McAleese raises human rights issues with Chinese

The President of Ireland was in salubrious company as she met her Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Just half an hour before she arrived, first the media mogul head and then the former US President, emerged from the enormous headquarters of China's parliament, situated just off Tiananmen Square.

Disconcertingly, the Irish tricolour was flying around the scene of the 1989 massacre where hundreds of protesting students and workers demanding civil rights were crushed by army tanks.

The President emerged from her official meeting and private conversation over dinner at a state banquet convinced that Mr Hu felt Ireland was a player his country wanted to do business with economically, as well as developing their political and cultural relationship.

"Without a shadow of a doubt. We are coming away from this visit with a plan going forward for the continued development of relationships between Ireland and China," she said. "What is happening here is electrifying people with ambition throughout the world. Anybody who has watched the history of China and its engagement with the world will know that these times we are living in are quite fascinating and of tremendous potential."

True to her promise, the President also discussed the human rights record of the communist state and found Mr Hu was quite receptive to her views about improving the present situation in this area.

"EI know even in private discussions with him over dinner he talked about underpinning the liberalisation and the opening up of China with new civil rights and with an understanding of the kind of dialogue that we take for granted in our part of the world, but is part of an increased dialogue here in China. We had very, very frank discussions, but it was also very courteous and friendly," she said.

By the way, tThe President appears to be a big fan of Chinese food and tucked into the eight courses at the banquet in her honour, including 'Sharks Fin with Coconut', 'Braised Abalone' and 'Greens in Birdnest Soup'.

"I tried everything and I enjoyed it. The food was absolutely wonderful at the banquet," she said. Just to make her feel at home, 'Stewed Mutton Chops', similar to Irish stew, was also on the menu and the Red Army band's repertoire included a tasteful selection of traditional Irish tunes.

It was all a little lighter earlier in the day as Ms McAleese and her husband Martin went sightseeing with their huge entourage in the Imperial Palace and hiking on the Great Wall of China just outside the city.

While a fellow-tourist commented that the foggy weather was reminiscent of the East Wall in Dublin, the President said it was always an ambition of hers to walk on the 10,000 kilometre long structure.

"It's a very impressive piece of architecture. It's more like a great highway than a great wall, isn't it? The name 'Great Wall' doesn't do it justice at all," she said.

Ms McAleese is hoping to catch the crunch European Championship qualifier on Saturday and sent her best wishes to Brian Kerr's Boys in Green.

"I've got my fingers crossed that we'll do well and that, having done well, we'll go a little bit further hopefully maybe more than a little bit further,"

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.