Clinton downplays China rights concerns

Feb. 20, 2009 at 7:52 PM
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BEIJING, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Human rights groups Friday criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for saying human rights issues should not deter U.S.-Chinese cooperation.

Clinton told reporters covering her tour of Asian nations that human rights violations by China should not stand in the way of cooperation between the two powers on financial, environmental and security crises, The Washington Post reported.

Clinton said "we pretty much know what they are going to say" on human rights issues and it "might be better … to agree to disagree."

"We have to continue to press them," she said, but such pressure "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises."

Human Rights Watch issued a statement Friday saying Clinton's remarks "send the wrong message to the Chinese government." The rights organization said progress in the financial, environmental and security matters "is inseparable from securing progress in human rights."

"Secretary Clinton's remarks point to a diplomatic strategy that has worked well for the Chinese government -- segregating human rights issues into a dead-end 'dialogue of the deaf,'" Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Amnesty International said Clinton's statements suggest "human rights will not be a priority in her diplomatic engagement with China," the Post reported. The organization urged Clinton to "publicly declare that human rights are central to U.S.-China relations before she leaves Beijing."

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