"We worry about the impact on our domestic politics and on the politics and stability in China and the region. We see reports of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists and others who are detained or disappeared" said Clinton and added, "we know over the long arc of history that societies that work toward respecting human rights are going to be more prosperous, stable and successful." "That has certainly been proven time and time again, but most particularly in the last months" she said in a reference to the calls for more freedom and democracy which have erupted across the Middle East and which are believed by many analysts to be the main reason behind China's recent crackdown on its dissidents including prominent artist and activist Ai Weiwei.
Clinton also said that "fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific." "I will be very open about that," she said. "Some in our country see China's progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China's growth. We reject both of those views. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. The fact is that a thriving United States is good for China and a thriving China is good for America."
Similarly, Vice President Biden spoke in a conciliatory tone but nevertheless touched on disagreements. "We've noted our concerns about the recent crackdown in China, including attacks, arrests and the disappearance of journalists, lawyers, bloggers and artists. And again, no relationship that's real can be built on a false foundation. Where we disagree, it's important to state it. We'll continue to express our views in these issues, as we did in the Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing two weeks ago."
Biden also said that "President Obama and I believe strongly, as does the Secretary, that protecting fundamental rights and freedoms such as those enshrined in China's international commitments, as well as in China's own constitution, is the best way to promote long-term stability and prosperity of any society."
This week's talks are the result of an agreement in 2009 between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. More than a dozen U.S. agency heads will meet with their Chinese counterparts, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
As the officials spoke, about two dozen protesters highlighted another Chinese human rights issue as they chanted "Shame on China!" and held signs outside the building that read "China -- Stop Military Crackdown in Ngaba, Tibet!" Less than a month ago, on April 14, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner brought this particular issue to the public eye as he expressed White House concerns with the development in the Tibetan region. "We have seen that Chinese security forces have cordoned off the Kirti monastery" he said then and added that "we believe these are inconsistent with internationally recognized principles of religious freedom and human rights."