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China’s Hu hears criticism, urges closer ties with US

Chinese President Hu Jintao got an earful from House and Senate members over human rights and business practices. Chinese President Hu Jintao got an earful from House and Senate members over human rights and business practices.
By Tom Raum
Associated Press / January 21, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Chinese President Hu Jintao denied his country is a military threat despite its arms buildup and pressed the United States yesterday for closer cooperation between the global powers. He urged the United States to treat China “with respect and as equals’’ after encountering a fresh barrage of criticism from lawmakers over human rights.

In a luncheon speech to American business executives, Hu also urged the United States to continue to recognize China’s sovereignty over Taiwan and Tibet.

“China-US relations will enjoy smooth and steady growth when the two countries handle well issues involving each other’s major interests. Otherwise, our relations will suffer constant trouble or even tension,’’ Hu said as he wrapped up his state visit to Washington.

The Chinese leader headed next to Chicago, where he dined last night with retiring Mayor Richard Daley, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, and business leaders. Today, he plans to visit a Chinese center at a high school and a Chinese auto parts producer.

Earlier yesterday, Hu went to Capitol Hill for closed-door meetings with members of the House and the Senate.

Participants said he got an earful of complaints from some of his strongest congressional critics, especially over China’s business and trade practices and human rights conduct.

President Obama had expressed similar human rights concerns a day earlier at the White House.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said House members “raised our strong, ongoing concerns with reports of human rights violations in China, including the denial of religious freedom and the use of coercive abortion’’ as a result of China’s one-child policy.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she gave Hu a copy of a letter she sent to Obama highlighting “grave concerns’’ over human rights, currency manipulation, and aggressive military gestures.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he raised issues of trade, Chinese currency policies, and a need for more Chinese investment and tourism in the United States.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the past year has been a challenging one in US-China relations.

“Despite the shared gains achieved working together on global problems, many in Congress today believe the United States and China are on a collision course,’’ Kerry said. “It’s critical that leaders in both countries don’t allow mutual suspicions to degenerate into fear-mongering and demagoguery.’’

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