US officials have slammed China's human rights record, criticizing Beijing for continuing to quash dissent.
"The overall situation of human rights in China continues to deteriorate," Agence France-Presse quoted Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state for human rights, as saying.
Posner, speaking after two days of talks between Chinese and Obama administration officials in Washington, praised the effects of China's rapid growth as having lifted "hundreds of millions... out of poverty."
But he also stressed "that political reforms in China have not kept pace with economic advances," AFP reported.
During talks with the Chinese, led by a director general from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chen Xu, the US also raised concerns over China's crackdown on the Uighurs and the self-immolations by about 40 Tibetans.
And the US delegation raised concerns about Internet freedoms, labor rights and legal reforms.
More from GlobalPost: China human rights: from bad to worse
"Lawyers, bloggers, NGO activists, journalists, religious leaders and others are asserting universal rights and calling for peaceful reform in China," Posner said, according to Australia's ABC.
Posner said the US raised with the Chinese dozens of individual cases of those persecuted, the Associated Press reported.
"Our message to the Chinese government is you've made progress on the economic front, this is the moment to open up the space to allow people to dissent, to question government actions and to do so without fear of retribution," he reportedly said.
Chinese people needed to be able to voice legitimate grievances and play a "meaningful role in the political development of their own society," Posner added.
"We strongly believe as change occurs within a society these discussions...are ultimately about Chinese aspirations and how the Chinese themselves are navigating their own future."
Human rights advocates called for the White House to do more to pressure Beijing.
"At the highest levels it has not been a priority," AFP cited Jared Genser, founder of US-based non-profit group Freedom Now, as telling lawmakers.
"President Obama and Secretary Clinton must personally engage on Chinese human rights cases and make full use of the bully pulpit, something they have only done to date on rare occasions," he said.
"China's backsliding on rights should have long since merited a change in tactics and a more proactive and public approach."
More from GlobalPost: US, China are all talk on human rights