U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue
AAP staff report
Washington, D.C. (May 14, 2010) – The U.S. State Department on Friday held a briefing on the most recent dialogue on U.S. – China Human Rights that took place in Washington. The briefing was conducted with Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary for the U.S. State Department Bureau of Public Affairs, with specific information coming from Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department.
Posner said the meeting May 13, included himself along with Deputy Secretary Steinberg, Jeff Bader from the National Security Council, and Under Secretaries Maria Otero, who also serves as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues; Robert Hormats, Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs; and Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Other agencies present included AID, Department of Justice, Homeland Security, Labor, Commerce, IRS, U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, and members of the judiciary.
The Chinese delegation was led by Director General Chen Xu, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of International Organizations. There were also nine Chinese agency representatives from each of its government ministries of Justice, Public Security, State Administration, Religious Affairs, and Supreme Court.
“We had a variety of discussion on a variety of topics, including religious freedom, labor rights, freedom of expression, rule of law, racial discrimination, and multilateral cooperation,” said Posner. “We also discussed a number of individual cases.”
He said the delegations together visited sites in Washington, and met with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, to discuss rule of law and the role of lawyers in society. They met with Cardinal McCarrisk at Catholic Charities Anchor Mental Health Center to talk about the relationship between the religious community and government in human services, social services, humanitarian issues.
The group met with officials of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to discuss labor rights, collective bargaining. They also attended the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event, where Tom Carothers hosted a delegation to talk about the nexus between human rights, rule of law, and food safety.
“The discussions we had were candid and constructive, including a range of areas where we disagree,” Posner added. “We plan to continue the discussions in a variety of fora, including a legal expert’s dialogue, and we agreed to set the dates and agenda to restart those discussions soon.”
Posner said the sides agreed to the next round of the ongoing dialogue to be held in China in 2011. They are planning expert discussions to include religious freedom issues and on labor.
“I look forward to working with our Chinese counterparts to continue these discussions,” he added.
Posner said that he was unable to discuss specific case discussions to the press, in part for the large number of cases and their respective locations that were discussed. He said the that in some cases, he believes there would be more effective progress if discussions are held privately.
Posner did mention the Liu Xiaobo case, a human rights activist and president of the Independent Chinese Pen Center, who has been imprisoned since 2009 on suspicion of subverting state power in China. He said the State Department believes with this case it helps to continue reiterating its concerns publicly to help in this matter.
He said the same of the Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese lawyer and human rights activist who was disbarred, jailed and allegedly tortured by Chinese secret police.
“I don’t want to go into every case, but we genuinely are committed and spent time discussing very specific cases and very specific concerns in the areas where our disagreements are most profound,” Posner said.
Posner was asked about the demonstrations at the State Department from the Tibetans about the occupation of the country since 1959, and of the Falun Gong, and its allegations of the persecution of the practitioners in China, since it outlawed the practice as a cult. A related question had to do with the blacklisted Chinese outside the country that cannot travel to China and their families in China forced to live underground.
Posner did not respond to those groups issues specifically but said the group discussed the topic of free expression to include restrictions on press, journalists, bloggers and the Internet.
“We discussed – again, in the context – I don’t want to get into every detail of what we discussed, but we certainly raised our concerns both about restrictions on religious freedom in those places and broader human rights concerns, and we’ll continue to do that,” he said.
Asked again about the assertions of the State Department on these matters, Posner would only say that he is pleased about two days of good discussions that were direct but with a respectful tone.
“And so there are issues, a range of issues, where we can work together, but a number of issues, including some that you’re mentioning here, where we have differences,” he said. “Those differences were very clear. They were very plainly expressed. There are a number of places where I can assure you, in two days, we’re not going to change major policies or major points of view. But we laid a foundation to continue those discussions and we will continue them.”
There were reported discussions of China’s expatriation of North Korean refugees to North Korea, along with issues related to Cambodia and Burma. Posner would not give details other than to say refugee protection issues were paramount and that they will continue to raise them.