward Iraq and effective efforts to address North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

These issues are of critical importance to our nation: however, I hope you will not allow them or China's impending political succession to overshadow the need to press President Jiang on human rights and rule of law issues. I believe our ability to promote China's movement toward a legal framework that respects basic rights will largely determine the stability of the U.S.-China relationship in the decades ahead.

Important objectives like the release of all political prisoners of conscience, increased labor rights, progress on religious freedom, enhancing Internet access and communication, increased regional autonomy and freer overall political expression all need renewed emphasis form your Administration. As our economic and security relationship with China grows, it is more, not less, necessary that China moves toward tangible reform of its political system. And this time of Chinese political transition presents a unique moment of opportunity for progress.

The release of individual political prisoners is always important and welcome. I hope the commitment to release many unfairly imprisoned human rights, religious freedom, labor rights and regional activists occurs tomorrow. However, release of some political prisoners does not negate the need for your Administration to achieve systemic progress on rule of law issues. I remain strongly supportive of American efforts to assist China in legal reform and in developing a modern legal framework. That reform can enhance both human rights of the Chinese people and the development of a Chinese commercial system that enhances opportunities for foreign and domestic businesses.

I am particularly concerned about recent reports of human rights abuses against religious and ethnic groups in China. Activists from the Tibet and Xinjiang regions remain subject to abuse by the Chinese government. Repression of religious groups and movements is still increasing. The peaceful Falun Gong movement has been singled out for harsh repression when it poses no security threat to the Chinese government. These and other violations of international standards must be addressed in our bilateral dialogue.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these concerns. At tomorrow's meeting, I hope you will attain progress on the range of bilateral political, security and economic issues.


Richard A. Gephardt