Pelosi Dodges Human Rights in China

SHANGHAI (AP) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, long a fierce critic of Beijing, toured China's financial capital on Monday but stayed clear of human rights issues, though her presence emboldened protesters.

Pelosi's silence - at least in public - is especially notable since her visit comes a week ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy protests. During a 1991 visit to Beijing, she unfurled a banner that read "To those who died for democracy in China" in the square.

The apparent shift in her approach dovetails with President Barack Obama's new emphasis on engagement with Beijing, rather than confrontation over its human rights record. Visits by Pelosi and other senior U.S. figures have been aimed at highlighting cooperation between the two countries on a slew of issues.

The leading Democratic lawmaker's reputation as a strong human rights defender galvanized petitioners in Beijing, where several hundreds gathered Monday morning near the capital's South Railway Station to air their grievances. Dozens of police stood guard and most protesters were kept at bay behind police lines.

While many complaints were about individual cases, photos posted on the Chinese-language Web site Boxun.com, a U.S.-hosted Web site banned in China, showed one group of demonstrators holding up a black-and-white cloth banner that said: "Welcome Pelosi. Pay close attention to human rights. SOS."

In the past, Pelosi has been seen as an ardent supporter of China's oppressed. When Tibetans staged protests against Chinese rule last year, Pelosi visited their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Pelosi did speak out on North Korea's nuclear program after Pyongyang announced that it had successfully carried out an underground nuclear test, weeks after threatening to restart its rogue atomic program.

"If today's announcement is true, these tests would be a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which requires that North Korea not conduct any further nuclear tests. Such action by North Korea is unacceptable and cause for great alarm," Pelosi said in a written statement.

Pelosi said she and other members of her delegation planned to urge Chinese leaders to use their influence to get the North to return to six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear program.

The lawmaker arrived over the weekend accompanied by a delegation of four Democrats and one Republican, all members of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The main focus of their visit is on the shared goal of promoting clean energy and combatting climate change.

Pelosi met Monday with Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng. The two exchanged pleasantries but made no substantive remarks before reporters. The delegation will later meet in Beijing with President Hu Jintao and other leaders.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Democrat Sen. John Kerry is also in China, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will arrive next week. He is expected to reassure Beijing about the strength of the U.S. dollar and thus the value of China's vast holdings of U.S. Treasury notes.

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Associated Press writer Audra Ang in Beijing contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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