Clinton Clashes With Xi Over Women's Summit She Attended in 1995

Updated on
  • Calls China's president `Shameless' for hosting UN meeting
  • Rights groups call on country to end harassment of activists

Hillary Clinton called Xi Jinping “shameless” as the Chinese president hosted a United Nations summit on women’s rights, a gathering the former first lady helped bring to global attention 20 years ago.

Clinton, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, took to her Twitter account Sunday and criticized Xi and China’s detention of five prominent women’s rights activists earlier this year. The move came as Xi, following visits to Seattle and Washington last week, was the main host for the summit at the UN on Sunday.

“Xi hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless,” Clinton wrote, attaching a link to a New York Times story about the activists, known as China’s Feminist Five.

The women, arrested at separate times, were charged with “creating a disturbance” as they planned public campaigns against sexual harassment to coincide with International Women’s Day. Most have been freed but are still considered criminal suspects under Chinese law and, in a letter to the UN, said their activities have been limited and they continue to face threats.

Li Junhua, director general of China’s Department of International Organizations and Conferences, said it was up to the Chinese people, especially women, to judge the development of womens’ rights in the country.

‘Lack of Understanding’

“Some individuals or entities make groundless views, or show a lack of understanding,” Li said in a briefing in New York in response to Clinton’s remarks. “The arrest of the women was not because they’re protecting women’s rights, but because they’ve disobeyed the law.”

The state-run Global Times in an online editorial said Clinton’s comment was “more than reminiscent of the demagogue Donald Trump,” who is seeking the Republican candidacy for the presidential election.

“Despite her political acumen as former secretary of state and senator, she is using the language of Trump to cast herself in the role of a rabble-rouser,” it said. “It seems that Hillary, eager to keep a competitive edge in the game, has also resorted to these ignominious shenanigans.”

Xi, who was co-chairing a meeting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the UN women’s conference in Beijing, which Clinton attended, announced a $10 million donation to the UN agency promoting women’s rights.

Over the next five years, Xi said China will help establish 100 health-related projects for women and children in developing countries, finance another 100 projects to send poor girls to school and provide training for women from developing countries.

Rights groups and foreign administrations have urged Chinese authorities to drop the investigations against the women. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power this month urged Beijing to enhance women’s rights.

“If you want to empower women, start by releasing these women,” Power said. “Don’t deprive your societies and the world of these women’s voices.”

— With assistance by Keith Zhai

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