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<-Back to WTN Archives Chinese dissident's visit sees difficult balancing act for France
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World Tibet Network News

Thursday, January 15, 1998

5. Chinese dissident's visit sees difficult balancing act for France

by Philippe Debeusscher

PARIS, Jan 14 (AFP) - France is being forced into a difficult diplomatic
balancing act this week in welcoming China's foremost dissident with due
courtesy while trying not to offend Beijing ahead a visit there next week by
Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine.

French parliamentarians rolled out the red carpet Wednesday for dissident
Wei Jinsheng, who was greeted like any other foreign dignitary by speaker
Laurent Fabius before he addressed the National Assembly foreign affairs
committee and sat in on question-time in the public gallery.

But the executive arm of government kept Wei prudently at a distance,
turning down his requests for meetings with President Jacques Chirac and Prime
Minister Lionel Jospin.

"Britain and France have adopted a joint stand," Vedrine, whose visit to
China will be his first since the Socialists took office seven months ago,
said in response to an MP's question about France's stand on human rights in

Wei would be meeting a junior minister Thursday, Vedrine said, in a replay
of the scenario in Britain last week, where Foreign Seceretary Robin Cook also
avoided the dissident. He insisted however that France remained committed to
the defence of human rights.

Wei, who was released last November after spending all but six months of
the previous 18 years in detention, held talks with President Bill Clinton on
leaving China for the United States.

He was invited to visit France by Jack Lang, a former Socialist minister
who heads the National Assembly's foreign committee and hopes to use it as a
forum for the protection of human rights. Lang also intends to invite the
Dalai Lama soon, a move almost certain to irritate Beijing.

Even before Wei railed into Paris from London, the Chinese Foreign Ministry
issued a strong warning against holding any high-level meetings with the
ailing 47-year-old dissident.

Condemning the warning as a "clear interference in France's internal
affairs," Wei said he was surprised there had been no official protest from
Paris. "What is even sadder is that the French government seems to be under
the orders of the Chinese government," he said.

Moving to reassure Wei, Lang said "state to state relations cannot stop
France, its parliamentarians and its organisations from fighting in favour of
human rights in China."

And Fabius added: "China is a very great nation but the human rights cause
is a very great cause that one must not forget."

In speeches and interviews in Paris, Wei stressed that despite continuing
Communist Party rule, the situation in China was slowly evolving.

He authenticated a secret manifesto allegedly penned by senior reformist
officials who want the regime to launch democracy through major political
reform, and said there was almost unanimous support for democracy and human
rights, even in the upper echelons of the ruling party.

"The manifesto was not a surprise because many people in China are
pondering change," he said. "People within the (Communist) Party who are
attached to democracy must work together."

France "must pressure the oppressors within the Chinese leadership to allow
more Chinese to be freed and for human rights guarantees to be set in place,"
he added.

On Tuesday, Wei accused France and other western governments of kowtowing
to Beijing's economic strength and forsaking the struggle for human rights in

At a press conference, Wei voiced his "profound disappointment" that
Beijing's tactic of using its vast market as a "lure" to secure the silence of
western countries over continuing human rights abuses was bearing fruit.

In April last year, as Chirac prepared to pay an official visit to China,
France, followed by Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain, withdrew its traditional
support for a UN motion censuring China's approach to human rights.

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Lifting the veil on tragedy in Tibet
  2. Second quake in two days rocks Tibet mountains
  3. European envoy requested for Tibet
  4. US director Scorsese to chair Cannes film festival jury
  5. Chinese dissident's visit sees difficult balancing act for France

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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