China-US talks 'open, constructive'

Updated: 2012-07-27 03:14

By Tan Yingzi in Washington (China Daily)

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The 17th annual China-US human rights talks were a "candid, open and constructive" dialogue that will help both sides deepen mutual understanding and reduce misconceptions, according to a statement issued by the Chinese delegation.

"Both sides have agreed to continue this dialogue in a spirit of equality and mutual respect," said the statement, which was released on Wednesday, one day after the talks concluded in Washington.

During the two-day meeting, the two parties exchanged ideas on a broad range of issues, including international human rights cooperation, the rule of law, freedom of expression, the responsibility of the media, racism and discrimination against Native Americans.

Chen Xu, a senior official at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in international cooperation, and Michael Posner, US assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, led the talks.

The United States has continued to criticize China's human rights situation, despite its achievements in recent years.

But the two countries remain committed to the promotion and protection of human rights through more communication and exchanges, even though they will still have significant differences on these issues, according to the US-China joint statement issued in 2011 during President Hu Jintao's visit to the US.

The Chinese delegation discussed the recently revised Criminal Law as well as the country's efforts in promoting Internet development, advancing grassroots elections and strengthening social security.

In March, China amended the Criminal Procedural Law and the phrase "respecting and protecting human rights" is written into the first chapter of the revised law.

The revised law stresses protecting suspects and defendants from "illegal restriction, detention and arrest".

The Chinese delegation urged its US counterpart to look at China's human rights situation in an "overall, objective and fair" way and make positive contributions to the cooperative partnership between the world's two largest economies.

"We hope the US side can respect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, its political and judicial system and the development path we have chosen," said the statement.

Posner said on Wednesday at the State Department briefing that both sides were engaged in the talks "frankly and candidly".

"It is a chance for us to engage on human rights issues and to do so in an in-depth manner focusing both on specific issues and specific cases. It's not a negotiation," he said.

The dialogue was just one of many ways for the US administration to raise the issue with China, he added.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters earlier on Tuesday that this dialogue showed that the US relationship with China was "maturing".

"We consider that this is an integral part of all the work we do to try to build a strong partnership and cooperation across the board with China," she said.

The human rights talks, which have been used as a platform for "bargaining and negotiating", are gradually becoming a channel for communication and learning between China and the US, said Liu Feitao, an expert on US studies at the China Institute of International Studies.

"The US has long been using the talks to press China over its domestic political interests. But with more social topics brought into the discussion, such as the gap between rich and poor in both the US and China, the talks have become a more equal platform," Liu said.

Liu noted that the talks have been included in the framework of China-US constructive partnership this time. "It is a new attempt to manage differences between the two countries and will prevent their differences on human rights from jeopardizing general Sino-US relations."

The Chinese delegation included representatives of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the Legal Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, the Supreme Court, the State Council Information Office, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, the State Administration of Religious Affairs and All China Federation of Trade Unions.

They visited the US Supreme Court, as well as the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, Politico, a political journalism organization, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Their American counterparts included representatives of the Department of Justice, the US Agency for International Development, the Department of Labor, the US Trade Representative, the Office of the Vice-President and the Department of State.

Cheng Guangjin in Beijing contributed to this story.

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