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Hu admits to China's human rights mess

Last updated on: January 20, 2011 08:20 IST

Hu admits to China's human rights mess

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Chinese President Hu Jintao has acknowledged that a lot needs to be done in his country on human rights, an issue that was candidly and strongly raised by US President Barack Obama when the two leaders met at the White House.

"A lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights," Hu told media persons at a crowded news conference after the two leaders met at the Oval office.

This was soon followed by the Cabinet-level meeting, after which the two leaders addressed a joint meeting of the US-Chinese business leaders.

"We will continue our efforts to improve the lives of the Chinese people, and we will continue our efforts to promote democracy and the rule of law in our country," Hu said in response to a question. Hu's answers were in Chinese, which were translated into English.

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Image: US President Barack Obama hears China's President Hu Jintao speak during a joint press conference in the East Room at the White House
Photographs: Reuters
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'We are willing to learn good practices from each other'

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At the same time, he said China is also willing to continue to have exchanges and dialogue with other countries in terms of human rights.

"We are willing to learn from each other in terms of the good practices," he added.

Hu said there are disagreements between China and the United States on the issue of human rights, but China is willing to engage in dialogue and exchanges with it on the basis of mutual respect and the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs.

"In this way, we will be able to further increase our mutual understanding, reduce our disagreements and expand our common ground," he asserted.

Obama said the two leaders agreed to move ahead with their formal dialogue on human rights.


Photographs: Reuters
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'New exchanges to advance the rule of law'

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"We've agreed to new exchanges to advance the rule of law," said the US President in his opening remarks at the joint news conference.

According to a joint statement, the US and China agreed to hold the next round of the resumed Legal Experts Dialogue before the next Human Rights Dialogue convenes.

"The United States and China further agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of law and exchanges on the rule of law. The United States and China are actively exploring exchanges and discussions on the increasing role of women in society," it said.

"I reaffirmed America's fundamental commitment to the universal rights of all people, and that includes basic human rights like freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association and demonstration and of religion -- rights that are recognised in the Chinese constitution," Obama said.


Image: Pro-democracy protesters opposed to the Chinese government gather on the sidewalk outside the White House in Washington

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'China is a developing country in a crucial stage of reform'

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"As I've said before, the United States speaks up for these freedoms and the dignity of every human being, not only because it's part of who we are as Americans, but we do so because we believe that by upholding these universal rights all nations, including China, will ultimately be more prosperous and successful," he asserted.

Hu said the two leaders discussed human rights during their meetings.

"China is always committed to the protection and promotion of human rights, and in the course of human rights, China has also made enormous progress, recognised widely in the world," he said.

"China recognises and also respects the universality of human rights. And at the same time, we do believe that we also need to take into account the different national circumstances when it comes to the universal value of human rights. China is a developing country with a huge population, and also a developing country in a crucial stage of reform," he said.


Image: China's President Hu Jintao has his translator repeat a question in Chinese, concerning human rights, during his joint news conference with President Obama in the East Room of the White House

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A strong statement

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In the joint statement, the US and China reiterated their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, even as they continue to have significant differences on these issues.

"The United States stressed that the promotion of human rights and democracy is an important part of its foreign policy. China stressed that there should be no interference in any country's internal affairs," said the joint statement.

"The United States and China underscored that each country and its people have the right to choose their own path, and all countries should respect each other's choice of a development model," it said.

"Addressing differences on human rights in a spirit of equality and mutual respect, as well as promoting and protecting human rights consistent with international instruments, the two sides agreed to hold the next round of the US-China Human Rights Dialogue before the third round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED)," it said.


Image: President Obama shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao after the joint news conference

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