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Amid talks with China, harsh US quotes

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said of China on rights, ‘They are trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand.’ Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said of China on rights, ‘They are trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand.’
By Martin Crutsinger and Matthew Pennington
Associated Press / May 11, 2011

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WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lashed out against China’s human rights record in an interview released yesterday during high-level meetings aimed at building goodwill between the two governments.

In an interview published on the website of The Atlantic magazine, Clinton said China’s human rights record is deplorable and that history is not on the side of governments that resist democracy.

Clinton had also raised human rights, though less stridently, at the start of the US-China Strategic Dialogue, which entered its second and final day yesterday. Both countries have tried to stress a generally positive track in relations between the economic superpowers.

China had responded in mild terms to statement that President Obama made Monday in support of human rights — an issue that Beijing regards as an internal matter and about which it is highly sensitive.

The Clinton interview, which took place April 9, focuses on the democracy protests against authoritarian regimes that have rocked the Middle East and North Africa. Clinton was asked whether China’s government was alarmed by the protests.

She replied: “They’re worried, and they are trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it. But they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.’’

Since February, China has questioned or detained hundreds of lawyers, writers, and activists in response to anonymous calls made on the Internet for protests. No demonstrations have happened.

There was no immediate comment from China on the interview, although Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun defended the government’s rights record yesterday. He said that China had made remarkable progress in human rights, particularly since it began opening its economy three decades ago, and that it remained committed to defending the rights of its people.

He said China was willing to discuss the issue with the United States and other countries on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs. He said that human rights had been touched upon at the talks in Washington — which bring together leaders on economics, foreign policy, and security.

“No country, including the United States, is perfect in human rights issues,’’ Zhang told a news conference.

After the first day’s discussions in Washington, Obama met the Chinese delegation leader, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. On human rights, he underscored his support for freedom of expression and political participation, the White House said.

The United States is also pressing China to allow its currency to appreciate faster in value against the dollar and to allow Chinese consumer interest rates to rise. Both steps could help boost domestic demand and help lower America’s trade deficit, which hit an all-time high with China last year.

On Monday, a Chinese official blamed US policies for the trade gap. Commerce Minister Chen Deming said the United States needed to change its policies on high-tech sales and investment as a way to spur American manufacturing.

He took aim at the US screening of Chinese foreign investment proposals. Most recently, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States rejected a takeover by private Chinese firm Huawei of a small US computer company, 3Leaf, on national security grounds.

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