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<-Back to WTN Archives France sidesteps human rights concerns (Independent)
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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Thursday, January 29, 2004



1. France sidesteps human rights concerns (Independent)


By John Lichfield, Independent Digital

Jan 28, 2004,

France and China laid the foundations for a new economic and diplomatic
alliance yesterday, with President Jacques Chirac taking Beijing's side
against Taiwan and calling for an end to the European embargo on Chinese
arms sales.

The new Chinese president, Hu Jintao, on a state visit to France, became
the first Communist head of state to address the French national
assembly. He announced that China would buy 21 A-320 airbuses from the
French-led European airbus consortium.

The elaborate state visit for Mr Hu - and a joint press conference by
the presidents at the Elysée palace yesterday - has raised suspicions in
Washington that M. Chirac wishes to build a new alliance with China in
an attempt to counter US influence in the world.

The warmth of the welcome given to Mr Hu, and the invitation to address
the national assembly, have also disturbed some French politicians of
both right and left. Two dozen deputies boycotted Mr Hu's speech last
night on the grounds that only democratic politicians should address
parliament.

Several of them joined in a demonstration outside the national assembly
for human rights and independence for Tibet.

French officials and other members of parliament conceded that Mr Hu's
visit - marking "the year of China" in France, which began with an
immense Chinese new year parade on the Champs Elysée on Saturday - was
part of an attempt to forge a stronger Paris-Beijing axis.

They said that the main focus was not political but commercial and
economic. A number of other lucrative contracts will shortly be
announced by Beijing, including the creation of a high-speed railway
line between Beijing and Shanghai and four nuclear power stations.
France has considerable technological prowess in both fields.

However, M. Chirac's mostly uncritical welcome for the new Chinese
president also fits with his often declared opinion that the 21st
century should be a "multi-polar world" in which France - and Europe -
should not be subservient to a "unipolar" American world view.

China, as a permanent member of the UN security council, holds one of
the keys to France's hopes - despite the destructive confrontations over
the Iraqi war - of restoring the influence of the United Nations.

At the press conference yesterday, M. Chirac gave a diplomatic gift to
Mr Hu by criticising plans by the Taiwanese government to hold a
referendum on increasing the island's defences against a possible
invasion from the Chinese mainland.

"All initiatives that can be interpreted as aggressive by one side or
the other are dangerous for everyone and thus irresponsible," M. Chirac
said. Washington has also criticised the referendum idea.

France pushed in Brussels on Monday for the lifting of the arms embargo
imposed on China by the EU after the savage repression of the Tiananmen
Square pro-democracy demonstration in Beijing in 1989. Other
governments, including Britain and Germany, resisted any change but the
issue will be considered again in April.

France argues that economic and commercial relations between the West
and China are now so healthy - and diplomatic relations so cordial -
that the ban on arms sales is obsolete. "This embargo no longer makes
any sense," M. Chirac said at his joint press conference with Mr Hu
yesterday. "It will, I hope, be lifted in the months to come."

In return, President Hu gave very little. President Chirac said that he
had pressed his guest on the question of human rights in China.

The Chinese President said yesterday that the "door of the central
Chinese government was always open" to the Tibetan spiritual leader, the
Dalai Lama - but only if he gave up the idea of independence for Tibet,
annexed by China in 1951.

"Our differences... are not over questions of democracy, religion or
human rights, but rather over the issue of whether one recognises that
Tibet is an inseparable part of China," President Hu said.


Articles in this Issue:
  1. France sidesteps human rights concerns (Independent)
  2. China claims ancient kingdom (WP)
  3. Paris Visit By Chinese Leader Solidifies Relations, Angers Activists (CNSN)
  4. Scrapping of gold mine plans welcomed by Tibetan exiles (ABC)
  5. Police arrest Tibetan activists at Chinese consulates (AFP)



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