The second round of talks between a senior U.S. and Chinese official ended in Washington on Thursday, concluding with the two nations agreeing that respect for "human rights and the rule of law" is an ongoing effort.
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo sat down for the two day talks on Dec. 7-8, amid speculation that religious freedom would not be addressed.
For instance, the State Department acknowledged that senior administrative officials are not to voice any concern over the detention and harassment of Christians and activists who were targeted in light of President George W. Bush's recent visit to China.
However, according to a statement released today by the U.S. Department of State, Zoellick said that he was able to discuss the "importance of freedom and human rights" with the Chinese official.
Zoellick said, "We explained that the United States does not raise these issues to threaten or destabilize China, but rather because we believe expanded freedom is a natural and integral part of China's development."
Zoellick noted that Bush also spoke on freedom and human rights during his high-profile trip to China. In November, Bush met with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, and raised religious freedom, after attending one of the state-sanctioned Protestant churches, that he hoped would send a message that China's people "should be able to worship freely."
However, the U.S.-based Christian religious freedom group China Aid Association said it received no coverage on China's state-run newspapers, with the exception of a newspaper in Chinese.
Meanwhile, the dialogue that ended on Thursday was suggested by Hu at last year's APEC meeting, and is seen as essential in opening the way for more talks to proceed between the two nations. Early next year, Hu will visit the U.S. to continue dialogues with Bush, Xinhua reported.