President Hu Jintao appeared at a joint press conference today with President Barack Obama and did his best to ignore questions about human rights from American reporters.
The press conference carried live on most networks such as CNN, which indicated today on Twitter that Chinese officials in mainland China blocked its feed of the proceedings as Hu and Obama discussed issues of the day.
The big question for the Chinese leader is China’s terrible track record on human rights — including massive forced abortions, sterilizations and other abuses coming as a result of its one-child policy as well as female infanticide that has produced a staggeringly lopsided gender ratio with many more boys than girls.
Hu originally appeared uninterested in answering any questions from the American press but eventually agreed to four questions.
Associated Press reporter Bob Feller asked the first question on human rights — “Could you explain to the American people how the United States could be so allied with a country that is known for treating its people so poorly, using censorship and force to oppress its people?” — which Hu pretended he had a hard time hearing.
Hans Nichols from Bloomberg pressed Hu on human rights in a second, followup question – which the Chinese leader also tried to pass off, saying he thought it was intended for Obama. Nichols asked: “How do you justify China’s record and do you think that’s any of the business of the American people?”
Obama jumped in to answer the question to give Hu some diplomatic assistance and he acknowledged differences on human rights were “an occasional source of tension between our two governments” but said, “We have some core views as Americans about the universality of certain rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly.”
Obama also claimed he drove home points on human rights with the Chinese leader but added the disagreement “doesn’t prevent us from cooperating in these other critical areas.”
When Hu finally did answer, according to Daily Caller reporter Jon Ward, he claimed China had made “enormous progress” on human rights that had been “widely recognized in the world.” He said China’s status as a “developing country with a huge population” made it have “many challenges in economic and social development.”
“A lot still needs to be done in China,” Hu admitted, according to The DC. “We will continue our efforts to improve the lives of the Chinese people.”
Ward indicated translator issues complicated the discussion during the press conference, saying that as the press awaited Hu’s answer to the human rights question, he said nothing and listened as a English to Chinese translator spoke into the microphone.
“This was confusing because during opening statements, each leader’s comments were translated simultaneously and could be heard using headsets distributed to both leaders, their staffs and the press,” he wrote. “But apparently, during the question and answer session, the translation set up changed. The translator appeared to then repeat the entirety of Obama’s answer into Chinese. When the translator finished, Hu called on a Chinese reporter, and did not answer Feller’s question.
But the conservative reporter doesn’t buy that Hu didn’t understand the question.
“The key to Hu’s presser strategy was to hide behind wall of translation, even though certainly knows English,” Ward said on Twitter.
Jonah Goldberg of National Review was also skeptical: “Amazing how the equipment failed when Hu was asked about human rights.”
Earlier today, a two-time Nobel Prize nominee, Chai Ling of All Girls Allowed, pressed both Obama and Hu on human rights issues, including forced abortions and infanticide.
Yesterday, pro-life Congressman Chris Smith delivered moving remarks about the forced abortions women in China are forced to endure if the violate the one-child family planning policy.