Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - Page 1 News List

US to discuss trade, Syria and human rights with Xi

AFP, Washington

The US said on Friday it would raise concerns about trade, human rights and Syria during a closely watched visit next week by China’s likely next leader, despite hopes to improve ties.

White House officials said they would seek to send a message to Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) that the US welcomes China’s rise, but that Beijing was testing the patience even of supporters of the relationship.

“China needs to recognize that it needs to continue to take steps to live up to the rules of the road that all nations abide by, particularly economically, in order to maintain support for the relationship in the United States,” US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call.

With elections in November, the US has been pressing China over trade policies seen as unfair, including what lawmakers call a disregard for intellectual property rights and an artificially weak currency.

Human rights groups say that China has also stepped up curbs on dissent, with dozens of government critics detained since last year. Democracy activist Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫) was sentenced on Friday to seven years in prison, his wife said.

Residents say that China has imposed virtual martial law in Tibetan areas, amid a wave of self-immolations to protest Beijing’s rule, and has kept tight control of the Uighur minority concentrated in northwestern Xinjiang.

“It is an area of grave concern for us to witness the increase of tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang,” said Danny Russel, US President Barack Obama’s top adviser on Asia.

“The US has spoken out about it and we use every opportunity to urge the Chinese officials and leaders to exercise real restraint and to safeguard the human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all of Chinese citizens, including in Tibet,” he said.

Russel dismissed the fears of human-rights groups that the US would tone down comments to ensure a smooth visit by Xi, who will be welcomed on Tuesday at the White House, US Department of State and Pentagon.

“This is an important part of our agenda and there’s no reason that the conversations with Vice President Xi would depart from our longstanding practices,” Russel said.

Separately on Friday, US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called on China to free Zhu, saying that the US was “deeply concerned” that he was sentenced for subversion over writing a poem.

Xi’s visit also comes after China joined Russia in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution that would have pressured Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to start a transition and halt what residents say is escalating violence. China also opposed sanctions against Iran.

“We’ll continue to press that with the Chinese because, frankly, it’s not, we believe, the right bet to believe that Assad is going to brutalize his people into submission,” Rhodes said on a conference call.

“We believe Assad’s days are numbered and there needs to be a transition in Syria,” he said.

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