China admits need to improve human rights record

Hu’s comments were made in a press conference with US President Barack Obama on the first full day of his visit to the US.

Obama said he had been “very candid” with Hu about the human rights situation in China and admitted that the issue had sometimes been a “source of tension” between the two countries.

“I believe part of justice and part of human rights is people being able to make a living and having enough to eat and having shelter and having electricity,” he said.

“We welcome China’s rights. We just want to make sure that rise occurs in a way that reinforces international norms, international rules, and enhances security and peace as opposed to it being a source of conflict either in the region or around the world.”

The US recently called upon China to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and other dissidents imprisoned for their views.

As Hu and Obama met, dozens of Tibetans staged a protest outside the White House against China’s imprisonment of state opponents and a host of other grievances.

Despite their differences on human rights, Obama reaffirmed the US’s desire to cooperate with China in other areas, with the two countries striking $45bn business deals yesterday.

Hu said China would work on improving the lives of its people.

“China is always committed to the protection and promotion of human rights. China has also made enormous progress recognised widely in the world,” he said.

“China still faces many challenges in economic and social development, and a lot still needs to be done in China in terms of human rights.

“We will continue our efforts to improve the lives of the Chinese people and to promote democracy and the rule of law.”

The fanfare which Hu has been treated to, including a full state dinner last night, has angered some critics who feel China’s poor track record on human rights merits a cooler reception.

Representative Frank Wolf said: “The Chinese government has done little in [the] past 13 years, almost nothing quite frankly in the past 13 years, to deserve the honour of a White House state dinner.”

Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association and an outspoken critic of China’s treatment of house churches, said: “Human rights, religious freedom should be treated as important as the economic [sic] and the interests.”