October 26, 2006

Tibet: Chirac in China Highlights Human Rights Issue

French President singled out China's attitude on human rights as a particular area of concern for the country's leaders as they look ahead to hosting the 2008 Olympics.

BEIJING - French President Jacques Chirac singled out China's attitude on human rights as a particular area of concern for the country's leaders as they look ahead to hosting the 2008 Olympics.

He said the Games would lead to both "economic and social repercussions" for China's rulers as the host city Beijing became the focus of the world's attention.

"China will have to come to terms with these realities, particularly the problems related to humans rights," Chirac said, during a meeting with French businessmen on the first day of his visit to China.

The human rights situation in China was a major concern for the international community when the 2008 Games was awarded to Beijing and the Chinese leadership has been under pressure to rapidly improve the situation.

Before the trip, the Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders urged Chirac to raise the issue with China's top leaders.

"This visit will probably not result in the signing of any major business contracts so why not talk openly and frankly about human rights?" the group asked.

"It would be shocking if you said nothing about freedom of expression on this, the last visit to China of this presidential term," it said.

In the latest high profile case last month, a young Tibetan nun was killed by Chinese guards who opened fire on a group of some 70 people who tried to cross from Tibet to Nepal.

A senior French official said the incident was "lamentable."

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge on Wednesday that China would emerge a freer society from staging the Olympics, state media said.

"After staging the Olympics, a more open and more harmonious China will emerge to the world," Wen was quoted as saying in a meeting with the IOC leader, the official Xinhua news agency.

Wen's government has been accused of tightening controls on human rights and media freedom in the run up to the Games. But the prime minister said China would meet internationally accepted standards of conduct when it staged the Games.

"We will earnestly carry out the pledges we made when we applied to host the Games according to internationally accepted practices," he said.

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