White House to address NGOs concerns as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in US

Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan arrive at Paine Field in Everett, Washington near Seattle on Tuesday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan arrive at Paine Field in Everett, Washington near Seattle on Tuesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House will on today host US non-governmental groups likely to be hit by tough new Chinese security laws, a high-profile statement of concern ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit.

"We are going find some opportunities to speak out on that issue and also find an opportunity to meet some of the stakeholders involved," a senior administration official said.

A host of organisations from universities to businesses to rights groups would be affected should the draft law requiring them to register and report to security officials enter into force.

The issue looks set to be another major area of contention when Xi Jinping meets President Barack Obama on Friday, for a summit design to strengthen ties.

Mr Xi arrived in West Coast city of Seattle today, where he was to deliver a keynote speech to state and corporate power players to woo big business. He then heads to Washington for Friday talks with Mr Obama.

The meeting has already been beset by arguments over cyber hacking and China's increasingly assertive land grabs in the South China Sea.

"Our concern with the law is profound," said the unnamed official.

"First of all it is very broad, it gives a huge role to the ministry of public security, not the ministry of civil affairs that used to manage these groups."

"I have heard a number of these groups saying that they are having to question whether they will remain in China, whether they will curtail their activities in China or whether they will cancel plans to establish a presence in China."

"What I am talking about here are groups that have for decades made a tremendous contribution to China's own development and to the development of US-China bilateral relations - I'm talking about foundations, business associations, universities. That's deeply troubling and very unfortunate and I think the president will make that clear."

Christopher Johnson, a former CIA analyst, now with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said "there's a lot of pressure on the administration to push back on this, to get the Chinese to change it".

"Take Yale University, for example. They have a presence in China. If in New Haven they choose to host a dissident or the Dalai Lama or something like that, technically under this law the people in China would be subject to arrest."

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on Tuesday urged Mr Obama to take a tougher line with Mr Xi.

"The past year alone has been marked by further erosion of rule of law, tightening restrictions on civil society and outright attacks on human rights defenders and political dissidents," he wrote in an opinion article that appeared in the Washington Examiner.

He urged Mr Obama to invite Chinese human rights activists to MrXi's state dinner.

"Too often the Obama administration wants credit for 'raising human rights' - but passing mentions and diminished significance in the broader bilateral agenda provides little solace to the brave men and women who face unimaginable obstacles and hardship for daring to claim their most basic human rights," Mr Rubio wrote.