Dharamshala: - Outgoing US ambassador to China Gary Locke on Thursday urged the Government of the People's Republic of China to improve its human rights record, in parting remarks just days before he is to leave the country.
"United States support for fundamental human rights is an integral part of U.S. foreign policy, and in discussing the issue with China or any other country we start from the premise that all people are entitled to the protections contained in the universal declaration of human rights," Locke said.
He said that "these are universal standards and they include the right to due process of law, to be able to speak freely, to associate openly, to pray in a manner that one chooses and to enjoy the benefits of a free and robust press."
Rights are "universal" values that represent more than economic benefits, he said, speaking to journalists at the US embassy. We call on China to continue to improve its record in this area," Locke was quoted as saying by AFP.
"There's been great prosperity and an increase in the quality of life and the standard of living here in China," he said.
"But human rights is more than economic prosperity and the economic conditions of people, but also fundamental universal rights — freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the ability to practice one's own religion.
"The U.S. is deeply concerned over a recent pattern of harassment, arrests and prosecutions of good government advocates, of public interest lawyers, of activists, internet journalists, religious leaders, and others in China," Locke added.
US Ambassador Locke said that "the United States calls on China to guarantee peaceful activists the protections and freedoms to which they're entitled under China's international human rights commitments."
"We would also like to see better and more equitable treatment of foreign journalists in China, giving them the freedoms to report honestly and frankly good and bad about China, just as Chinese journalists enjoy these freedoms in America," Locke added.
Ambassador Locke's tenure is marked by his two visits to Tibet, which remained closed to foreign leaders and international media. He visited Tibetan areas in Ngaba in 2012, where majority of the self-immolation protests occurred, and capital Lhasa in 2013. In his meetings with the authorities, Locke lobbied for opening access to Tibet to foreign diplomats, journalists and tourists and stressed the "importance of preserving the Tibetan people's cultural heritage, including its unique linguistic, religious and cultural traditions."
He has repeatedly urged the Chinese leadership to engage in constructive dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives to resolve tensions in Tibet.
"As Ambassador, I have witnessed China's rich diversity first hand. I have also seen cases where heavy-handed policies deny basic freedoms to ethnic and religious minorities, including ethnic Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongolians, undermining the trust that binds diverse societies," he said in his 2013 International Human Rights Day statement on 10 December.
"The United States calls on the Chinese government to protect the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens without discrimination. We also urge China's leaders to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, as a means to reduce the tensions," he said.
US senator Max Baucus, nominated as Washington's next ambassador to China, said he would counsel the Chinese leadership to restart dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama without any preconditions to reduce the growing instability in Tibet.