Pelosi Says She Pressed for Human Rights During China Trip

Posted June 4, 2009 at 6:41pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spent Thursday commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests — and fending off questions about whether she downplayed human rights issues on a recent trip to China. After remarks at an event observing the hundreds of lives lost in the pro-democracy protest, Pelosi said it is “absolutely not right— to suggest that she held back in her criticism of China’s human rights record during a trip to Beijing last week — her first visit to China as Speaker — in an effort to promote mutual interests with the United States. “Nineteen years ago, I stood in Tiananmen Square and unfurled a banner as an individual Member of Congress representing my views. … Eighteen years later, as Speaker, I could sit opposite the president of China, the premier, the chairman of the National People’s Congress, and express those views to them directly,— Pelosi said.“That, to me, was a very strong position from which to speak,— said Pelosi, adding that her commitment to human rights in China is “part of who I am.—Pelosi has taken heat for not making human rights a bigger priority on her China trip, the focus of which was climate change negotiations. Even the appearance of Pelosi taking a more diplomatic approach to U.S.-China relations is a sharp contrast to her reputation as, in Pelosi’s words, “the most hated person in China,— a title she earned last year for her comments when she visited the Dalai Lama in India.But a Pelosi aide who was on the China trip dismissed the idea that the Speaker was soft on human rights. “We talked about it everywhere we went. Human rights, the release of prisoners. … We had direct conversations with the president and premier,— the aide said.Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who attended today’s press event, highlighted a letter that Pelosi presented to Chinese authorities outlining a number of specific human rights abuses.“By all accounts, I think she was pretty strong,— McGovern said. “I believe she got the message across loud and clear to the Chinese government.—