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US Urges Rights Improvement in Tibet and Xinjiang Ahead of Xi Visit

FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, March 31, 2015.

A senior U.S. diplomat is calling for China to improve its worsening human rights record to ensure Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming state visit to Washington is a success.

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Tom Malinowski made the comment Thursday following the first of two days of an annual human rights dialogue with Beijing officials.

"The dialogue gave us a chance to convey in advance of [Xi's] visit the growing sense of alarm in the United States about human rights developments in China," Malinowski said.

Malinowski said the U.S. raised concerns on issues including China's crackdown on human rights lawyers, restrictions on U.S. journalists in China, and curbs on religious freedom inside Tibet and Xinjiang.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials highlighted the issue of police violence in the U.S., including the recent police killings of unarmed black men that have prompted a wave of protests across the nation.

While describing the talks as "very detailed and substantive," Malinowski said there were also "profound differences." But he said China's willingness to talk about rights issues at all is positive and shows Beijing is concerned about its international image

He also expressed hope the discussion will set the stage for human rights to be discussed "very prominently" during President Xi's visit to the U.S. next month. The dialogue is a chance for China to make "specific improvements" on human rights if Beijing wants the tone of Xi's visit to be "positive," he said.

This week, a group of prominent U.S. lawmakers wrote a letter urging President Barack Obama to make human rights a priority during the visit. China strongly objects to U.S. criticism over human rights, calling them an unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.

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