Washington, Jan 19 (Agencies): US Commission on global religious freedom has urged President Barack Obama to take up the issues of human rights and religious freedom during his meeting with his visiting Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao at the White House.
"As you prepare to meet with President Hu Jintao ..., we respectfully urge you to speak publicly about why religious freedom is in China's interest, rooted in international human rights treaties and standards which China has affirmed," said Leonard Leo, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair, in a letter to Obama.
The US cannot ignore China's "continued repression of dissent" in the hopes of finding common ground on other important global concerns, he said.

US policy and statements should reflect the fact that human rights protections and the advancement of the rule of law are critically intertwined with many of the US national
interests with China, Leo said in the letter dated January 14 released to the press yesterday.  

"We are encouraged that President Obama has said human rights would be a major part of his discussion with President Hu. The administration needs to become a more prominent voice for the voiceless and vulnerable in China," he said in a press statement.
However, private conversations alone will not move this rising power to change its policies, Leo said. "After the summit ends, the administration must demonstrate that it believes respect for religious freedom and related human rights is a fundamental strategic interest and integrate this understanding into its overall China policy."    

Last week, Obama met prominent Chinese experts and human rights advocates. The President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both said that human rights, including religious freedom, would be a prominent part of their discussions with Hu.
USCIRF said the Obama administration should prioritise human rights and religious freedom issues as principal issues in the talks' agenda; raise a full range of religious freedom concerns in high-level discussions in each session and seek binding agreements on key religious freedom and human rights concerns at the US-China Strategic Dialogue in ways similar to other economic and security interests.
The US should also ensure that religious freedompriorities raised in the Strategic Dialogue are implemented through appropriate US government foreign assistance programmes on such issues as legal reform, civil society capacity-building, public diplomacy, and cultural and religious preservation and exchanges.