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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 07:17 GMT
China halts rights talks with US
Students use the internet at a computer room in western China
China's wariness of the internet has led to abuses, the US says
China says it has suspended all discussions with the United States on human rights' issues.

Beijing broke off contacts as the US prepared to condemn its human rights record at a United Nations meeting.

The American ambassador in Beijing was summoned to be told that China "cannot but immediately halt bilateral human rights dialogue and exchanges".

The US action was "serious interference in China's internal affairs," said a foreign ministry statement.


The Bush administration announced on Monday that it would seek a resolution condemning China for alleged abuses at the UN Commission on Human Rights currently meeting in Geneva.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that despite a promise of improvements made at the end of 2002, China's record last year actually got worse.

"We are concerned about backsliding on key human rights issues that has occurred in a variety of areas since that time," Mr Boucher said.

Areas of concern included extrajudicial killings, torture, repression of religious and political groups, and arrests of internet dissidents and HIV/Aids activists.

However, Mr Boucher insisted that in other areas relations with China were the best they have been for decades.


China's Assistant Foreign Minister, Shen Guofang, accused the US of "double standards".

"The United States' insistence on provoking confrontation has seriously damaged the foundation of our two countries' human rights dialogue and exchange," he was quoted as saying.

Washington decided not to seek a resolution criticising China at last year's UN meeting because of what it called limited but significant progress.

Such a resolution has been introduced almost every year since the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square.

Condemnation by the 53-member commission in Geneva incurs no penalties, but puts the spotlight on a country's rights record.

The US move came as EU ministers prepared to consider lifting an arms embargo placed upon China in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings.

The US, which has its own embargo in place, is opposed to the EU relaxing its measures.

The BBC's Louisa Lim
"Beijing is angry about the US decision to condemn its human rights record"

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