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Tough words on human rights

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James Reynolds | 11:25 UK time, Friday, 27 February 2009

This time of year sees a semi-ritualised exchange between China and the United States.

On Wednesday, the US State Department published its 2008 Human Rights report. The report includes a 47,000-word section on human rights problems in China:

"The government's human rights record remained poor and worsened in some areas. During the year the government increased its severe cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in Tibetan areas and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), increased detention and harassment of dissidents and petitioners, and maintained tight controls on freedom of speech and the Internet."

Late on Thursday, China delivered its reply. The Information Office of the State Council released its 10th annual report on human rights problems in the United States.

China's 9000-word report paints a bleak picture of life in America:

* "Widespread violent crimes in the United States pose serious threats to its people's lives, property and personal security."

* "Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed country, ranking 42nd in terms of life expectancy."

* "Drugs, suicide and other social problems prevail in the US."

* "Many young Americans have personality disorders."

* "Racial discrimination in the judicial system is appalling."

China then reaches its conclusion:

"The US practice of throwing stones at others while living in a glass house is a testimony to the double standards and hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with human rights issues, and has undermined its international image. We hereby advise the US government to begin anew, face its own human rights problems with courage, and stop the wrong practice of applying double standards on human rights issues."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang JiechiTough words from both sides. But this yearly exchange of human rights reports appears to have very little practical impact on US-China relations.

Just a few days ago, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks in Beijing with all of China's leaders - the issue of human rights was barely mentioned (in public at least). The US and China have also just started two days of military talks in Beijing. And the two countries continue to rely on each other's business to get out of the world's recession.

What do you make of the two reports?


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