‘Forceful’ questioning of Xi demanded

China’s vice-president Xi Jinping should be “forcefully” questioned by ministers on his country’s attitude to human rights, during a three-day visit to Ireland, said Amnesty International.

Ireland is the only European stop on an international visit by the likely successor as leader of the world’s rising economic superpower, and the Government is keen to use it to scoop lucrative Chinese investment.

Mr Xi, who is likely to succeed president Hu Jintao, will visit the farm of James and Maura Lynch in Co Clare during the tour, and after a private visit to the Cliffs of Moher, will travel to Dublin to meet Enda Kenny and visit Croke Park.

He will also see Riverdance during the stay, which has been 18 months in the planning.

Journalists will not be able to ask Mr Xi any questions during the visit and Amnesty has warned human rights abuses must not be ignored in order to secure trade deals. “China’s human rights record is appalling,” Amnesty’s Noeleen Hartigan said.

“It is obviously important that we build and maintain trading relations with a country like China, but even in the midst of a recession we cannot let trade opportunities blind us to our responsibility.”

The pressure group has asked the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to raise the case of Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year sentence, and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who is in state custody but whose whereabouts are unknown.

Eamon Gilmore has said he will be mentioning the issue of human rights with Mr Xi during his tour, but it will be as part of broader discussions on international matters.

Mr Gilmore stressed talks would concentrate on the development of trade and investment between the two countries.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the visit was an opportunity to “get to know someone with growing global influence”.

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