Human rights not focus of Clinton’s China talks

By Matthew Lee
Saturday 21 February 2009 01:00

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said the debate with China over human rights, Taiwan and Tibet could not interfere with attempts to reach consensus on other issues.

Shortly before arriving in Beijing on the last leg of her first trip abroad as America’s top diplomat, Mrs Clinton said she would raise the contentious issues but said neither side was likely to give any ground on them.

She said it might be better to agree to disagree on long-standing positions and focus instead on US-Chinese engagement on climate change, the financial crisis and security threats.

Her comments will likely disappoint rights advocates who were hoping for a repeat of the stance she took 14 years ago when, as First Lady, she angered the Chinese government by delivering a tough speech on the issue.

She said each side already knew the other’s positions on those matters and progress might be more achievable by concentrating on other areas where the US and China could work together.

“That doesn’t mean that questions of Taiwan, Tibet, human rights, the whole range of challenges that we often engage on with the Chinese, are not part of the agenda,” she said from Seoul, South Korea. “But we pretty much know what they’re gonna say.

“We have to continue to press them, but our pressing on those issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate-change crisis and the security crises. We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and co-operation on each of those.”

Mrs Clinton stressed she had never shied away from bringing up human rights issues with China, recalling her 1995 speech to the UN Conference on Women in Beijing that so angered authorities they pulled the plug on live television coverage of it.

She will be in Beijing for two days for meetings with senior Chinese officials that will focus on climate change, the financial crisis and efforts to re-engage North Korea in disarmament talks.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments