US, China set 2011 rights meeting in "candid" talks

* New round of rights talks in 2011

* U.S. raises specific detainee cases

* Rights expert says talks come up short

By Paul Eckert

WASHINGTON, May 14 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. and Chinese officials
agreed after two days of talks on human rights to start
exchanges of legal experts and hold another rights dialogue in
China next year, a State Department official said on Friday.

While Assistant Secretary Mike Posner said he valued the
“candid and constructive” tone of the talks and raised specific
cases of jailed lawyers and democracy activists, he indicated
the meetings did not win the release of Chinese political or
religious prisoners, as sought by the human rights community.

“We have, we will continue to raise our concerns about
specific cases,” Posner told reporters.

He declined to discuss the cases in detail, including the
hacking and censorship that prompted U.S. Internet search giant
Google Corp to quit the Chinese market this year.

The cases of Liu Xiaobo, jailed last year for 11 years for
advocating political reforms, and detained human rights lawyer
Gao Zhisheng were among those raised in the discussions that
covered topics like religious freedom, labor rights, freedom of
expression, the Internet and racial discrimination.

“I was encouraged by the degree to which we had a
back-and-forth dialogue,” Posner said.

The talks, last held in 2008 and before that in 2002, were
the first under the Obama administration. They were viewed
skeptically by rights experts, who complained that President
Barack Obama has not been full-throated in support of the cause
even as conditions in China have worsened in recent years.

NEGOTIATING THE TALKS DOWN

China’s surging economic and political power make it less
receptive to criticism, human rights experts said. China is the
biggest holder of American government debt and an important, if
difficult, U.S. diplomatic partner in efforts to rein in the
nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

“The tone of the discussion was very much ‘we’re two
powerful, great countries. We have a range of issues that we
are engaged on. Human rights is part of that discussion and
it’s going to remain so,'” said Posner.

Chinese officials did not make public comments on the
talks, which Posner said also covered U.S. issues, such
Arizona’s draconian new policies on illegal immigrants, racial
relations and the problems of Muslim Americans.

Posner said he would join the May 24-25 U.S.-China
Strategic & Economic Dialogue in Beijing, an annual meeting of
top officials expected to discuss global issues such as climate
change and security, as well as bilateral disputes over Tibet,
Taiwan, Internet freedom and the value of the yuan currency.

The legal program he and senior Chinese diplomat Chen Xu
agreed to would cover rule of law, legal reform and the role of
lawyers, said Posner. Those topics were aired in a presentation
by retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights
Watch, a U.S. advocacy group, said the talks process has lost
vigor compared to a decade ago, when China would at least free
dissidents ahead of key U.S. visits.

“The Chinese have done a good job of negotiating the
dialogue down to a level that I’m sure they would rather not
have, but that they now find much more manageable or bearable,”
she said.

Richardson said that law exchanges are useful and worthy,
but no substitute for “passionate and precise” advocacy on
behalf of China’s large ranks of political prisoners.

“If I have to choose between robust American rhetoric in
defense of real rule of law in China or another rule-of-law
program, I certainly choose the former,” she said.

Stock Trading
(Editing by Chris Wilson)

US, China set 2011 rights meeting in “candid” talks