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Pelosi Says Human Rights Stressed During China Visit


House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and other members of a congressional delegation adequately underscored concerns about human rights during a recent visit to China. Pelosi and other members of the bipartisan group spoke amid week-long observances of the 20th anniversary of the Chinese government's crackdown in June, 1989 on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

Pelosi has been criticized by some human rights activists and organizations who say she could have done more during the delegation's visit to highlight human rights problems in China.

Speaking with reporters, she reiterated that the main objective of the trip was to talk with Chinese government and private sector leaders about climate change and how the U.S. and China can increase cooperation.

The Obama administration and Congress want China to do more to help reduce global warming by reducing carbon emissions, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year.

Pelosi said any agenda involving China must include human rights, adding that the subject, including human rights in Tibet, was an important part of discussions with China's leadership and others the delegation met.

She contrasted her just-completed visit with one in 1991 when she unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square commemorating pro-democracy demonstrators who died in the 1989 crackdown:

"Eighteen years ago I unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square in memory of those who were so brave and courageous. That is what I could do then, as a member of Congress representing my own views and those of my constituents. Now, as Speaker of the House, I could sit across from the president of China and express to him the concern in Congress on a bipartisan basis of concern for human rights in China and Tibet."

Pelosi noted that she presented China's President Hu Jintao with a letter containing a list of prisoners of conscience she would like to see released. The delegation also met democracy leaders, human rights and labor activists in Hong Kong, and discussed religious freedom with the Catholic Bishop of Shanghai.

Pelosi later read some of the names in that letter while speaking in the House chamber as it considered a resolution recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

Lawmakers say they came away impressed that the government in Beijing is taking seriously the need for further action on climate change.

Representative Ed Markey, a Democratic co-sponsor of major climate change legislation in the House of Representatives, says it was clear Chinese officials are closely watching steps being taken by the U.S. Congress.

Markey says he is encouraged but also realistic about chances for further progress leading up to the Copenhagen conference. "I was encouraged because of movement that was being made in a significant way in China, on energy intensity, energy efficiency, fuel economy standards. But at the same time [I am] realistic that reaching an agreement in Copenhagen will require very concerted efforts by the U.S. Congress and by the Obama administration," he said.

Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner says he stressed to Chinese officials the importance of enforcing intellectual property rights as part of developing new climate-friendly technologies.

"One thing that there is bipartisan insistence upon is that the Chinese enforce the intellectual property rights of those who invent and develop new technologies for the reduction of greenhouse gases," he said.

In her comments Tuesday, Speaker Pelosi repeated her hope that "environmental justice issues" in China could play a key role in encouraging more openness, saying she believes such issues could be a "real game changer" leading to more accountability, transparency, and respect for the rule of law.

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