IRISH TIMES; Human rights to be raised in talks with visiting Chinese

IRISH TIMES; Human rights to be raised in talks with visiting Chinese - Expansion of trade also given high priority by Taoiseach

Sep 3, 2001
BY DEAGLAN DE BREADUN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT

Trade and human rights are expected to feature prominently in discussions between the Government and a delegation led by the Chinese Premier, Mr Zhu Rongji, which has arrived in Ireland for a four-day visit.

China is a key element in the Government's 'Asia Strategy', which is aimed at maximising foreign earnings from the region. For the past three years an inter-departmental group has been working on ways of increasing the level of trade and investment; in that time, trade with Asia has doubled.

Along with its EU partners, Ireland is engaged in dialogue with China on political issues, including human rights. It is understood the Chinese have indicated that they would have no objection to discussing human rights issues during their visit.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, said that Ireland had a 'mature political relationship' with China and the Government believed that a policy of engagement rather than confrontation on human rights issues would bring about 'the necessary progress which we would like to see'.

Mr Zhu and his 175-member delegation arrived at Dublin Airport yesterday and were greeted by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and his partner, Ms Celia Larkin. Also present were Mr Cowen; the Minister for Public Enterprise, Ms O'Rourke; the Minister of State for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr Tom Kitt; the Chinese ambassador to Ireland, Madame Zhang Xiaokang; the Irish Ambassador to China, Mr Declan Connolly; and officials.

Mr Zhu was accompanied by his wife, Madame Lao An; China's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Tang Jiaxun; the Minister for Culture, Mr Sun Jiazheng; and two other senior ministers, Mr Li Rongrong and Mr Shi Guangsheng.

The Chinese Premier reviewed a guard of honour before departing for the State guest house at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park. A small group of supporters of imprisoned members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement protested outside Farmleigh.

Security for the visit is tight.

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A Fine Gael MEP, Mr John Cushnahan, who has 'expert' status in the European Parliament on matters relating to China and Hong Kong, warned yesterday that trade
issues must not be allowed to take precedence over human rights. He said: 'China has an appalling human rights record and the Taoiseach must use the opportunity of the meeting with the Chinese Premier to make our views known.'

The Tibet Support Group (Ireland) raised the imprisonment of Tibetan religious leaders and claimed that more than 280 members of the Falun Gong movement had been 'tortured to death in custody over the past two years'.

The group's statement continued: 'Should Ireland be supplying IT technology to a regime that will certainly use it for totalitarian ends? And should Ireland be importing Chinese goods made by forced labour in prisons, education through labour camps and People's Liberation Army-owned and controlled factories?'

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