BEIJING, May 24 -- For the second time this year, a top U.S. official visiting China has declined in advance to publicly discuss Beijing's human rights record, a shift in practice that comes almost exactly two decades after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who collided with Chinese authorities in 1991 when she unfurled a banner memorializing those who died in the square, arrived here Sunday saying only that she planned to discuss climate change with Chinese officials.
At a briefing in Washington before leaving for her week-long trip, Pelosi declined to say whether she planned to discuss human rights with her hosts. Instead, she said only that she would focus on securing support for a global pact on reducing carbon emissions, in advance of a major international gathering on climate change scheduled for December in Copenhagen.
"We have to . . . learn from each other as we go forward. So that is the subject," she told reporters, ignoring several requests to address human rights issues.
In February, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on her maiden voyage as the top U.S. diplomat, also pointedly played down human rights issues when she traveled to Beijing. Clinton drew criticism from human rights activists by saying that pressing China on that issue "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis." On matters such as greater freedom for Tibetans, she said, "We pretty much know what [Beijing is] going to say."