Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) Tuesday called on the top Obama State Department official responsible for human rights issues to “retract and apologize” for telling officials of the Communist government of China that Arizona’s new immigration-enforcement law is an example of a “troubling trend in our society” and for portraying Arizona as the moral equivalent of Communist China.
In a letter to Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, the senators said that he “seemed to imply” during the recent U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue that Arizona’s law “is morally equivalent to China’s persistent pattern of abuse and repression of its people.”
McCain and Kyl told Posner his comments were “particularly offensive” because he heads the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
“We demand that you retract your statement and issue an apology,” they wrote.
Asked by a reporter if the Arizona law came up in the discussions, Posner said it did–and it was U.S. officials, not the Chinese, who brought it up.
“We brought it up early and often,” Posner told reporters last Friday. “It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society,” Posner said. The Chinese did not raise any concerns about Chinese people visiting Arizona, Posner added.
During the press briefing, Posner explained that “part of a mature relationship is that you have an open discussion where you not only raise the other guy’s problems, but you raise your own, and you have a discussion about it. We did plenty of that. We had experts from the U.S. side, for example, yesterday, talking about treatment of Muslim Americans in an immigration context. We had a discussion of racial discrimination. We had a back-and-forth about how each of our societies are dealing with those sorts of questions.”
Posner characterized the discussions as a give-and-take: “I think the tone of the discussions was very much not ‘We’ve got all the answers; we’re telling the Chinese how to behave.’ It was framed in an international context, international standards. We’re both obligated. And let’s talk about things that we’re both dealing with, and try to figure out–can we help each other? And where we have differences, how do we mitigate those differences?”
The United States and China reported no major breakthroughs Friday after only their second round of talks about human rights since 2002.
The Obama administration wants to push Beijing to treat its citizens better, but it also needs Chinese support on Iranian and North Korean nuclear standoffs, climate change and other difficult issues.
Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state, told reporters that another round will happen some time next year in Beijing. The countries also plan to hold talks on legal matters soon and he said he will participate in a high-profile economic and security summit in Beijing this month.
Posner said in addition to talks on freedom of religion and expression, labor rights and rule of law, officials also discussed Chinese complaints about problems with U.S. human rights, which have included crime, poverty, homelessness and racial discrimination.
He said U.S. officials did not whitewash the American record and in fact raised on its own a new immigration law in Arizona that requires police to ask about a person’s immigration status if there is suspicion the person is in the country illegally.