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China says Human Rights Differences with US Narrowed - 2002-12-17

China says its differences with the United States over human rights have been narrowed by two days of talks. But some groups are calling on Washington to put more pressure on China to improve its rights record.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao says that two days of human rights talks with American officials here have yielded positive results. At a news conference in Beijing Tuesday, Mr. Liu says the dialogue on human rights has been friendly and frank, and has enhanced mutual understanding. He says there has been an in-depth and extensive exchange of views on judicial reform, religious freedom and other rights issues. Mr. Liu says China and the United States will hold future human rights discussions on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner leads the American delegation, which will travel Wednesday to China's northwestern Xinjiang Province. The region has a large population of ethnic Muslim Uighurs, some of whom support independence from China.

Human rights groups criticize China for using the U.S.-led war on terror as an excuse to crack down on the religious freedom of peaceful Muslims in Xinjiang. At Beijing's urging, Washington recently added a Uighur separatist group to its list of terrorist organizations.

Nicolas Becquelin, Hong Kong researcher for the group Human Rights in China, calls on U.S. officials to push China to improve human rights protections of all its citizens. "What we hope from this new round of dialogue is that the U.S. administration puts much more pressure on the Chinese government for effective results from this dialogue," he says.

Mr. Craner's delegation is expected to meet with religious affairs officials in Xinjiang. Mr. Craner will also give a speech to university students in the Xinjiang capital.