BEIJING -- Only a day after U.S. officials announced they had engaged China in an unprecedented dialogue on human rights, China fell back yesterday on its long-held position of equating international concern over Chinese human rights violations with meddling in China's internal affairs.
"The point is that we should not impose our own views on others, much less interfere in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of human rights," Foreign Ministry spokesman Li Zhaoxing said at a weekly press briefing.
"China will never do this, and we will never allow any other country to do the same."
This hard-line response to international concerns about human rights violations in China contrasted starkly with U.S. officials' description of China's receptive posture in high-level talks here this week with a ranking State Department official.
That the dialogue took place and that Chinese officials did not reject U.S. concerns as unwarranted interference caused Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights, and U.S. Embassy officials to say Wednesday that the talks represented a distinct thawing in the frosty Sino-U.S. relationship.
During the meetings, Mr. Schifter gave China a list of about 150 prisoners believed held in Chinese jails because of their political or religious activities. He requested the immediate release of those jailed only because of expressions of dissent, as opposed to acts of violence.
Taking great pains to term those in jail "offenders" and lecturing foreign reporters not to call them "dissidents," Mr. Li said he knew nothing about Mr. Schifter's list.
Consistent with the Chinese position since the suppression of the protests last year, Mr. Li equated international concerns about these prisoners with attempts to breach China's sovereignty. "China is a sovereign state," he said.