Wash. governor defers to State Dept. on human rights in China

Oct 24, 2011

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has returned from her second trade mission to China. The state’s Tibetan community wanted her to press Communist officials on the issue of human rights.

But the Democratic governor believes that’s the role of the State Department.

Last week, while Gregoire was in China, a Tibetan monk urged her to address the issue of recent self-immolations by young religious leaders in Tibet.

Serious issue, but ...

Gregoire's spokeswoman says the governor takes human rights seriously, but the issue did not come up during the trade mission and, she adds, the U.S. State Department is the more appropriate agency to raise these issues.

Professor Don Zang is with the Asian Law Center at the University of Washington. He calls it the art of diplomacy.

"I don't feel that as a practical matter that the governor is obliged to talk about human rights every time she is in China," Zang says. "I think it's a matter of judgment."

'Duty to speak up'

A China expert for Amnesty International disagrees. T. Kumar believes American governors have a "duty to speak up" on human rights. And he questions why Gregoire would defer to the State Department on this issue, but not the Department of Commerce on trade.

In Michigan and Tennessee, Democrats have criticized Republican governors for not discussing human rights on trade missions to China.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network