- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BEIJING (AP) – Chinese activists said Tuesday they were harassed by police and warned not to talk to U.S. officials visiting China for the first human rights talks between the two countries in six years.

Meanwhile, the U.S. official who led the talks, which ended Monday, said it was too early to judge whether the discussions would have any solid results.

Several Chinese activists reported being harassed by police ahead of the talks.

Mo Shaoping, a lawyer who often defends activists, said police warned him not to accept a lunch invitation from U.S. officials. He said he went anyway.

Another activist reported being followed by police.

“I myself now have a police car parked in front of the door. Wherever I go, a police car follows,” AIDS activist Wan Yanhai wrote in an article published Monday on the popular Chinese-language site Boxun.com. The U.S.-based site is banned in China.

“If it were not for the police visit, I would not have known there was going to be a Sino-U.S. human rights dialogue,” he added.

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor David Kramer said the U.S. was concerned to hear the reports and had asked Chinese authorities to investigate the cases.

“We heard a sufficient number of them that we felt we had to follow up,” Kramer said.

A phone call seeking comment from the information office of the Public Security Bureau in Beijing was not answered Tuesday evening.

Human rights remain a highly sensitive subject in China, and this week’s talks touched on several topics, including media rights, Internet rights, religious rights, Tibet, the largely Muslim region of Xinjiang, and prisoners from the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

That crackdown led to the founding of the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in 1990.

Kramer said he couldn’t talk about individual cases, but said the U.S. had pressed China for the number of people detained after a widespread Tibetan uprising in March and for their locations. China didn’t give them, he said.

Kramer praised China for its openness in handling the devastating May 12 earthquake that killed more than 67,000 people.

China’s response to the talks was delivered by Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

“There should be no double standard or any interference in each other’s internal affairs by making use of the human rights issue,” Qin said Tuesday.

Qin said Wu Hailong, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s international department, told Kramer that “China is fully confident about human rights, and human rights in China will make even greater progress.”

The U.S.-China human rights talks ended in 2002 with both sides apparently discouraged that nothing had come of them. But the Chinese government expressed interest in resuming the talks during U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the country in February.

In March, the U.S. angered human rights activists by dropping China from its list of the 10 worst human rights offenders in an annual State Department report and then not explaining why.

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