A meeting Tuesday between Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his Chinese counterpart was described in positive terms by both sides but produced no breakthroughs on the thorny issues of Taiwan and the arrest of Harry Wu.
After Christopher and Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen met for 90 minutes, there was no sign that Wu was any closer to freedom.
“I think the situation is the same as before the meeting,” Qian told reporters after the session.
The Chinese American human rights activist was arrested June 19 and charged with espionage. U.S. officials in China have been allowed to visit him only once.
“The case of Harry Wu is now undergoing the legal process of China,” was Qian’s response when asked about the matter just before he met with Christopher.
Christopher and Qian agreed to continue discussing the possibility of a meeting between President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Christopher said publicly that such a meeting was extremely unlikely while Wu remained in custody.
He said that while it was agreed to keep open the possibility of a presidential meeting, the U.S. side did not offer a date or location.
Also threatened by Wu’s arrest was a plan to have Hillary Rodham Clinton lead the U.S. delegation to an international women’s conference next month in Beijing. Officials said the women’s conference was not mentioned during the Christopher-Qian discussion.
The Senate was stopped short Tuesday in an attempt to link Wu’s release with U.S. participation in the women’s conference.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., offered an amendment to a State Department reform bill that would have cut in half the department’s budget for international conferences if it funded a U.S. delegation to the Beijing meeting while Wu was imprisoned. The measure never came to a vote, however, because lawmakers twice rejected GOP attempts to cut off debate.
A U.S. citizen of Chinese birth, Wu has made several trips to his homeland to gather evidence of human rights abuses in the Chinese prison system. Before he was allowed to emigrate, Wu spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps.
Speaking with reporters, Qian called his time with Christopher “useful” and said they planned to sit down again in New York in September.
The U.S. view of the meeting was given by two officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, and offered an upbeat report on what happened.
“The atmosphere was very good,” said one.