Beijing: The United States is deeply concerned about what it sees as a deteriorating human rights situation in China, with relatives of activists increasingly being harassed and policies in ethnic areas becoming more repressive, a senior US diplomat said on Friday.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Uzra Zeya said that this week`s US-China Human Rights Dialogue fell short of Washington`s expectations, but that going forward with the continuing talks remained a "vital" part of US diplomacy.
Zeya led the US delegation at the talks Tuesday and Wednesday in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, where she said US diplomats "conveyed our deep concern about attempts to control and silence activists by targeting family members and associates of the activists."
"This is a worrisome trend, and one which we have raised at senior levels with the Chinese government," she said.
Rights watchers have been alarmed by Chinese officials` targeting of relatives of high-profile dissidents including blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who exposed abuses in the enforcement of China`s one-child policies, and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiabo, imprisoned since 2009 on subversion charges after he campaigned for peaceful democratic change in China.
Chen`s relatives have been harassed in their rural hometown in Shandong province. Liu`s wife has been placed under house arrest in Beijing and her brother recently was sentenced to 11 years in prison over a business dispute, a stiff penalty for what supporters described as a vendetta against the family for Liu`s activism.
Beijing has repeatedly rejected US criticism of China`s human rights record, saying that Washington is biased against China and distorts the situation.
"A real human rights dialogue should be based on mutual trust and respect, and only such human rights dialogues would be meaningful and effective," said an editorial posted on a news website run by the information office of China`s State Council during the US-China Human Rights Dialogue.
Zeya said US diplomats highlighted the increasing desire of the Chinese public to speak up about issues such as corruption, environmental degradation and the lack of rule of law, and that the Americans raised concerns over China`s tight restrictions on religious freedom and freedom of expression, assembly and association, especially in ethnically Tibetan and Uighur areas.