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US-China human rights talks begin

By Xuyang Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-25 1:00:05

The US will continue its preaching on human rights issues during the two-day session of the China-US Human Rights Dialogue in Washington, D.C. that concludes on Wednesday, but it is not likely to put greater pressure on China, despite recent individual cases that have drawn a lot of attention, analysts say.

Rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, labor rights, and other human rights issues will be raised over the course of the dialogue. Strong promotion of human rights remains a key tenet of US foreign policy, and the country will continue candid and in-depth discussion with China on this issue, according to a press release before the dialogue from the US Department of State.

The Chinese government did not give any details about the issues it will address at the meeting, but stated that China is willing to discuss and exchange views on human rights issues with the US on the basis of equality and mutual respect, according to a news release from the foreign ministry on Friday, Xinhua reported.

The 17th dialogue is hosted by Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Chen Xu, director general with the Department of International Organizations and Conferences under China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

With a presidential election ahead, there might be more pressure on US politicians from human rights groups to press China on such issues, analysts say.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has raised human rights issues with China on several occasions.

"It's partly because as her term comes to an end, she wants to leave some political legacy," said Yu Wanli, associate professor at the School of International Studies, Peking University. 

When the dialogue first started in 1990, human rights were a touchy subject and China was under a lot of pressure from the international community.

"But over the years, China and the US, as well as other countries, have established such a mechanism to avoid confrontation, and instead work out their differences through dialogue," said Yu.

The dialogue was suspended between 2003 and 2008 after the US proposed anti-China bills to the UN.

During the past year, several cases have occurred that involved the US or attracted attention, threatening to strain relations between the two countries.

But despite high-profile incidents such as the one involving blind activist Chen Guangcheng, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue went ahead as scheduled.

Analysts say the two countries are not likely to clash over human rights issues, especially as the relations become more mature.

"If we put this under the larger context of China-US relations, we can expect the dialogue to be fairly routine, much like in the past few years," said Liu Weidong, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Human rights issues are not really a priority with US politicians, as they are much more concerned with their economy and security strategy, said Liu.

"The US is more concerned over whether China will pose a threat to its role in the Asia Pacific, or if the territorial disputes in the region might affect its strategic deployment here," he said.

Compared with the Bush administration, when Congress passed several human rights bills concerning China, the Obama administration has not done anything similar.

In 2009, during her first visit to China as Secretary of State, Clinton played down human rights and said that she hoped such issues would not stand in the way of other, broader topics.

To show its commitment to advancing human rights, China published two national action plans on human rights in 2009 and 2012.

For China, the dialogues serve as a platform where it can explain its position and the complexity of human rights issues in the country, said Liu.

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