China has a “responsibility to do better” at guaranteeing freedom and dignity for its citizens and the U.S. has a “responsibility to hold them to account,” U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said after meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
House members and senators from both parties also pressed Hu, during his visit to the U.S. Capitol today, to impose stronger intellectual-property protections and to restrain North Korea, lawmakers said after the discussions. Other issues raised with Hu included trade, currency, climate change and jurisdiction in the South China Seas, the lawmakers said.
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, stressed China’s record on human rights. “We raised our strong, ongoing concerns with reports of human rights violations in China, including the denial of religious freedom and the use of coercive abortion as a consequence of the ‘one child’ policy,” Boehner said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said she told Hu of lawmakers’ concerns that China had barred Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo from traveling to Norway in December to receive the award. Liu has been jailed and accused of plotting to subvert China’s Communist Party.
Negative portrayals of China figured prominently in the 2010 congressional elections, reflecting what polls show is anxiety among the U.S. public about a rising economic competitor. Hu’s U.S. visit this week has offered some lawmakers an opportunity to spotlight their criticisms of his regime.
Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, declined to attend the state dinner President Barack Obama hosted for Hu last night. Reid referred to the Chinese president as “a dictator” in a Jan. 18 interview with a Las Vegas television station.
Hu and Reid shook hands and smiled for photographers today at the start of a breakfast just off the Senate floor that included Democratic senators, Chinese officials and ambassadors for both countries.
Reid ignored a reporter’s shouted question about what he planned to accomplish with the man he had branded a dictator. Aides then ushered away reporters and police closed hallways nearby in an unusual measure of security.
Reid later issued a statement saying he raised trade and currency issues with Hu, as well as “the importance of increasing Chinese investment and tourism in Nevada and across America.”
“Although we have our differences, we look forward to strengthening our relationship in a way that allows us to address global economic and security issues,” Reid’s statement said.
Earlier, Hu met for nearly an hour with House leaders who included senior members of the foreign affairs and trade committees from both parties.
Pelosi, the only top congressional leader to attend the state dinner, said she had asked Hu about commitments China made at a United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, last year.
“I was pleased that President Hu agreed that this is an area where we can work to build a stronger relationship between our two nations,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, called the breakfast meeting with Hu “very constructive” and said it was marked by a “cordial atmosphere.”
The session included Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
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