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China's President Hu says country has long way to go on human rights
Chinese President Hu Jintao said China had made "enormous progress" on human rights but acknowledged that "a lot still needs to be done" during a joint press conference at the White House with his US counterpart, Barack Obama.
AFP - Chinese President Hu Jintao acknowledged on Wednesday that a great deal more needed to be done on human rights in his country, but also stressed "national circumstances" were different in China.
As he welcomed Hu to the White House for a high-profile state visit, US President Barack Obama urged his Chinese counterpart to uphold human rights, saying it could prove key to China's future success.
"History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful and the world is more just when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld," he said.
"Including the universal rights of every human being," Obama added.
Hu was later grilled on the contentious human rights issue as he and Obama faced journalists at a joint White House press conference.
Pressed a second time to comment on alleged rights abuses in China after a first question appeared to be lost in translation, Hu claimed "enormous progress" had been made and said China was "always committed" to the protection and promotion of human rights.
"China recognizes and also respects the universality of human rights but at the same time we do believe that we do need to take into account the different national circumstances when it comes to human rights," he said.
"China is a developing country with a huge population and also a developing country in crucial stage of reform," he said, admitting "a lot needs to be done in China in terms of human rights."
At the joint press conference, Obama also acknowledged Beijing and Washington had different opinions on human rights and freedoms.
"China has a different political system than we do. China is at a different stage of development than we are," Obama said. "We come from very different cultures and with very different histories."
He said he had been "very candid" with Hu during their talks about issues such as freedom of speech, religion and assembly, admitting "occasionally they are a source of tension between our two governments."
But Obama added he believed, "we can engage and discuss these issues in a frank and candid way, focus on the areas where we agree, while acknowledging there are going to
be areas where we disagree.
"I want to suggest that there has been an evolution in China over the last 30 years since the first normalization of relations between the United States and China.
"And my expectation is that 30 years from now we will have seen further evolution and further change," Obama added.