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29january201109London: It was a unique moment in history, rarely does Hu Jintao step into the Western media's spotlight, away from the safety of Chinese media that avoids politically sensitive topics and censors anything anti-Chinese. Even when visiting other countries he controls the media agenda, cancelling a press conference during his recent visit to France. However, his political and economic clout weren't enough to avoid the US media during his visit to Washington this month and expectations of what they were going to ask the Chinese leader were feverish in the build up to the press conference, as he had no censorship curtain to hide behind. However, many felt let down and cheated by what was or wasn't said, I am not one of those.

I felt that the press conference and the media attention went a long way to illuminate both Obama's frustration at China's human rights, but moreover, it showed China's irresponsible and arrogant nature on an international level. Across the Pacific, the two medias -American and Chinese- painted exceedingly different story of events. In China, the visit was hailed as a "new chapter in relations", even though the government resorted to censoring its own leader to keep up the facade of success.

The BBC in China was airing a clip of the press conference, however, when the topic reached that of human rights, the channel went blank and the feed was cut. The government's stranglehold on printed media as well as broadcasted meant that the Chinese people were blissfully unaware of any talk on human rights. Peoples Daily, China's leading communist newspaper, contained a "full and in-depth" article on Hu's visit, however, it failed to include anything on the topic of human rights.

In America, the visit was painted with a much darker brush, stories of paid crowds of supporters, presidential disapproval and members of the senate labelling Hu a "dictator" and his government "a gangster regime that murders their own people". The payment of up to $80 to Chinese students from the Greater D.C area, is a prime example of Chinese manufactured propaganda, that may well work in China, but failed spectacularly thanks to an investigative journalist from the Epoch Times, catching them red handed.

Mary Beth Markey, president of US based NGO the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) called Obama's statement on human rights at the press conference, "nothing new". I disagree; he brought his views on human rights to the forefront of his political agenda, a risky decision considering most economic analysts say that America now needs China economically to avoid a double dip recession. He talked about human rights, Tibet and the Dalai Lama in his opening address to the collected media, a deliberate and candid statement that these beliefs are paramount to the president. The most revealing moment came when a journalist from the Associate Press questioned Obama and Hu on why America should link itself with a country with such bad human rights record.

The American president is known for rarely hesitating, on this occasion however, he was visibly hold himself back, looking at the floor and speaking in a slow and pensive manner, stating that human rights is a source of conflict for the two countries and much is still to do. Hu's answer was more revealing, or rather his lack of an answer, choosing to ignore the question all together. He was pressed upon his avoidance of answering later on during the press conference, blaming the translator for not translating the question correctly. His excuse has now been proved wrong as a White House stated publically that there was no such problem with the translator.

When Hu eventually answered (after being questioned by another journalist) his answer was blatantly scripted, constantly stressing the word "development". The use of this word once again illustrates that China measures human rights enhancement as the decrease of poverty, rather than upholding basic human freedoms. Hu may have said "a lot more needs to be done in China, in terms of human rights," nevertheless, he is not saying that more needs to be done for people's freedoms but for their income, which is not human rights, its economics. This is an exceptionally different definition than that of Obama and the rest of the West, causing Obama to actually define human rights during the press conference. Hu attempted to defend his differing definition, saying that it is because his country is poorer and its population is larger, yet India, who is in a similar developmental stage as China, strongly upholds its people's human rights.

All in all Hu Jintao's visit had a cold reception from start to finish, not only by human rights campaigners but also by journalists, politicians and presidents alike, an atypical occurrence and another unique moment in history.

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E-mail: editor@thetibetpost.com