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British, Chinese ministers says engagement is correct approach to human rights in China

British, Chinese ministers says engagement is correct approach to human rights in China

Under attack for its human rights record before this summer's Beijing Olympics, China gained support Thursday from British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who opposed linking the event to progress on human rights.
China's communist government has come under tough criticism from nongovernmental groups and the U.S. Congress for its curbs on the media and religious activity and its support for Sudan's government, which is accused of fostering a humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.
Beijing, they say, has ignored an earlier pledge that holding the Games would improve human rights in China.
As host of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Britain has a powerful incentive to ensure the Olympic brand is untarnished by scandal.
Miliband, on his first official visit to China, said "no opportunity has been wasted" to raise rights concerns with Chinese officials, and while he said he raised individual cases but gave no names, he said discussions on such matters should not be explicitly tied to the Games in August.
"We believe that the Olympics are an opportunity to celebrate the progress that has been achieved in China," Miliband told reporters following a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
"From our point of view, engagement, not isolation, is the right way forward," he said.
Darfur has become an especially hot issue because China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports, sells weapons to the Islamic government and defends it in the United Nations.
China's perceived refusal to use that influence to pressure Khartoum prompted Hollywood director Steven Spielberg this month to pull out as an artistic adviser for the Beijing Olympics.
The British Olympic Association was also accused of attempting to gag its athletes at the Beijing Games after it said it would require its athletes to sign a new clause in their contracts prohibiting them from making politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Olympics.
Appearing alongside Miliband, Yang sarcastically dismissed questions about links between rights issues and the Olympics, denying that a laid-off factory worker who went on trial last week on subversion charges had been arrested for protesting the Olympic Games.
The man, Yang Chunlin, had sought to rally support for landless farmers by posting a letter on the Internet with the title: "We want human rights, not the Olympics."
"People in China enjoy extensive freedom of speech," Yang said. "No one will get arrested because he has said human rights were more important than the Olympic Games. This is impossible."
Yang also defended China's involvement on the Darfur issue, pointing to Beijing's dispatch of peacekeepers and development assistance to Sudan.
China's special envoy to Darfur was dispatched to the region last week and called on Western countries to help move forward the peace process by pressuring rebel leaders to take part in negotiations.
But Yang said outsiders had limited influence with the government there.
"Of course, Darfur in essence is a Sudan issue and an African issue. Neither China nor Britain is a direct partner so we should respect the views of other partners," Yang said.
Miliband refused to single out Beijing over Darfur, and he said Britain and China would hold a high-level dialogue on African issues later this year should and use their influence to promote "development and freedom from conflict" on the continent, where China's influence is growing.
Miliband's remarks came on the fourth day of a visit to China and the Chinese-ruled former British colony of Hong Kong as part of efforts to strengthen ties between the fellow U.N. Security Council members and close trading partners.
Miliband also paid a courtesy call on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and was to address students at Peking University on Friday before returning home.
In a speech Tuesday in the commercial hub of Shanghai, Miliband said China needs to contribute to efforts to stem global warning.
Miliband's China trip follows one by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month in which he spearheaded a push for Britain to beat the United States and the rest of Europe to the investment opportunities and economic benefits offered by China's growth.
Brown and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to drive up two-way trade by 50 percent over the next several years to US$60 billion (euro41 billion) from the estimated level of US$40 billion (euro27 billion) last year.


Updated : 2021-05-18 14:13 GMT+08:00