China, United States To Begin Human Rights Talks

Apr 26, 2011

Starting tomorrow in Beijing, China and the United States will begin two days of talks about human rights. Reuters reports that China is already warning that the United States should not overreach during the talks:

"When it comes to differences between China and the United States over human rights, the two sides can enhance mutual understanding on a basis of equality and mutual respect," [Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei] told a regular news conference.

"We oppose any country using human rights issues as an excuse to interfere in China's domestic affairs."

The talks come at a time when, in response to unrest in North Africa, China has been clamping down aggresively on dissent. They come almost three weeks after the government detained one of its best known artists Ai Wei-Wei.

CNN reports that the U.S. delegation will be led by Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor:

The U.S.-China discussions will focus on human rights developments in China, particularly on "forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, and arrests and convictions, " according to the State Department.

Officials will also discuss other issues such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression and minority rights.

Early this month, the United States Department of State released its annual report on human rights practices in China. Annoucing the release of the reports, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said Beijing's record on human rights was worsening.

"We remain deeply concerned about reports that since February, dozens of people including public-interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals and activists have been arbitrarily detained and arrested," she said.

Reacting to the report, China, reports The Guardian, accused the U.S. of having double standards when it comes to human rights and released its own annual report on the United States' human rights records. The Guardian adds:

Much of the document focuses on social and economic issues such as poverty, crime and racism. It attacks the US for the large number of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan and the prisoner abuse scandals that have dogged counterterrorism initiatives. It adds: "The violation of [US] citizens' civil and political rights by the government is severe ... the United States applies double standards ... by requesting unrestricted 'internet freedom' in other countries, which becomes an important diplomatic tool for the United States to impose pressure and seek hegemony, and imposing strict restriction within its territory.

"An article on [the] BBC ... noted the US government wants to boost internet freedom to give voices to citizens living in societies regarded as 'closed' and questions those governments' control over information flow, although within its borders the US government tries to create a legal frame to fight the challenge posed by WikiLeaks."

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