News / Asia

US, China Begin Human Rights Dialogue

Kunming, Yunnan province, China
Kunming, Yunnan province, China
VOA News
U.S. and Chinese officials discuss the sensitive topic of human rights during talks beginning Tuesday in southwest China.

Washington and Beijing agreed earlier this month to hold the two-day U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in Kunming, the capital of China's Yunnan province.

The U.S. State Department says the U.S. side will bring up the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, labor rights, and the rights of ethnic minorities in China.

The Chinese foreign ministry says the talks will include "candid and in-depth exchanges on the basis of equality and mutual respect in order to promote human rights development in both countries."

The two countries have held regular human rights dialogues since 1990. China suspended the talks from 2002 to 2008 in response to U.S. criticism of its rights record at the United Nations.

Some human rights groups have questioned the effectiveness of the dialogues, arguing they have become routine exercises in diplomacy and have achieved few results.

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Washington to use the latest talks to insist on benchmarks to ensure that Beijing follows through on its commitments to protect human rights.

The group also encouraged U.S. officials to be more outspoken about the topics covered during the meetings. It said such details have been lacking following recent talks.

The U.S. and China recently have held a series of high-level talks. President Barack Obama hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping for an informal summit in June. In July, the two sides held an annual strategic and economic dialogue.

Tuesday's meeting marks the first formal human rights discussion since Mr. Xi took over the top spot in China's Communist Party at a leadership transition that began late last year.

Since the new leadership came to power, Human Rights Watch says there has been "little discernable or significant improvement" in China's human rights record.

Beijing has recently arrested activists who have called for government officials to publicly disclose their assets. Rights groups also say it is pursuing repressive policies toward Uighur and Tibetan minorities, as well as tightly restricting the free flow of information.

China claims it has made progress in protecting its citizens' human rights, and rejects foreign criticism as meddling in its internal affairs.

Following the strategic dialogue earlier this month, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi said he hopes the U.S. can "view China's economic and social development in an objective way." He also said he hopes the U.S. will improve its own human rights situation.

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