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Obama raises rights but impact uncertain

Human rights advocates are voicing relief after US President Barack Obama publicly raised the issue with China but conceded that Beijing's rising clout made it tougher to have an impact.

Obama, who was closing his maiden visit to China on Wednesday, told a joint press appearance with President Hu Jintao Hu Jintao (h` jĭn`tou`), 1942–, Chinese political leader, b. Jixi, Anhui prov. A hydroelectric engineering graduate (1965) of Qinghua Univ.  that the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  believed in fundamental rights for all people including ethnic and religious minorities.

In a forum with young people in Shanghai, Obama pointed to his own country's struggles to improve human rights, citing his election as the first African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.  president.

Human rights groups had awaited his remarks nervously as some Obama aides were uneasy about public comments. The advisers feared setting back cooperation with the Asian power, the largest holder of the soaring US debt.

"We are pleased that he publicly raised human rights concerns both in Shanghai and Beijing and we are confident that his private meetings with President Hu will produce some results," said T. Kumar, the director for international advocacy at Amnesty International USA Amnesty International USA (AI USA) is a United States organisation that works to end human rights abuses and part is of the Amnesty International network.

Since being founded, the organisation has worked to free prisoners of conscience, oppose torture, and fight other human
.

But he voiced concern that Hu and Obama did not take questions from journalists. And few Chinese saw Obama's Shanghai appearance, which was not broadcast nationally.

China also did not free any dissidents, a common goodwill gesture on previous visits by US leaders.

"It is of course difficult to be as robust in one's criticism if the one you're criticizing is lending you billions and billions of dollars," said William F. Schulz This article or section needs copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone and/or spelling.
You can assist by [ editing it] now.
, a former executive director of Amnesty International USA and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress The Center for American Progress is a progressive American political policy research and advocacy organization. Its website describes it as "...a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all.  think-tank.

But Schulz said he was willing to give Obama time to see if his overall foreign policy approach -- of a humbler United States speaking to friend and foe alike -- would bear fruit in improving human rights.

"Public criticism is certainly appropriate in some contexts but it needs to be said and done strategically," Schulz said.

"A constant barrage of criticism, absent other forms of enticement, generally is ultimately self-defeating," he said.

Under former president Bill Clinton, the United States delinked China's human rights record from trading privileges, ending annual debates in Congress that threw a spotlight on Beijing's rights record.

"We should have no illusion -- Obama's access to the Chinese people was less than (presidents George W.) Bush and Clinton when they went there," Winston Lord, a longtime US policymaker on China, told PBS PBS
 in full Public Broadcasting Service

Private, nonprofit U.S. corporation of public television stations. PBS provides its member stations, which are supported by public funds and private contributions rather than by commercials, with educational, cultural,
 public television.

China's rights record "is going backwards and in some areas it's worse than when I was ambassador 20 years ago," he said.

Obama came under fire at home last month for declining to see the Dalai Lama, marking the first time in 18 years that Tibet's exiled spiritual leader has visited Washington without seeing the president.

Critics accused Obama of abandoning a US-friendly pacifist monk to please China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950. But administration officials said Obama would see the Dalai Lama after returning from China and that he was looking for new approaches.

The International Campaign for Tibet rejoiced that Obama publicly voiced support for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, despite Beijing's intense appeals -- which even drew parallels to the US Civil War -- to sideline the Nobel Peace laureate.

The Chinese "neglected to take into account that Tibet was long ago institutionalized as a principled US foreign policy interest," said Mary Beth Markey, the group's vice president for international advocacy.

An exiled leader of China's Uighur minority, while wishing Obama had addressed their plight directly, voiced appreciation for his remarks on minorities.

"This gives hope to millions of Uighurs who live under the shadow of China's state brutality since the July 5 unrest," said Alim Seytoff, vice president of the Uighur American Association.

He was referring to fighting between Uighurs and China's Han majority that left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured. China executed nine people over the unrest just days before Obama's visit.
Copyright 2009 AFP American Edition
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Author:AFP
Publication:AFP American Edition
Date:Nov 18, 2009
Words:654
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