Thursday January 17, 2008
U.K.'s Brown urged to press China on human rights
BEIJING (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown should use his visit to China starting on Friday to press Beijing on a range of human rights issues ahead of this year's Olympics, according to rights groups.
They include domestic issues such as the detention of activist Hu Jia, as well as international ones such as China's sale of weapons to the military government in Myanmar, Human Rights Watch said in an open letter to Brown.
"In the months prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics ... we believe that there is a unique opportunity to press for change. Your government's rhetorical commitments to promoting human rights in China must now be matched by concrete action," it said.
Brown should insist on being allowed to meet Hu, arrested on charges of inciting to subvert the government, the letter said.
"In our experience, visits from foreign leaders such as yourself bring these kinds of critics an important degree of protection, and we are aware that you have in the past at least raised individuals' cases with the Chinese government."
Brown must also discuss the former Burma, racked last year by violent anti-government demonstrations in which at least 31 people died, the letter said.
"That China's significant voice is not heard on human rights issues allows the Burmese government to exploit the lack of a unified position among key international actors," it said.
And Brown should urge China to stop repression in the far Western, mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang, said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress.
"He must show that economic interests do not trump human rights concerns," he told Reuters.
China has accused al Qaeda of links to groups operating in oil-rich Xinjiang, home to 8 million Uighurs, a Turkic, largely Islamic people who share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia.
Many resent the growing Han Chinese presence in Xinjiang, as well as government controls on religion and culture.
"Britain says that it's anti-terrorism measures are to protect human rights. China uses the excuse of terrorism to abuse human rights. Britain should not accept that excuse," Raxit said.