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China willing to talk human rights with US: govt

world Updated: Feb 17, 2009 15:46 IST

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China said on Tuesday it wanted to make progress on human rights through a dialogue with the United States, days before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to arrive for talks.

"We would like to continue to have a human rights dialogue with the US and work together to promote active results from the dialogue," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told journalists.

Such a relationship should be based on equality, mutual respect and non-interference in China's internal affairs, she said.

Jiang made the remarks ahead of Clinton's three-day visit to Beijing beginning on Friday as part of her first overseas trip as secretary of state.

The tour began in Japan on Monday and will also take in South Korea and Indonesia.

The US State Department said last week human rights would be on the agenda during meetings with Beijing officials.

"The secretary will raise the issue when appropriate, where she thinks she can have the most effect, and you can count on that," acting State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in Washington.

China's communist leaders have long rejected what they term "interference," often coming from the United States, over their attitude towards human rights.

Criticism has typically focused on the way Chinese authorities handle their political dissidents, censor the press, administer religion, and rule over Buddhist Tibet and the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region.

China and the United States held talks on human rights in Beijing in May last year, the first of their kind since dialogue was suspended in 2002 amid US censure at the United Nations over Beijing's record.

The two nations began consultations in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre that saw Chinese troops violently crush pro-democracy protests, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people.

However the relationship froze after the United States tabled a resolution at the United Nations condemning the communist government.

"On human rights issues, I think China and the US have different systems, cultures and histories and are in different developmental stages, so it is normal that the two countries differ on the human rights issue," Jiang said on Tuesday.