U.S., China to resume human rights dialogue in May

WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - The United States and China will formally resume their dialogue on human rights next month for the first time in two years, a further sign relations are stabilizing after disputes over Tibet, Taiwan and the value of China’s currency.

The U.S. State Department said on Thursday the May 13-14 meeting in Washington would address issues including religious rights, rule of law and Internet freedom -- which this year put online giant Google Inc GOOG.O on a collision course with Beijing.

The two sides last formally held a dialogue on human rights in May 2008. Before that, the discussion had been frozen since 2002.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the dialogue could be expected to include cases of lawyers and human rights activists who have clashed with the Chinese government, as well as Internet censorship.

“I am sure that the broader topic of Internet freedom and the availability of information to Chinese citizens ... would come up,” Crowley said.

This year’s meeting was originally scheduled for February but had to be rescheduled because “the timing was not right,” Crowley told a news briefing.

China -- the largest holder of U.S. Treasury securities and the second-biggest trading partner of the United States -- was infuriated in January by Washington deciding to go ahead with a $6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, an island Beijing regards as its territory.

Chinese leaders were further incensed in February when U.S. President Barack Obama met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who Beijing reviles as a separatist plotting to divide Tibet from China.

Relations were further rocked by the Google case, which saw the U.S. search engine giant scale back activities in China amid allegations of hacking and censorship, and by U.S. pressure on Beijing to boost the value of the yuan [CNY/] relative to the dollar.

Despite these frictions, the two sides have worked hard in recent weeks to put ties back on track on a range of issues including military cooperation and Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. (Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by John O’Callaghan)