The US said on Wednesday the human rights situation in China was deteriorating and it was time for its authoritarian government to allow dissent.
US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner was speaking after an annual US-China human rights dialogue that ended in Washington on Tuesday.
Posner, whose portfolio covers democracy, human rights and labor issues, said there was growing frustration among many Chinese people that they do not have the ability to express their differences with the government.
“Our message to the Chinese government is you’ve made progress on the economic front, this is the moment to open up the space to allow people to dissent, to question government actions and to do so without fear of retribution,” he told reporters.
Posner said the US raised with the Chinese delegation dozens of individual cases of those persecuted that included lawyers, bloggers, non-government group activists, journalists and religious leaders.
He declined to characterize China’s responses. He said the visiting delegation had questioned the US’ own human rights record, asking about discrimination and prison conditions.
The Chinese delegation was led by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for International Organizations and Conferences Chen Xu (陳旭). China’s embassy in Washington did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the dialogue.
Skeptics, including in the US Congress, have questioned whether the formal talks that China holds with Western powers on human rights have any use and may help it fend off critics without taking action.
“A human rights dialogue with the communist regime in Beijing matters for little until the rule of law is genuinely rooted in Chinese soil,” said US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Posner said that activists in China, including family members of detainees, want the US to speak in public and private with Beijing and pointed to growing attention rights issues draw among Chinese on the Internet and in blogs.
The US said it raised the conditions of ethnic and religious minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang; the cases of imprisoned democracy activists Chen Wei (陳衛) and Chen Xi (陳西); Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波); jailed lawyers Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) and Ni Yulan (倪玉蘭); and Feng Jianmei (馮建梅), a woman forced to have an abortion at seven months.