Snowden in rights group meeting

Snowden in rights group meeting

The man who leaked US National Security Agency secrets is to meet a Russian official from Amnesty International, the group said.

Sergei Nikitin, head of the rights organisation’s Russia office, said the meeting with Edward Snowden would take place on Friday, but he declined to say where.

Mr Snowden is believed to have been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport since June 23 as he negotiates for asylum in another country.

Russian news agencies reported that Mr Snowden had called on several human rights organisations to meet with him at the airport. The other organisations could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier, the US attacked China for failing to extradite Mr Snowden when he was in Hong Kong.

The criticism came at the end of two days of high-level talks between the US and China on security and the economy.

The world’s two largest economies announced their plans to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty and for more co-operation on combating climate change.

But Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said the US was very disappointed with how authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled Mr Snowden’s case by refusing to extradite him before he flew from Hong Kong to Russia.

“China’s handling of this case was not consistent with ... the new type of relationship that we both seek to build,” he said, referring to the summit a month ago between President Barack Obama and China’s new president, Xi Jinping, at a California resort.

Mr Obama also expressed disappointment about the Snowden case when he met the two leaders of the Chinese delegation yesterday in the Oval Office, a White House statement said.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi retorted in his remarks at the talks that the handling of the Snowden case by authorities in semi-autonomous Hong Kong was “beyond reproach”.

He also rejected US criticism of China’s rights record in the ethnic minority areas of Tibet and Xinjiang, saying people there are “enjoying happier lives and they enjoy unprecedented freedom and human rights”.

And he added: “We hope the US will improve its own human rights situation.”

About 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2011 to protest against Chinese policies in Tibet and call for the return of the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader.

In the far western region of Xinjiang, minority Muslims are agitating against Beijing, and clashes in recent months have killed at least 56 people.

It is a sign of the importance the Obama administration puts on its relationship with China’s leaders that the president received the visiting officials and did so in the Oval Office, where more typically heads of government and state are hosted.

Mr Obama welcomed China’s commitment to open its economy to US investment in the bilateral investment treaty – a pact that Washington has been urging Beijing to negotiate in earnest for years.

The Chinese also agreed with him on the importance of co-operating to get neighbour and ally North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.

But Mr Obama added that the US would continue to speak out in support of the protection of universal human rights, the White House statement said.

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