Albright to raise human rights issues during China visit
February 24, 1997
Web posted at: 9:20 a.m. EST (1420 GMT)
BEIJING (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
took a firm stand Monday, pledging not to shy away from
human rights issues as she began five hours of meetings with
Chinese officials on the eve of Deng Xiaoping's funeral.
"I believe it very important to raise issues where we have
common understandings, as well as those where we have
differences," the secretary said. "And so I will be raising
the human rights questions, as the vice minister has said
everyone expects me to raise them, and I will. (119K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Albright was to conclude her nine-city, 10-day jaunt around the world Tuesday in China. She arrived just hours after the cremation of the paramount leader's body at a Beijing cemetery. Her planned visit was shortened to less than 24 hours because of Deng's death last Wednesday.
Since the 92-year-old
was considered a private citizen
in China, Western dignitaries were not invited to attend
Tuesday's funeral. Albright, the only senior Western
official to visit Beijing during the six-day mourning period
following Deng's death, brought with her condolences on
behalf of U.S. President Bill Clinton. (11(k/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Deng, she said, was a "historic figure whose leadership
produced dramatic economic transformation ... and who
contributed much to the development of U.S.-China relations."
Albright and her Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Qian
Qichen, emphasized the importance of relations between the
two countries before their meeting.
"We may not see eye to eye on some other issues," Qian said. "However I believe the meetings and discussions between us can at least contribute to enhancing mutual understanding." (153K/13 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The U.S. official described relations with the Chinese as "a
key to stability as we go into the 21st century."
Albright is also meeting with Prime Minister
Li Pen and Deng's successor, President and Communist Party chief Ziang Zemin, during her brief visit to China.
Among the specific issues Albright brings to the table is
China's progress in releasing political prisoners. She
acknowledged that some releases have taken place, but said
"obviously we would like to see more."
Qian defended his country's record, denying that the
government imprisoned people for their political views and
saying Chinese courts dealt fairly with "sentenced
As Albright arrived in Beijing, the U.S. State Department
disputed a published report that a U.S.-China breakthrough on
human rights was imminent.
The New York Times reported that after seven months of secret
diplomacy, Albright would be trying to "nudge" the Chinese
toward agreeing "to sign two key United Nations covenants on
human rights, release a representative group of up to eight
political prisoners and restart talks with the International
Committee of the Red Cross aimed at establishing a program of
prison visits to determine the status of the thousands of
prisoners of conscience in China."
But State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Times
story was not accurate, adding that the U.S. had received "no
indication" that any such "major breakthrough" was about to
Correspondent Steve Hurst and Reuters contributed to this report.
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