The US ambassador to Beijing said that China’s human rights record was deteriorating as its communist rulers feel threatened in the wake of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East.
“The human rights climate has always ebbed and flowed in China, up and down, but we seem to be in a down period and it’s getting worse,” Ambassador Gary Locke told “The Charlie Rose Show” on US public television.
Locke pointed to China’s detentions of dissidents, lawyers and other perceived critics since the onset of the “Arab Spring” which toppled authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia last year.
“The Chinese leaders are very fearful of something similar happening within China,” Locke said.
“So there’s been a significant crackdown on dissension, political discussion, even the rights and the activities of lawyers who advocate on behalf of people who have been poisoned from tainted food and medicines.”
The ambassador was back in Washington for consultations ahead of a visit next month by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to take the helm of the rising Asian power in early 2013.
Locke’s trip comes after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited China and Japan in an effort to encourage Asia’s energy-hungry top economies to cut imports from Iran due to worries about the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.