The U.S. government is expressing concern over what it calls an "escalating trend" of Chinese repression of human rights activists. The comments come just a day before high-level U.S.-China meetings are due to begin. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
Washington has made its concern over the case of detained Chinese AIDS activist Hu Jia clear. Chinese police took 34-year-old Hu into custody at the end of December. The authorities have prevented Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, and their newborn child from leaving their Beijing home.
The State Department on Monday called Hu's case "disturbing," and said Washington is following it closely.
On Wednesday, the spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, Susan Stevenson, went a step further. She said China's detention of Hu appears to be part of what she called an "escalating trend" of targeting defense attorneys, social activists, journalists and other human rights activists.
"We have raised our concerns about Mr. Hu's detention with the Chinese government and we will continue to press Chinese leaders to respect the right of its citizens to speak, worship and assemble freely," she said.
Her comments came the same day U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte arrived in Beijing. The U.S. spokeswoman stopped short of saying Negroponte will raise Hu's case in meetings with Chinese leaders. But she said Negroponte will be discussing what she called "a range of issues of interest to the bilateral relationship."
The officials Negroponte will meet here Wednesday include Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. On Thursday, he travels to the southwestern Chinese city of Guiyang, where he will engage in the semi-annual "U.S.-China Senior Dialogue" with Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo. The dialogue is the premier Sino-U.S. forum for the discussion of strategic and political issues.