Obama Discusses China’s Civil Liberties with Advocates in White House Meeting

In advance of President Hu Jintao’s trip to Washington later this month, President Obama met today at the White House with several human rights advocates about the situation in China. From the Washington Post:

On Thursday, Obama questioned the advocates – three of whom were born in China – about how, in the words of one administration official, “the arbitrary exercise of power is felt in the everyday lives of the Chinese people.” Obama recalled his own childhood in Indonesia, then governed by dictatorship.

“One thing he kept coming back to was, how does the omnipresence of the state, how does corruption, affect the lives of real people,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And he asked how we should use our leverage. Where should we use our leverage?”

“There was a lot of talk about how to reach into China to be heard,” the official continued. “He was very, very interested in that.”

While economic and security issues are likely to be the focus of much of Hu’s visit, how Obama manages the topic of human rights will likely help define the summit and provide clues to how the president intends to speak about the contentious subject with China in the years ahead.