Leaders urged to deliver clear message to China on human rights

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore are being urged to deliver a clear and forceful message on human rights when they meet the Chinese Vice President later today.

Leaders urged to deliver clear message to China on human rights

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore are being urged to deliver a clear and forceful message on human rights when they meet the Chinese Vice President later today.

Xi Jinping is due to arrive at Shannon Airport this afternoon for a three-day visit - aimed at bolstering trade links between Ireland and China.

Amnesty International wants the government to make clear the concerns of many Irish people about a range of human rights abuses practiced in China including torture, forced labour and execution.

"The first thing to say is that China is very responsive to international pressure when it comes to human rights," said programmes director of Amnesty International Ireland, Noeleen Hartigan.

"It's a very important part of the culture to save face and I don't think there's anything to be lost from the Irish State saying very clearly: 'We look forward to greater bilateral trade relations with you, nobody's saying we shouldn't trade with China, but while we have you in the room, we're going to persistently name your human rights violations."

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore have committed to raising the issue of human rights during talks.

The Taoiseach said the Government hoped Mr Xi, who admitted in Washington that China has “room to improve”, would continue to improve the country’s record.

Among the cases Amnesty has asked the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to raise are those of Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, found guilty of inciting subversion of state power, and human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who is in state custody, and whose relatives have been told is undergoing a three-month “education period”.

Mr Xi, who is not taking media questions during his trip, travels to Turkey after Ireland.

The Chinese vice-president is widely expected to succeed president Hu Jintao, who must retire as head of the Communist Party later this year and from the presidency in 2013.

It is expected he will sign a number of trade agreements with the Irish Government on Sunday to help Irish businesses sell into China and vice-versa.

The Government’s “Asia strategy” has highlighted lucrative opportunities to export food and drink to China, particularly for the country’s growing middle classes who have increasingly more money to spend.

Other industries being targeted are pharmaceuticals, IT, medical devices, tourism and education.

There have also been suggestions of possible cooperation on alternative energy research.

Mr Gilmore said he will be selling Ireland to Mr Xi as a strategically located country within the European Union, which is part of the eurozone but also as a “bridge” to Africa and the US.

Mr Xi’s trip will see him visit a dairy farm in Limerick, the Cliffs of Moher in Clare, Croke Park and a special performance of Riverdance in Dublin and an Ireland-China investment forum.

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