By Margaret Huang
During President Trump’s first official visit to Asia, human rights organizations around the world waited with anticipation to see if he would stand up to some of the most oppressive governments in the world and press them on human rights. To our great disappointment, it does not appear that he did so.
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Governments led by Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Xi Jinping of China have suppressed political opposition, jailed journalists, and killed those willing to speak against them. As we near the end of Trump’s first year in office, it is worth assessing the degree to which he has used these visits to placate authoritarian leaders as opposed to restoring U.S. leadership by lifting up human rights.
During the 2016 campaign cycle, some mistakenly believed that, if he were elected, Trump’s bombast would give way to a more moderated approach to governing. Unsurprisingly, he has doubled-down. Since his inauguration, we have witnessed his extraordinary threats to limit press freedom and jail political opponents, while launching verbal attacks against the judiciary. In this context, Trump’s apparent friendliness with leaders with appalling human rights records like Duterte and Xi and Vladimir Putin is not surprising, but deeply troubling.