The first US-China human rights dialogue to be held in two years concluded today in Washington, DC.

Todd Stein, the International Campaign for Tibet’s Director of Government Relations noted that if meaningful improvements in the human rights of Tibetans and others in the People’s Republic of China are to be considered within reach, then the human rights agenda needs to be fully integrated into all high-level bilateral engagements, such as at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing on May 24-25.

“The value of the human rights dialogue will be determined not only by whether it leads to improvements in China’s atrocious human rights record, but also how it fits into the overall relationship,” said Mr. Stein. “It would be a mistake if this dialogue resulted in a ‘check the box’ exercise that sidelined substantive engagement on human rights in any other arena.”

The two-day dialogue in Washington, DC, comes at a time of intensifying political repression in Tibet and China. “President Obama has made clear his interest in policies that achieve results, which Secretary Clinton has also underlined in the China context, highlighting the need for creative approaches and focusing on where progress can be made. It is imperative that this Administration’s first exclusive engagement on human rights with China focuses on tangible results,” continued Mr. Stein.

The Chinese leaders have attempted to ‘fence off’ the issue of Tibet away from any discussion in the international arena, claiming it to be a “core issue” that touches upon China’s sovereignty and territorial issues, tightly restricting access to Tibet by foreign diplomats and journalists. The United States, under Administrations of both parties, has consistently called for Beijing to end human rights abuses and end restrictions on the free practice of religion by Tibetans, and for meaningful dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government to resolve the Tibet issue.

“Beijing has elevated Tibet to a core issue in its relations with Washington, and the U.S. should respond accordingly with its long-standing insistence that the basic, cultural and religious rights of Tibetans be respected,” said Todd Stein. “Tibet has attained emblematic status in perceptions of the Administration’s commitment to human rights. How they handle Tibet will be closely watched.”