US to Keep Pressing China on Rights

WASHINGTON ~ The United States will keep raising human rights concerns with China, a senior official said on Wednesday, days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put a lower focus on the issue.

“We will continue to express our concern for specific cases and for the overall issues that we would like to see improvements in,” said Karen Stewart, the acting assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

In its annual report on human rights, the State Department said that China’s record grew worse in areas in 2008, with repression on the rise in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The report came days after Clinton visited Beijing and said that rights concerns should not hinder cooperation between the countries on issues such as the economic crisis and climate change.

Clinton’s remarks drew howls of protest from human rights groups.

But Stewart, whose bureau oversees the rights report, denied there was any “disconnect” between it and Clinton’s remarks.

“Human rights area is a fundamental aspect of our foreign policy,” Stewart told reporters.

“We – and in all bilateral relations – we work to achieve all of our goals and national interests,” she said.

The annual rights report has long been an irritant in relations between the United States and China, which has hit back with its own study of rights violations in the United States.

But in a departure, President Barack Obama’s administration has vowed that the United States would also live up to high standards.

Obama ordered the shutting down of the much-criticized Guantanamo Bay “war on terror” detention center as one of his first acts in office.

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