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Dissidents Held During Clinton China Visit

More than a dozen Chinese dissidents have been questioned, followed or detained during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's weekend visit to Beijing, fellow activists said Saturday.

The stepped-up controls come as international human rights groups expressed outrage over a statement by Clinton ahead of her Friday arrival that issues such as climate change, the world financial crisis and North Korea would likely take precedence over traditional U.S. concerns about human rights in her discussions.

Amnesty International said Clinton's remarks had damaged future U.S. initiatives to protect human rights in China. New York-based Human Rights Watch said progress on issues cited by Clinton could only be achieved through greater legal protections and press freedom.

"Secretary Clinton's remarks point to a diplomatic strategy that has worked well for the Chinese government - segregating human rights issues into a dead-end 'dialogue of the deaf,"' Human Rights Watch's Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson said in an e-mailed statement.

Blacklisted author Yu Jie said Saturday a pair of plainclothes policemen visited him on Friday and said he would have to report all his movements to them in advance.

Yu said officers had demanded that he ride in a police car while traveling around the city, a form of monitoring that he was forced to endure for more than a month during the Beijing Olympics in August. Yu said he refused and they agreed to merely follow him while he drove his own vehicle.

"They said I was to receive heightened monitoring throughout Clinton's visit, but that it would end once she left," Yu said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Zeng Jinyan, the wife of imprisoned activist Hu Jia, said she was barred by police from leaving her home on Saturday morning to meet with visiting AIDS activist Gao Yaojie. Police offered no explanation, but Zeng said she was certain the confinement was tied to Clinton's visit.

Yu and Zeng said they knew of more than one dozen activists who had been detained or subjected to tighter restrictions. Yu said constitutional scholar Zhang Zuhua was told by police stationed outside his home since Friday that he would not be able to leave or meet visitors for several days.

Yu said some activists had been taken to police guesthouses outside the city, among them Qi Zhiyong, an activist whose leg was amputated during the June 3-4 1989 military crackdown on student-led pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Several of those Yu listed as being under heightened restrictions were signatories to "Charter 08," an unusually open call for civil rights and political reforms that has garnered considerable attention since its release last December.

China's communist authorities routinely ratchet-up harassment of dissidents when important visitors are in town. The atmosphere is especially tense this year ahead of a series of sensitive dates, including the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and the 50th of an uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Tightened controls are apparently intended to prevent them meeting with foreign visitors or staging demonstrations.

Clinton hasn't said whether she would meet with individual dissidents while in Beijing. If she were to do so, Gao, the AIDS activist, would be among the most likely to receive an invitation. Two years ago, Clinton successfully appealed to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to lift a ban on the elderly Gao going to the United States to receive an award from a group supported by the then New York senator.

While declining to criticize Clinton, Zeng, whose husband was sentenced last year to a 3 1/2-year prison sentence for sedition, said international attention to China's human rights abuses remained an important driver of change.

"International concern is important if China really wants to evolve into a nation that truly respects human rights," Zeng said by phone. "However, it's even more important that Chinese citizens themselves demand those rights."

Clinton Pushes Environment, Finance

Clinton and Chinese officials agreed Saturday to focus their governments' efforts on stabilizing the battered global economy and combating climate change, putting aside long-standing concerns about human rights.

4817585After a morning of talks during her inaugural visit to China as America's top diplomat, Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said a regular U.S.-China dialogue on economic issues would be expanded to include troubling security issues.

"It is essential that the United States and China have a positive, cooperative relationship," Clinton told reporters at a joint news conference with Yang. She said that they also agreed on the need to develop clean energy technology that would use renewable sources and safely store the dirty emissions from burning coal.

With the export-heavy Chinese economy reeling from the U.S. downturn, Clinton sought to reassure China that its massive holdings of U.S. Treasury notes and other government debt would remain a good investment.

"I appreciate greatly the Chinese government's continuing confidence in United States treasuries. I think this is well-grounded confidence," she said. "We have every reason to believe that the United States and China will recover, and together we will help lead the world recovery."

Yang said China wants its foreign exchange reserves - the world's largest at $1.95 trillion - invested safely, with good value and liquidity. He said future decisions on using them would be based on those principles, but added that China wanted to continue work with the U.S.

"I want to emphasize here that the facts speak louder than words. The fact is that China and the United States have conducted good cooperation, and we are ready to continue to talk with the U.S. side," Yang said.

Beijing is the last and, some analysts say, most important stop on Clinton's weeklong visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. She was to meet China's president and premier as well as tour a geothermal power plant before leaving Sunday.

Along with cooperating on the financial crisis and climate change, the United States wants China to step up efforts to address threats like Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs and tenuous security situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In addition, Clinton said the U.S. would like to see China play a positive role in Myanmar and Sudan, two countries which receive large Chinese investments but whose governments are at odds with Washington.

The emphasis on the global economy, climate change and security highlight the growing importance of U.S.-China relations, which have often soured over disagreements on human rights.

But ahead of the talks, Clinton signaled that China's poor human rights record, while still of deep concern to the United States, would not be at the top of her agenda.

She noted that both sides already knew the other's positions on the matter and said that human rights concerns "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises."

Her comments drew immediate fire from rights groups who said they sent the wrong message, undermined efforts to promote basic freedoms in China and squandered Washington's leverage with Beijing.

Asked to respond to the criticism, Clinton said "the promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of our global foreign policy," noting in particular the issues of Tibet, religious freedom and freedom of expression.

"Human rights are part of our comprehensive agenda," she said.

But she added that the work of civic groups and private advocates that she has highlighted is "at least as important in building respect for and making progress on human rights" as government-to-government contact.

Yang appeared pleased by Clinton's reply, saying China was happy to engage on human rights with the United States but only "on the basis of equality and noninterference in each other's internal affairs."

Authorities in Beijing are facing a difficult year on the rights front as they try to muffle dissent ahead of politically sensitive anniversaries: 20 years since the crushing of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement and 50 since the failed Tibetan uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee into exile.

Beijing has already tightened security in Tibetan areas across western China, which erupted in anti-Chinese government protests last March.
By Associated Press Writer Christopher Bodeen

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