The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) calls on the top American diplomatic to East Asia to make human rights a priority during his visit to Beijing on April 7, 2011. In a letter U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, ICT President Mary Beth Markey requests that he “make a strong statement on the current crackdown and deterioration in the human rights situation in China and Tibet.”

Assistant Secretary Campbell is visiting Beijing on April 7 to meet with Chinese officials in preparation for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, high-level bilateral talks to be held in May in Washington.

ICT’s appeal comes as the human rights situation in China and Tibet is deteriorating. The arrest of artist Ai Weiwei has become the latest and perhaps highest profile in a trend of disappearances and detentions in China in recent weeks. Likewise, Tibetan writers, intellectuals, singers, artists and civil society leaders are being systematically targeted, detained and prosecuted for their work, as ICT has documented (see: “A ‘Raging Storm’: the crackdown on Tibetan writers and artists after Tibet’s Spring 2008 protests, ICT, May 18, 2010).

The letter cites cases of Tibetans resorting to desperate measures to call the attention of the international community to their plight, including a young monk who set himself on fire in March to protest Chinese policies, and two other monks who died in the last two weeks as the result of torture suffered in Chinese detention.

In this context, ICT wrote that “the posture of the Administration on human rights at the upcoming Strategic and Economic Dialogue is critically important. Human rights must be a dedicated priority on the agenda of the dialogue. To do less would not only send a terrible signal to those inside China and Tibet struggling to defend their basic rights, but also undermine the potency of the President’s words [on human rights at the summit with President Hu Jintao] in January.