By Christopher Bodeen
The Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — China will never allow the United States to dictate political reforms and any American pressure over human rights will torpedo talks on such issues, a Communist Party-run newspaper said last Thursday.
The defiant editorial in the Global Times appeared on the second day of an annual China–U.S. human rights dialogue that comes amid a major Chinese crackdown on government critics.
Talks have yielded little progress in recent years and are expected to be even more testy than usual this year. Many human rights advocates are questioning the value of such diplomatic exchanges.
The Global Times said China would not accept requests from the United States and claimed that most Chinese “were disgusted” by outside pressure on human rights.
“As China is a sovereign nation, there is zero possibility of it allowing the United States to dictate its political development,” the editorial said.
“If the United States adopts exerting pressure as the starting point of its ‘dialogue’ with China, that will ensure that there is no progress,” it said.
The two sides traded frosty language ahead of the closed-door talks, with the United States saying it would focus on the ongoing campaign against dissent, as well as on the rule of law, religious freedom, and labor and minority rights.
China’s Foreign Ministry warned it would reject what it regards as U.S. meddling.
“We also are opposed to the United States using human rights as a pretext for interfering in China’s internal affairs,” spokesman Hong Lei said, at a regularly scheduled briefing Thursday.
Often an occasion for testy exchanges in years past, the dialogue is being buffeted by the broadest clampdown in years by China’s Communist government. Hundreds of people, including well-known lawyers and activists, have been questioned, detained, confined to their homes, or have simply disappeared, apparently to squelch any chances of the kind of popular uprisings roiling the Middle East and North Africa.
On Thursday, police in the eastern province of Jiangsu released singer Zuoxiao Zuzhou and sports writer Zhang Xiaodan, who had been detained after leading fans at a music festival in calls for the release of a prominent artist, Ai Weiwei. Ai, an outspoken government critic, has been in detention since being seized at a Beijing airport on April 3.
Zuoxiao and Zhang were questioned for 12 hours before their release, media reports and the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
On Thursday, organizers announced they were canceling a three-day music festival this weekend in the Jiangsu city of Suzhou because of unspecified electrical problems. Organizers of cultural events have also reported pressure from authorities.
With China determined not to yield to foreign pressure, rights groups and activists have called on Washington to show real results or perhaps consider abandoning the process.
Beijing defines human rights primarily in terms of improving living conditions for its 1.3 billion people and maintains strict controls over free speech, religion, political activity, and independent social groups.
However, the Global Times said China remains open to exchanges with the West over dealing with new challenges arising from economic development. It said Beijing would not be forced to choose between rejecting foreign experience and adopting Western norms wholesale.
While conceding that the effects of Western pressure were not “entirely negative to China,” it said progress on rights issues was purely a result of the adaptability of Chinese culture and the results of 30 years of explosive economic growth. ♦