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February 14, 2012

White House: Specific Human Rights Cases Raised With Xi

by Dan Robinson

The White House says President Barack Obama raised specific human rights cases in talks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Tuesday.

A day after Vice President Xi's talks in the Oval Office, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that Obama raised individual human rights cases during the discussion. A White House official declined to provide details when asked which cases Obama discussed with Xi.

A new poll finds Americans have generally positive and optimistic views about China and U.S.-China relations. Most would not call China an enemy, but would also not call them an ally. Major concerns among Americans are China’s growing trade imbalance with America along with China’s growing military.

VOA’s Ira Mellman spoke with Cynthia English, a research consultant with Gallup, the U.S. polling company that did the survey in cooperation with the China Daily USA newspaper.

Carney told reporters accompanying Obama on a cross-country trip that the president raised "the importance of human rights and America's commitment to universal values directly to Vice President Xi" and the situation in Tibet.

Before Xi's arrival in Washington, analysts suggested that specific human rights cases probably would not come up in talks with someone who is only the presumptive next president of China.

How aggressive the Obama administration has been with China on human rights was the topic of a congressional hearing that occurred on the first full day of Xi's visit.

At the hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, two Republican lawmakers accused the Obama administration of being weak in pressing China on human rights.

"I think this administration has been a total failure [on human rights issues]," said Republican Representative Frank Wolf.

Jared Genser, the U.S. attorney representing Gao Zhisheng, the Chinese human rights lawyer thought to be held by Chinese authorities, said it is good that individual cases were raised during Xi Jinping's visit.

He said outcomes are important, however, and that "quiet diplomacy" with Beijing by the Obama administration does not appear to have worked.

"Unfortunately, we have seen China moving in the wrong direction, and I just don't see the results. As a result of that, my view is that the administration needs to look at changing its tactics because the existing set of tactics that it has been deploying - whether or not you characterize it as quiet diplomacy - whatever it is, it is just not working," said Genser.

In response to criticism that the Obama administration diplomacy with China has not worked, a White House official referred to Vice President Joe Biden's remarks on Tuesday at a State Department lunch for Vice President Xi.

Biden said the United States made clear its concern that "conditions in China have deteriorated and about the plight of several very prominent individuals." Biden said the United States appreciated China's response, but it is unclear what that response was.

Meanwhile, the State Department questioned the accuracy of a report in The Washington Post newspaper saying that China denied a visa to the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook, in the days leading up to the Xi visit.

State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said China had not acted on the visa, but also had not denied it, and that Cook still intends to make the trip.