China plays down US human rights concerns

AP News
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Posted: Aug 14, 2015 7:54 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — China is open to talking about human rights at a September leadership summit with the U.S. but the two world powers should not let the issue "dominate" the discussions, a senior Chinese official said Friday.

The State Department's top official on human rights said Thursday there's growing alarm in the U.S. over the situation in China and vowed that it would be a prominent topic at the Washington summit between President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping.

Li Jinhua, a senior official at China's Foreign Ministry, responded Friday.

"If our American colleagues suggest that next month during the summit our leaders should discuss this issue, then we are open to this proposal," Li told reporters, a day after he led the Chinese delegation at a human rights dialogue with the U.S.

"Yet this issue should not dominate our discussion about our relationship," Li said, according to an English translation of his comments in Chinese. "We should see a bigger picture: How do we seek more cooperation between each other while shelving these differences?"

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski on Thursday pressed Beijing to improve its deteriorating human rights record to set a positive tone for the summit, Xi's first state visit to the U.S. since he became president in 2013.

Li contended that human rights conditions were improving daily in China and that the U.S. should resist what he called "megaphone diplomacy."

Asked about U.S. objections to a draft law policing non-government organizations, Li said that was due to a misunderstanding of the law's provisions. Washington says that unless the law is revised or shelved it could jeopardize a large array of U.S. engagements in China.

Li also said the U.S. has exaggerated a crackdown on public interest lawyers. The State Department says more than 250 people have been rounded up recently and some are still being held. Li said about 20 lawyers have been detained and prosecuted for violating the law and it is now a matter for the courts.