May 14th, 2010
07:58 PM ET
10 years ago

Chinese delegation gets rule of law field trip

Washington (CNN) - A Chinese delegation in Washington to discuss human rights was treated to a field trip Friday designed to illustrate the importance the United States places on the rule of law.

The nine-member team, in town for the U.S.-China human rights dialogue, was hosted at the Supreme Court by former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to discuss rule of law and the role of lawyers in society, the State Department said.

They then met Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick at Catholic Charities Anchor Mental Health Center to talk about the link between religious communities and government in social services and humanitarian issues.

From there, it was on to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to discuss labor rights and collective bargaining before wrapping up the day at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think-tank, to discuss human rights, rule of law and food safety.

The Washington tour was likely a reprieve from Thursday's intense discussions between the Chinese and U.S. officials from various agencies on a number of contentious issues, including religious freedom, labor rights, freedom of expression, rule of law, racial discrimination and multilateral cooperation.

Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner, who called the talks "candid and constructive," said the U.S. side addressed a number of areas of disagreement with China, like Tibet and internet freedom, as well as number of individual cases where the United States had concerns.

The U.S. side included officials from the State Department, United States Agency for International Development, the National Security Council, Department of Justice, Homeland Security, Labor, Commerce, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. trade representative's office and members of the judiciary.

The fact that the meetings took place at all was a positive development. China suspended the dialogue in 2002, in protest of U.S. criticism at the United Nations of its human rights record. There has only been one other round since, which was held in Beijing in 2008.

The talks gave the Obama administration a chance to show it cared about human rights, amid criticism by rights activists that President Barack Obama was downplaying human rights in favor of a broader partnership with China on issues like the economy, climate change, North Korea and Iran.

But the dialogue wasn't one-sided. Posner said the talks addressed areas where the United States has been criticized for human rights violations, including immigration and treatment of Muslims Americans.

For example, Posner said the U.S. side brought up the recent controversial immigration law passed in Arizona - requiring immigrants to carry their registration documents at all times and allowing police to question
individuals' immigration status - "early and often" as a " troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination."

U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said earlier Monday the dialogue touched on "uncomfortable" issues but said the holding of the talks attests to the "comprehensiveness" of the U.S.-China relationship.

"We're talking about issues that are uncomfortable, quite frankly, but it is a sign of maturity that we can talk about specific cases, that we can talk about issues relating to rule of law, religion, labor," Huntsman said.

Filed under: China • Washington
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. dogdude

    Why in the world have a Cardinal from the very discredited Catholic church speak to the Chinese delegation? Rule of law; Catholic chuch? There is a very BIG disconnect here.

    May 14, 2010 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  2. Annie, Atlanta

    This is priceless. We're going to teach the Chinese about the rule of law in our country? What rule of law? If there was rule of law, Bush and Cheney would be facing trial for war crimes. Wall Street banksters wouldn't be sitting before Congress, they'd be sitting before a judge. Rule of law only applies to those of us who have no clout and no money.

    May 14, 2010 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  3. Penelope

    How patronizing and arrogant to do this to people from a society and culture thousands of years older than ours! I'm surprised they didn't throw in Billy Graham and Sarah Palin.

    May 14, 2010 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  4. thor

    They pointed out to them that in spite of our claims to be a nation of laws we sometimes don't really mean it.They showed them how California and Illinois is boycotting Arzona's tough immigration laws.And lastly they felt inspired when the Chinese pointed out to our representatives that they let anyone come into their country freely without any documentation and let them stay there until they become citizens.

    May 14, 2010 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  5. Pkm

    Why do you bother with china they do not care if they kill there own people there are so many people in china

    May 14, 2010 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  6. phoenix86

    That used to be the case. Obama and the left could care less about the rule of law. They ignore the law at their convenience.

    Hopefully, the Chinese delegation was able to give some pointers about law to the Obama administration.

    May 14, 2010 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  7. Common Sense Guy

    At least we didn't have to go over there and apologize for how horrible we are. This administraton did it on our own soil. Please detect sarcasm. The liberals need to go back to chasing unicorns and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Time for nuts and backbones to make tough decisions, not hugs and kumbaya. We have to give up this notion of paying for everyone to ride. If you don't work for the ride, you don't get it. If you came here illegally, you must leave. Sorry liberals, you don't get their votes.

    May 15, 2010 12:23 am at 12:23 am |