CHINA yesterday rejected United States criticism of its human rights record as it prepared for showdown talks with senior Washington officials on human rights and bilateral disputes. Foreign Ministry spokesman Wu Jianmin told a weekly conference in Beijing: ''Those who care most about China's human rights are the Chinese Government and the Chinese people themselves. ''It is also the Chinese people themselves who have the most right to evaluate how human rights are in China.'' US officials have said over the past week that Beijing may not have made enough improvements on human rights to meet President Bill Clinton's condition for extending China's Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trading status when he decides in June. Mr Wu said: ''Trade is after all trade. We are categorically opposed to linking trade with anything irrelevant.'' Although the deadline for the annual extension of MFN is more than five months away, US officials have given clear warnings that China's trade privileges might be revoked if it failed to make greater and early improvements on human rights. The warning is set to be delivered again in two upcoming senior-level official talks in Beijing and Europe. A US State Department official said yesterday that Secretary of State Warren Christopher would meet his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, this month in Europe. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen is scheduled to arrive in Beijing next week for talks on human rights and trade. The issues are also set to dominate talks between former US president George Bush and Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng today. Mr Bush was scheduled to arrive in Beijing last night for a ''private'' visit. His trip also comes amid a busy schedule of congressional tours of China. Senator John Kerry yesterday discussed human rights and trade with China's Vice-President Rong Yiren. Yesterday also saw the arrival of a high-powered delegation led by House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt to talk about workers' rights and regional security issues. In Washington, a senior State Department official said Mr Christopher and Mr Qian had agreed to meet in principle and the two governments were discussing the logistics. The location had still to be decided but Paris and Geneva were under consideration. State Department spokesman Christine Shelly confirmed that Mr Christopher was considering such a trip, which would be with the express purpose of meeting Mr Qian.