Obama to press China to dismantle suppressing free speech, political freedom'

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Washington, Jan 15 (ANI): Just days after US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to China over improving the relationship between the two nations, President Barack Obama is reportedly risking destabilizing bi-lateral ties by looking for ways of convincing Chinese leaders to focus on their country's 'suppressing free speech and political freedom' records in the coming weeks.

The Washington Post quoted senior US administration officials as saying that Obama, who elevated human rights as a guiding principle of his foreign policy at the United Nations last year, is figuring out ways to engage Chinese leaders to understand the significance of the issue, not mingling it with his country's efforts to deal with Iran and North Korea.

They also claimed that Obama is looking out for ways to approach Chinese citizens directly, apparently by using technology unavailable to many of his predecessors.

He is also reportedly seeking Chinese dissidents and human rights advocates' advice on the issue ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington next week. On Thursday, Obama met five advocates for human rights of China for over an hour at the White House.

"One thing he kept coming back to was - how does the omnipresence of the state, how does corruption, affect the lives of real people?" one official said. "And he asked how we should use our leverage. Where should we use our leverage? There was a lot of talk about how to reach into China to be heard. He was very, very interested in that," an official who attended Thursday's meeting said.

Speaking at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized on the importance of freedom of speech and expression in China. America will continue to speak out and press China when it censors bloggers and imprisons activists, when religious believers, particularly those in unregistered groups, are denied full freedom of worship, when lawyers and legal advocates are sent to prison simply for representing clients who challenge the government's positions," the paper quoted her, as saying.

"Many in China resent or reject our advocacy of human rights as an intrusion on their sovereignty," she said in a broad address outlining her views on the future of U.S. -China relations. "But as a founding member of the United Nations, China has committed to respecting the rights of all its citizens," Clinton added.

The officials also said that Obama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, does not intend to keep quiet about the issue next week. (ANI)

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