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China Willing to Discuss Human Rights Differences With US

Stephanie Ho | Beijing May 10, 2011

China is responding to U.S. criticism of its human-rights record by saying it is willing to discuss differences on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The comments were made in Beijing as the two sides continue wide-ranging and high-level talks in Washington.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu declined to make lengthy comments about the ongoing Sino-American Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington. But she acknowledged China and the United States have different opinions on human rights, which she attributed to differences in what she called "national situations."

Jiang says she thinks no country has a perfect human-rights record and that there is no one-size-fits-all human-rights policy.

She says China is willing to conduct dialogue with the United States in order to increase mutual understanding and mutual trust. The two sides recently concluded human-rights meetings in Beijing.

China is in the midst of a widespread crackdown on dissent that has seen authorities round up lawyers, writers, artists and activists, and step up disruptions to Internet access. The increased security is apparently aimed at preventing any unrest inspired by the Jasmine Revolution protests in the Middle East.

One specific issue that has been raised by U.S. officials is the case of well known artist-activist Ai Weiwei. Since he disappeared into detention last month, foreign reporters have regularly asked Jiang for information of his whereabouts.

She says Ai’s case is still under investigation and she warns the outside world from making what she described as "willful remarks" about it. She referred to the artist and said even people who are favored by western countries are required to abide by Chinese laws.

Meanwhile, economic issues, including China’s currency exchange rate reform and the U.S. debt, are expected to continue dominating the agenda in the U.S.-China talks.

Another source of tension is trade, which is heavily tilted in China’s favor. New trade figures show China had a much higher than expected trade surplus for April.

Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao told reporters Friday that for the entire year, though, China is expecting only what he called a modest trade surplus.

Zhu said China is pursuing what he called a basic balance in its trade, which he said is good for the sustainable development of China’s economy and the world economy.

Critics in the US and other countries accuse China of artificially keeping its currency undervalued in order to give it a huge trade advantage.

State-run media say the Chinese currency, the yuan, reached a record high value on China’s foreign exchange spot market Tuesday - slightly less than 6.5 yuan to the dollar.

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