Michael Posner, US Assistant Secretary of State was speaking after the annual US-China human rights dialogue that ended in Washington on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. He said the U.S.-China dialogue this week also included reports of self-immolations by Tibetans and forced abortions under China's "one-child" policy.
The annual U.S.-China human rights meeting has become a fixture on the diplomatic calendar, but has yielded few concrete results. This year the United States focused on charges that Beijing is restricting freedom of expression and Internet freedom, curbing the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and failing to implement internationally recognized labor rights, Posner said.
"There was growing frustration among many Chinese people that they do not have the ability to express their differences with the government, said Posner, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
"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. He also told the reporters that the United States saw Beijing moving in the wrong direction on human rights.
"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," Posner added.
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. "We take our lead from those within China who are advocating for human rights and who were on the receiving end of improper actions," Posner said. "We're amplifying their voices."
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 eastern Turkistan (Ch: Xinjiang); the cases of imprisoned democracy activists Chen Wei and Chen Xi; Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo; jailed lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Ni Yulan; and Feng Jianmei, a woman forced to have an abortion at seven months.
The Chinese delegation was led by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for International Organizations and Conferences Chen Xu. The communist regime in Beijing said it was willing to continue talks "on the basis of equality and mutual respect", the state controlled news agency 'Xinhua' reported.