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Hu Jintao gets a frosty reception

The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, was given a chilly reception in Congress, where both Republicans and Democrats were outspoken on China's human rights record and what they claim are Beijing's unfair trading practices.
By Ewen MacAskill and Tania Branigan, Washington/ Beijing
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2011 12:51 AM IST

The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, was given a chilly reception in Congress, where both Republicans and Democrats were outspoken on China's human rights record and what they claim are Beijing's unfair trading practices.

Members of the House said afterwards that there had not been enough time to air their complaints as Hu only took two questions before going on to hold a separate meeting with senior senators.

Hu met John Boehner, the house speaker, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, both of whom shunned invitations to the state dinner for the Chinese leader on last night.

The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, also turned down the invitation.

The only member of the congressional "big four" to attend the dinner was the Democratic house leader, Nancy Pelosi.

The hostile reception on Capitol Hill contrasts with Hu's day with Barack Obama on Thursday, when the US president pushed him over human rights but otherwise put the stress on common ground.China's state TV media lapped up the pomp of the visit but largely avoided mention of the part of the Obama-Hu press conference when the Chinese president was pressed on human rights.

Reid, the most powerful Democrat in Congress, called Hu a dictator in an interview on Tuesday night, but made a half-hearted retraction the next day: "Maybe I shouldn't have said 'dictator', but they have a different type of government than we have — and that is an understatement."

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