We should instead involve human rights diplomacy in all of our engagements with repressive regimes — no matter what official or cabinet agency is involved. For example, at our upcoming Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China, a high-level bilateral meeting, human rights should feature prominently along with talks about security and economic issues.
Solving these structural problems will take time, but we need to start now. After June 4, 1989, we didn’t continue to speak frankly and consistently over time regarding our concerns about the horrific events in Tiananmen Square. Over the following years, we let our desire for economic engagement and strategic stability outweigh our moral obligations. We have let the Chinese people down.
We want a productive relationship with a growing China. But we do not make that outcome more likely by ignoring that, even a quarter century after the Tiananmen Square massacre, detentions continue when simple commemorations occur in private homes or on social media.
In January, at his confirmation hearing to be the new U.S. ambassador to China, I asked Sen. Max Baucus if our embassy in Beijing should be considered an “island of freedom,” as the late Amb. Mark Palmer had advocated for all U.S. embassies around the world. Baucus said he would have to check and get back to me.