'Growing alarm in US' over China's rights record

Beijing must make improvements to ensure success of Xi-Obama summit: US official

WASHINGTON • The senior US State Department official responsible for human rights said China would have to improve its rights record to ensure that the summit between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping next month is a success.

Speaking on Thursday after the first day of the 19th US-China human rights dialogue in Washington, Mr Tom Malinowski said there was "a growing sense of alarm in the US government about human rights developments in China".

Mr Malinowski, the Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labour, told reporters that China would have to "make specific improvements" on human rights if it wanted the "tone and the substance of the summit to be positive".

While much of the discussion was about China, Chinese diplomats raised concerns about recent police shootings in the United States.

"The Ferguson case was raised briefly," Mr Malinowski said, "and I actually thought this was quite interesting because they said, 'We all saw that on TV', and my response, without in any way diminishing the seriousness of the problem that we are facing in the United States, was, 'Exactly, you saw it on TV'."

FREEDOM TO REPORT

The Ferguson case was raised briefly... and I actually thought this was quite interesting because they said, 'We all saw that on TV', and my response, without in any way diminishing the seriousness of the problem that we are facing in the United States, was, 'Exactly, you saw it on TV'.

MR TOM MALINOWSKI, Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labour

Reporters in China are not free to report on similar episodes of violence, Mr Malinowski said he told his Chinese counterparts.

He said the talks covered China's recent crackdown on lawyers, religious freedom, including moves to remove crosses from churches, and a proposed law that would severely restrict the activities of non-governmental organisations.

Mr Malinowski said the talks had been "very detailed and substantive", and would set the stage for a discussion on rights at the summit.

While Mr Malinowski promised that the Obama administration would advocate forcefully for human rights issues, he might not be able to deliver on that vow.

Mr Obama has a long list of issues to discuss with Mr Xi, including climate change, cyber security, open navigation of the South China Sea and economic concerns.

Mr Xi is expected to spend about a week in the US during the second half of next month. The Chinese leader will hold talks with Mr Obama and also attend the United Nations General Assembly.

On Tuesday, leading US senators urged Mr Obama to make what they called Mr Xi's "extraordinary assault" on human rights a key and public component of their talks.

Mr Xi's administration has tightened control over almost every aspect of civil society since 2012, citing national security and stability.

The crackdown has included the detention of more than 50 lawyers and activists since last month, while the authorities have been taking down crosses on churches in Zhejiang.

Mr Malinowski said China's willingness to discuss human rights issues was positive and showed that it was concerned about its international image.

He said that among the issues that would be raised by the US side was China's delay or denial of visas for US journalists and its restrictions on travel by US diplomats to areas deemed sensitive.

REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline ''Growing alarm in US' over China's rights record'. Print Edition | Subscribe